Though never cast to the fringes of the fighting scene, Tecmo’s Dead Or Alive series is rarely considered one of the genre’s elementary staples. Having been in circulation for almost two decades, the franchise carries a considerable amount of provenance with a worldwide fanbase in tow. However, constant transitions between platforms and the series’ recent ties to Xbox have no doubt weighed on the series’ overall success, especially in Japan.
When it launched last September, Dead Or Alive 5 was the first true multi-platform addition to the franchise since its very first instalment, launching on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Although critics praised many elements, such as the game’s presentation, extensive spread of content and accessible gameplay, some were also quick to point out how little Dead or Alive had evolved, even in the presence of heavy competition.
Whether you loved or loathed Dead Or Alive 5, its recent PlayStation Vita port, dubbed “PLUS”, is an identical, albeit portable, imitation of the core game with a few tricks here and there, like Cross-Play and touch controls, to keep things fresh.
Just about everything you would expect from a modern day fighter is here. Players can either jump into PLUS and immediately throw down against AI opponents, or take the fight online in a variety of game modes. For most, the former portion of the game will take precedence, coming fully-equipped with a down-and-dirty versus option as well as extensive training programs, challenges, and even a fleshed out story mode.
It’s in this story mode that players will be able to get acquainted with Dead Or Alive’s updated roster of characters. While there’s not too much in the way of narrative substance here, all you really need to know is that there is a fighting tournament afoot. Though there are one or two noteworthy subplots, much of the conflict between characters is nonsensical; every time one catches another’s glance you’re sure to have a beatdown on your hands.
Dead Or Alive 5 sets itself apart from the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat by doing away with ranged attacks, teleports, and other forms of trickery. Instead Dead Or Alive adheres strictly to what it call the “Triangle” – a rock, paper, scissors system in which normal strikes overpower grapples, grapples overpower counters and counters overpower strikes.
It’s a simple concept, though one that doesn’t translate perfectly into gameplay, mainly due to the fact that more inexperienced players will often shy away from using counters. With a heavy emphasis on reaction times, it seems more beneficial to simply block instead of risking a counter and getting pulverized. With that said, this issue will matter little to intermediate and experienced players. For them, Dead Or Alive 5 is about reading their opponents and feinting in order to administer a killer combo and claim dominance.
That’s not to say that novice or casual fighters can’t have fun with the game. Sticking to punches, kicks and grapples can still make for some rewarding gameplay, especially when you factor in Dead Or Alive’s dynamic stages.
Force an opponent against the fringes of an arena and, chances are, you’ll trigger an explosion or some other cataclysmic event that could deal a hearty amount of damage or even chance the field of play entirely. Certain stages even have “Cliffhanger” moments in which fighters must react to a command prompt as they tumble over an edge to the platform below. Some will call it a gimmick, though others will no doubt defend it as one of the series’ persistent in-game features.
The most substantive addition to Dead Or Alive 5’s portable version is the inclusion of Touch Fight. Just like Versus mode, players can select their character, opponent, and arena, though the game’s controls are scaled back to basic touchscreen gestures.
For instance, tapping the screen will initiate a regular attack, whereas swiping gives them some added direction and holding down the screen will trigger a block. Although the effort put into Touch Fight is admirable, the novelty wears off after a few rounds.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of PLUS is just how great the game looks. While a few concessions have been made in order to get the game to run on a handheld, the character models still look fantastic and the fluidity of the animation really contributes to the overall experience. Stages also benefit from Team Ninja’s attention to detail, with dynamic elements rarely impacting on the game’s solid framerate.
- Solid core fighting.
- Looks stunning.
- Plenty of content.
- Cross-Play and Cross-Save functionality with the PlayStation 3.
- A more simplistic fighting experience.
- Training is a little too comprehensive and lacks structure.
- Story is essentially filler.
- Game modes may seem a little bare-boned and repetitive.
Although PLUS is a competent port of Dead Or Alive 5, it doesn’t add quite enough to warrant a re-purchase. However, if you’re new to the series or just fancy a solid fighting game whilst on-the-go, PLUS is definitely your go-to option. With simplistic mechanics and a wealth of content, the game is ideal for short bursts of play, also proving addictive enough for those longer, more intense sessions.