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The Rebirth of DOA: Dead or Alive 5

Posted on July 9, 2012 AT 07:24am

I can’t remember if I purchased DOA4 launch day, or if I purchased it later in the month it’s been nearly 7 years since I purchased the game. But, I do remember wondering after my 3rd year of playing the game when a new DOA title would be coming out. For the record, I do not count any of the beach volleyball or “photography” focused games in the franchise. I’m all about the fighting games, not necessarily about the bouncing bits.

So when I got hands on time with DOA5 at E3 this year, my heart skipped a beat.

Tecmo (now Tecmo-Koei) released the 4th installment in the Dead or Alive franchise – Dead or Alive 4 – in the US in December of 2005, and I never miss the launch window of a good fighting game so I’m sure I made my purchase around this time. To say that it is rare for me to miss a franchise fighter launch would be a vast understatement. When I started gaming it was on fighters at the arcade, which turned into playing fighters at home, which has now become fighters at home and online with friends. I’ve enjoyed every second of the journey, but it has been a long one.

The fighting game genre went through a dark period between 2000 and late 2005. Gameplay became over-simplified and formulaic as more and more each release looked and played similarly to the other, and gamers lost interest. The resurgence and appreciation for fighters has only happened recently with reboots or re-imaginings of cherished titles, and DOA5 is one of these reboots. More accurately, DOA5 is a rebirth.

New Look, New Characters

In the new DOA title everything from the characters to the fighting stages have been revamped or recreated and with purpose and meaning. The first thing I noticed was that each of the characters, both the female characters as well as the male ones, somehow look younger or feel “fresher” than in previous franchise outings. The skin on the female characters appears to be tighter and slightly rosy, especially around the eyes, cheeks, and mouth like in the image below. The image compares how one of the DOA characters – Kasumi – looked in DOA 4 to how she looks now in DOA 5.

I like the updated look of the character, and looking at them side by side the old Kasumi looks dated. While I haven’t been able to play the games side-by-side, I will say that new Kasumi (as well as all regular characters in the game) moves faster than their predecessors. I’m not talking about a small increase in dodge timing, but a drastically noticeable change in nearly every moving piece of the gameplay. The way the camera moves around the characters on the stage, the speed at which Danger Zones (the damaging interactive pieces of the stage) move when triggered, the pace at which combos can now be linked, even the window of opportunity to counter or deliver a critical blow (an attack that leaves your opponent open for additional blows) feels tighter, markedly faster, but some how second nature to anyone that has played DOA before.

The Team Ninja team has announced a few new characters to the DOA realm in this game, including Akira and Sarah from Sega’s Virtua Fighter series – a move I believe reinforces the “I’m a fighter” banner of this new game which I’ll talk about later – and the recently announced character “Rig.” Rig is the first Taekwondo based fighter in the series and like the character Bayman, he is a man without a past. He doesn’t remember his past, and has spent a chunk of his life on an oil rig – where he picked up his name – and his fighting style.

Tecmo Koei has hinted at more character announcements as well as other surprises in store for the game before its release, and updates the game’s website with new gameplay videos and other content nearly every week.

New Tricks, New Nastiness

The gameplay system has been reworked from the ground up. While the song remains the same with a single, two player arcade mode, online battle and practice modes, the basic Strikes/Throws/Holds system remains the core of the fight engine. The way in which you will want to – and can – combine these core elements has been drastically revamped. Quick Combo Strikes are easier to put together for many of the characters, while the most damaging (and fantastically nasty combos) will still take time and practice to master and execute. These include the new “Power Blow” system – which allows you to direct your opponent into an area of the stage with your next blow to not only deal a bit more damage, but also talk a bit o’ trash while you do so – as well as the new Critical Hit system, Critical Stuns, Critical Combos, and Critical Bursts.

During my demo, I got to watch as one of the most devastating and non-defensible combos I had ever seen in a fighting game was executed. It combined the Critical Stun – which limits your opponent to only being able to execute holds while in a stunned state – with a Critical Combo – a combo string executed while your opponent is in a stunned state – to a Critical Burst – a linking move when timed perfectly allows you to continue your combo string and “juggle” your opponent with more hit damage – to a Power Blow into a Danger Zone that completely wiped out player 2′s life gauge. After my initial “OH, DAMN!” reaction, the only thing I could say was, “That’s just NASTY!”

Ultimately, I’m a Fighter

There is no denying it. For all the games I love to play, fighting games are my home, and lucky for me the revival of the Fighting Game genre continues to thrive.

Dead or Alive 5 is just what I need. It’s exactly the kind of unrelenting, over-the-top, trash-talk inspiring outing I have been missing for the last few years in my fighting games. It offers up the thing that made me fall in love with fighting games back when I was a kid, and is the main reason I continue to play them today…it’s FUN.

The game releases in the US on September 25th, 2012 for $59.99 MRSP on the PS3 and XBox 360 systems with a GameStop exclusive collector’s edition available for $79.99 which includes

  • Embossed Steel Case Packing
  • (1) Copy of the Dead Or Alive 5 game
  • (1) Copy of the Exclusive Hardcover Art Book
  • Premium Swimsuit Costumes for all of playable female characters in the game
  • (1) Copy of the Game OST
  • (1) Copy of the Dead Or Alive 5 “I’m a Fighter” Poster

DOA 5 builds on all the things I loved about DOA 4 and adds just enough newness and complexity to make me want to learn more when I want, if I want.

I’m a Fighter, and I’m in.

Rochelle has been writing about, talking about, and arguing with anyone who will listen to her about video games –professionally – for more six years. Co-Founder, Designer, and Podcast Co-Host at ElectricSistaHood, Rochelle fancies herself rather geeky. Follow her on twitter @NinJaSistah

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