Once you’ve made it through the story, or get stuck on a particularly challenging fight, you can venture into the training mode. Here, you can configure an AI opponent to allow you to practice your moves or let the game walk you through each character’s commands (including the two new fighters, Mila and Rig, and the three guest characters from Virtua Fighter, Akira, Sarah and Pai). These are pretty standard options, but one feature in particular caught my eye. When you turn on the move data that shows your button presses, information on frames also becomes available. If you’ve ever heard the term “frame data” or wondered exactly how the pros evaluate a character’s individual moves, this will put on the road to understand. You could, of course, read the installment of RipTen Dojo in which we discussed the subject to help fill in the gaps.

Of course, what good is a fighting game these days if you can’t take your skills online. To that end, Team Ninja has included a fairly meaty mode that makes choosing a pick-up match or ranked fight simple. If you’re looking for something a bit more feature-filled for you and your friends, you can set up a lobby, allow others to spectate and adjust the settings to your heart’s desire. Want to play a first-to-five tag-team match? No problem. Want to switch off the Danger Zones (wimp!), you can do that. Sometimes, it makes sense to kick back and just watch. You can easily spectate without ever fighting, which is valuable for players looking to see how someone more skilled than themselves conducts business. A handy grading system from F to S+ lets you know whether you’re watching a scrub (like me) or someone who dreams exclusively of the triangle system and not the other, ahem, attributes.

Jann Lee doing his best Bruce Lee.

Lobbies are typically stable, and the most sure way of getting into a match. I had some problems using the Simple Match and Rank Match options. Even setting the widest parameters (any number of rounds, any region, rank F – S+) sometimes yielded a strange “Unable to find opponents.” I know that there are a lot of people playing this game, which leads me to believe there is a bug in the matchmaking popping up from time to time.

Dead or Alive has always generously endowed its female fighters, and this time out is no different. There is no such thing as a small-breasted female fighter in the series, and a number of the unlockable costumes accentuate the female form. As my wife pointed out when she saw me playing, “Maybe you wouldn’t be so bad at this if you weren’t so top heavy.” And that’s why I started maining Hayate. Unfortunately, her theory is not correct. I still don’t play well.

As I mentioned earlier, the presentation is phenomenal. Dead or Alive 5 is the prettiest fighter I’ve played, made even more stunning by the improved realism of the characters and the way they exist within the world. It would be jarring if, amidst fire and ash, that combatants were as spotless at the conclusion as they were at the start. Team Ninja has managed to take that soot, smoke and sweat and apply it to the fighters. White shirts become dark with dirt, beads of sweat run down faces and accessories get knocked off mid-combat.

He kicks high.

The music is equally engaging, especially Zack’s ridiculous theme. He’s clearly the goofiest character, and Team Ninja has done a great job of making him the butt of many jokes. I enjoyed the soundtrack, and only wish that the overwrought dialog could match. Some of the voice actors do a great job, but so many of them are simply cheesy. It’s part of the allure, I suppose, and more importantly, it doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment.

Creating a game that is equally accessible to inexperienced players and deep enough to engage the competitive crowd is no small feat. I greatly enjoyed (and continue to play) Dead or Alive 5 for the spectacle and excitement, but I’m also thrilled to watch the pros duke it out. Shimbori-san and his team set out to make a game that everyone, and not just the competitive set, could play and enjoy. I’m thrilled to say that they succeeded.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Deep, technical fighter that manages to be welcoming for inexperienced players
+ Fantastic presentation
+ Refined hold mechanic means countering is more skill-based
+ Critical stun system and danger zones differentiate the game from other 3D fighters
+ Lobby and spectator system is well-implemented
+ Stages are well-designed, providing a variety of different experiences
- Occasional problems finding opponents via quick and ranked match options
- If you are offended by over-sexualization, you aren’t going to be happy here
- Voice acting is largely over the top
- Story is still convoluted (but the mode is worthwhile for training)

 

8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.

Dead or Alive 5 was developed by Team Ninja and published by Tecmo Koei. It was released on September 25, 2012 at the MSRP of $59.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.