There is no question that this is the ultimate version of the fifth manifestation of Dead or Alive.
It has been virtually a year since the first incarnation of Dead or Alive 5 arrived for Xbox 360 and PS3. This was the first time the sexy fighting game series had been created without the father, Tomonobu Itagaki, at the realm to overlook development. To give it a fresh start, Team Ninja decided to update the look of the game and change the appearance of its well known cast to be less anime and more realistic, similar to Ninja Gaiden’s style. A few months later, a port to PS Vita happened, which was named Dead or Alive 5+ and included new tutorial features to help newcomers to the game. It might seem unpleasant that we’re seeing a third release for Dead or Alive 5 already, but it’s not like fighting fans aren’t used to this type of incremental updates. Capcom has done it four times with Street Fighter IV (Super, Arcade Edition, Arcade Edition 2012 and the 2014 title, Ultra) and released Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 within the same year. What it often boils down to with fighting games is, are you a fan? If so, then you no doubt have to get the game to keep up-to-date with the changes and new characters that are introduced.
So what’s new in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate? The biggest attraction for fans is likely the inclusion of five new characters, which brings the grand total to 29. Returning cast members include Leon, the Italian mercenary, who is similar to Bayman with his Sambo style close-quarters fighting, and Ein, the amnesia suffering version of Hayate, who specialises in karate. New to the franchise are Momiji and Rachel, the two characters that were first introduced in the Ninja Gaiden franchise. Momiji has a style similar to Ryu Hayabusa that is based on ninpo and aikijujutsu. Rachel on the other hand is a power fighter, and seems to have moves similar to Spartan-458 from Dead or Alive 4. The last character is Jacky Bryant, the brother of Sarah Bryant, and he fights using Jeet Kune Do, which means Bruce Lee fans can determine who the best Jeet Kune Do specialist is by pitting Jacky against Jann Lee.
It’s a shame that these new characters aren’t added to the story mode – that remains identical to what you played in Dead or Alive 5, so people with a save file from last year’s game will have the story mode already finished (if you completed it). Accompanying the new characters are five new stages. Two of these stages, the Japanese forest set to an autumn theme and the infinite stone pillar stage, make a return from Dead or Alive 3. The other three (Aircraft Carrier, Desert Wasteland and Sky City Tokyo) are self-explanatory, but one thing I did notice is that they seem to be based on stages from Ninja Gaiden 2 (Sky City Tokyo has the giant Buddha statue smashing part of the stage) and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.
The combat has also been slightly tweakws. Obviously, as an update to DOA 5, some balancing issues and bugs have been fixed, and existing characters received some new combo attacks. On top of this, a new Power Launcher mechanic has been added. This allows players to launch their opponent up into the air, allowing the potential for more combo damage. The Power Blow still remains as well, so players have the option to use either one of them in battle once your character has lost 50% or more of their health. Only the hardcore fans will probably notice the difference in their characters. To the untrained eye, the game will play and feel identical.
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is a great place to start for newcomers to the series, because it includes all the training tutorials that learnt players about the game’s mechanics that were added to the Vita version. Not only that, but they have taken it a step further so that people can grow their knowledge of characters by taking part in Combo Challenges. These are similar to what you see in BlazBlue and Street Fighter, and, just like those games, it’s a welcome addition that allows people who want to move up from being a novice to an intermediate player. It does lack personality though, as it offers a dry experience in regards to learning the game. Offline modes remain mostly the same as before, there is a new feature called Team Fight, which allows people to pick a team of seven characters and fight another team of seven to see who can create the ultimate gang of fighters. Survival mode has had some tweaking, it now features the return of items that can either offer health, launchers or point bonuses during survival.
It wouldn’t be Dead or Alive without costumes, and boy, have Tecmo Koei jam-packed Ultimatewith them. There are a total of 231 (up from 114) costumes to unlock. In typical Dead or Alivefashion, most of the females get the costumes, but no matter who you play as (well, apart from Alpha-152 – she just has four colours), there’s enough variety offerd that you should find something suitable for your character to wear. If you bought any costume DLC for Dead or Alive 5, then you’ll be happy to know that those come across into Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate.
Multiplayer is a key component to fighting games, which makes it great that I can say the online has received the biggest upgrade. The netcode feels smoother, hardly ever encountering a match that would result in lag. They are also new modes implemented, such as the 2-on-2 match battle that is similar to Street Fighter X Tekken’s cooperative play, wherein two friends can form a tag-team and challenge other people online in tag battles. Tag matches can now be done in ranked as well. Also taking a leaf out of Street Fighter IV is the character point system that lets people know how good you are overall and how good you are with a specific character. If you enjoyed playing Dead or Alive 5 online, then you’ll be happy for the fleshed out modes in Ultimate. You can even save replays and upload photos to Facebook. Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate won’t work with existing Dead or Alive 5 titles, so you will have to migrate to the new game or check out the free-to-play Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Core Fighters, if you want to test out the new netcode.
As I said at the start, the value of Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate will be determined by how much of a fan you are. There is no question that this is the ultimate version of the fifth manifestation of Dead or Alive that retains the explosive, fast combat. Existing fans might be wishing for more content or a cheaper price because while the add-ons are a welcomed inclusion, they might not feel like they are worth a full release. For newcomers, this is a very worthwhile package, so if you enjoy a fighting game that is easy to get into, thanks to the rock-paper-scissors mechanics and counter system, then Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is the best place to start with the franchise.