Remember those cheesy commercials with all the guys sitting on a couch watching the Dead Or Alive girls play virtual volley ball? Let’s try to get past that. The roster is perfect for such exploitive fodder, but Team Ninja is free of Tomonobu Itagaki and his… tastes. They’re returning the franchise to the battlefields of the DOA tournament. What that means is you’ll be fighting on roof tops, in the jungle, and… wait so there really isn’t a beach level? What the hell, this is not the game I volunteered to review. I thought it was a–
OK, well, nevermind. The cast from Kasumi to Rig is present and accounted for, tallying Virtua Fighter‘s Akira and Tina among the regular ninjas, off-shore drillers, and um… more ninjas. Can Team Ninja make it work without Itagaki or will DOA5 get beat-down?
When the world last saw the proper Dead or Alive fighting series, it was exclusive to the Xbox 360 and featured a threadbare presentation. DOA5 brings the series to the PlayStation brand again, but manages to remain similarly stripped down. A new dedicated Story Mode compliments Arcade and Multiplayer modes. You can fight tag battles, in addition to the expected slew of fighting game mainstays, but beyond that there’s little else you haven’t seen before.
What’s more, DOA5 bucks the meter-focused trend many fighting games have been following, offering only one “special” move for players to pull off if they’ve fallen below 50% health. While many other games offer powerful maneuvers for players in a bind (think Mortal Kombat‘s X-ray moves), this on-the-ropes option doesn’t actually turn any tables. If you’re behind, you’re behind.
There’s little room for forgiveness in DOA5‘s combo-focused combat. If you’re up against a particularly knowledgeable opponent, you will get your ass kicked quickly. Luckily, you can use three different counters to hold an opponent’s attack and turn it around for your benefit.
Without a firm grasp of these systems, you’re likely not to stand a chance against online opponents or high-level AI. Luckily, DOA5 manages to grasp what a successful fighting game story should present the player with. Each character has a chapter in the greater narrative, forcing players to try a lot of different characters on their way to choosing a main.
Leave it to Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja to create some gorgeous character models. Kasumi’s stocking’s will get dirty when fighting near a Japanese temple. Bear will drip with water if he gets knocked down in a damn jungle. These small effects are all the more apparent when players are faced with their collapsed avatar and the desperation in their eyes.
That said, DOA5 features some of the most atrocious textures I’ve ever seen. The character models really pop because at times it can seem like they’re trapped in some low-resolution nightmare box. Given the opportunity, I’m sure the environments could benefit from a bit more polishing.
The unfortunate truth about DOA5 is that it seems fixated on the past. With so little done to advance the series, players might be left asking why a new title was needed at all. Team Ninja’s dedication to yesteryear’s fighting market is endearing, especially if you’ve bandwagoned on several titles amid the fighting genre boom. It can be refreshing to revisit PlayStation era mechanics at modern-day speeds and fidelity.
But then you realize that the game just ends, the combat feels mildly dated, and you’ve grown too old to sprout one for digitized T&A. When you come back from unreality, you see how little actual development time went in to pushing the series forward and into the future. That’s not to write off the newly added Story Mode which “gets it” and teaches players how to fight with the full roster.
It’s just a shame that there isn’t more thought put into the actual mechanics. While the old-school concoction of combos and counters doesn’t falter, even for a second, to provide extremely fast, fluid fighting, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table either.
The reality is that DOA5 enters a saturated market with more than enough competition to go around. Gamers have no shortage of contenders to choose from, and your past experience with the franchise will ultimately serve as the deciding factor. Can you weather the stares of judgement and lack of innovation to ultimately play DOA5?
If you’ve got a hankering for scantily dressed girl fighting muscle-loaded men, you’ll probably be ready to pick up your preorder, but the rest of us have better things to do with our time. At least the series is back on PlayStation with a definite respect for the past. It’s just too bad I’m more more interested in where the series is going than where it is now.