Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: 09/25/2012
After a six-year hiatus, the latest entry in Tecmo’s breast-oriented Dead Or Alive series has finally bounced onto the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, bringing its usual brand of cheesecake filled fighting action with it. Much like its predecessors, Dead Or Alive 5 (DOA5) is all about tits – and not much else. In the time since the last installment, very little has changed, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is a thing.
Picking up two years after Dead Or Alive 4, DOA5 attempts to expand upon the series’ convoluted, paper-thin narrative, which centers on the trials and tribulations of the runaway ninja, Kasumi, and her attempt to destroy a clone of herself that was created by the Big Bads formerly in charge of the shady organization DOATEC a few years back; all the while trying to dodge her brother and their half-sister, who can’t seem to decide if they are trying to kill her for deserting their clan, or help her put an end to all of DOATEC’s human experimentation and cloning shenanigans. At times the story tries to take itself so seriously that it borders on excruciating. I dare you to make it through Story Mode without laughing. Joining the merry band of ninja are many different personalities from around the globe, each with their own reasons for being a part of the DOA tournament. Also joining the action this time around are series newcomers Rig and Mila, as well as Virtua Fighter’s Akira, Sarah Bryant, and Pai Chan. None of these characters serve any real purpose.
As far as gameplay goes, the mechanics are still very much the same as in previous installments, but with a couple of tweaks here and there. The most notable additions are the Critical Burst and Power Blow maneuvers. Landing a Critical Burst will throw the opponent into what’s called a Critical Stun, in which they are completely vulnerable to attacks; the more hits you land against them in this state, the longer the duration of the Stun. Power Blows are unblockable attack combos that become available when a character’s life bar is flashing red; land one of these, and you can potentially turn the tide of a losing battle in your favor. (Don’t land it, and, well… good luck.) The damage levels for counters and Danger Zones have been adjusted as well so that these factors no longer deal the catastrophic injuries of old.
Right from the start players have several modes to choose from: Story, Versus, Time Attack, Arcade, Survival, Training, and Online. Story Mode is sort of like a puffed-up training exercise; as you progress you are required to play as certain characters at various points, while given a quick “How-To” for a type of maneuver that applies to the match — and a set goal for executing it. These bouts are, of course, broken up by all manner of cut scenes that drive the player and the tale forward. Interestingly enough, there are no individual character endings; everyone’s arc is somewhat tied together and resolved within the confines of a set timeline. The other modes are rather self-explanatory: Versus gives the player the option to face-off against either a human or CPU controlled opponent; Time Attack measures how quickly you can defeat a set number of opponents; Arcade mode is for racking up the highest score, etc., etc. Conquering each mode yields a new title and unlocks an alternate costume for each combatant, which gives players incentive to go through multiple times.
Online Mode is pretty straightforward, though it does require an Online Pass. Once activated, players can choose to join Lobbies that can hold up to eight folks at once. Ranked Matches are the same as they are in any other fighter – victory yields an increase in rank (and street-cred). Playing in a Simple Match is basically an online version of Versus Mode, with the same two players able to spar with one another for as long as their hearts desire. Sadly, DOA 5’s online is marred by bizarre instances of sudden lag. It was not uncommon for matches to start off as if they were being played in the same room, only to have them begin to slow down out of nowhere. Once this happened, it was almost impossible for the match to regain its initial speed.
Getting onto the visuals, the stages are still big and destructible, some now coming with their own special Danger Zones that can be triggered by carrying out certain actions. Rainforests, Japanese gardens, and – perhaps best of all – a circus are among the various worldwide arenas. However, the game as a whole looks a bit dated. The character models remain largely unchanged, with only some slight tweaks and changes to everyone’s faces: the girls are prettier, more distinct, and jigglier than ever, the men more masculine (with the exception of the disturbingly androgynous Eliot), and, for the first time in the series, the males from Japan actually look like they are from Japan. The most notable graphical upgrade comes in the form of sweat and dirt appearing on the fighters throughout matches, but that’s not a big deal by any means.
All in all, Dead Or Alive 5 is a solid fighter that should please longtime fans of the series while appealing to more casual gamers. Despite its flaws, it still manages to be solid, and – most importantly – fun. If you’re in the market for some mindlessly addictive martial-arts action, you should definitely give this a go.