Ninja Gaiden wasn’t the only thing that Tecmo Koei was showing off this week. As you may know, gamers are poised to get their hands on Dead or Alive 5 for the first time with pre-orders of Ryu Hayabusa’s third adventure, or in the Ninja Gaiden 3′s Collectors’ Edition.

The DoA 5 Alpha features two stages and four different fighters, and for fans of the series, it’s going to serve as confirmation that the fifth time is the charm. In the latest iteration, fighters move faster and battles aren’t over until one fighter is down. There are no foregone conclusions, with luck turning on a dime. A well-timed counter or whiffed punch could mean the difference between a comeback from near-death and an embarrassing defeat.

I’ve always had a hard time getting into the Dead or Alive series. It always moved to slow for me, weighted too heavily toward the technical. My experience with this iteration, though, was a pleasant surprise. I had the opportunity to use Hayabusa and Ayane, both sporting graceful animations and brutally powerful strikes. Each fighter continues to have his/her own fighting style and learning not only your own strengths, but that of your opponent, is key.

I was extremely impressed by the visual fidelity, especially when it came to Dead or Alive’s “third combatant,” the stages. Wall hits and dynamic stages return bringing the same level of strategy and jockeying that past entries featured. A single well-placed wall hit can turn the tide, blasting an opponent over your head, slamming them face-first into the ground. Instead of the fighters moving in front of a moving background, though, the stages bleed all the way to the front of the arena. You won’t be fighting in front of a crumbling building, you’re on top of it, contributing to it’s utter destruction. The world explodes around the action, creating gorgeous scenes as the two human fighters engage in their deadly dance, hurtling toward the ground only to dust themselves off and continue.

When I had finished playing five or six fights and put the controller down, only one question lingered, “How long do I need to wait for my next match?”

Why you should care about Dead or Alive 5:
- Stunning visuals with the most dynamic stages in series history
- Your favorite characters return with moves both new and old
- Quick matches that can turn on a dime require you to play like you’re at the end of your lifebar