Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Coop Scoops: Dead or Alive 5

Released: 2012
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Coop Scoops are the silly term I'll be using for reviews of the latest and greatest (or not so greatest) vidja games that I get the chance to play. My intent is to keep them relatively brief, but informative. Hopefully, I'll succeed in this endeavor. But if not, feel free to let me know!
Ever since it's inception in 1996, Tecmo's Dead or Alive series has garnered equal amounts of fame and infamy. While many folks equate the name with bikini babes and ridiculous bouncing breasts, those that look beyond all the Xtreme Beach Volleyball nonsense remember it for it's beautiful interactive backdrops,  and it's simple fighting system that made it feel less like a game, and more like a Jet Li film. Now, seven years after it's appearance as an Xbox 360 launch title, and coming off a stint on the Nintendo 3DS, Tecmo's troupe of ninjas, assassins, and brawlers take to the arena once more in Dead or Alive 5. And while it's admittedly not the best fighting game you'll play, it's certainly the best DOA experience to come out of Team Ninja's dojo in quite some time.
If you've ever played a DOA game, then you are familiar with it's rock/paper/scissors approach to fighting via it's counter system. A couple of quick button presses are all it takes to turn the tide of a match in your favor. That is, until your opponent presses the same buttons and puts you back on the defensive. It's those hectic back-and-forth mind games that have helped DOA endure over the years, and it's back with a vengeance in DOA5. This time around, and to the game's benefit, Team Ninja have implemented new features and tweaks to the engine to help make it a bit more competitive. For starters, the damage output of counters have been reduced across the board, and the recovery times for whiffed counters have been increased. Also, Team Ninja have implemented true sidestepping (ala Tekken), and a new status effect known as the Critical Burst. While stunned fighters in a DOA game could simply counter their way out of trouble, the Critical Burst leaves them vulnerable to a punishing combo, or the massively damaging Power Blow technique.
The Power Blow technique in action. Yes, the arenas
are as vibrant and wild as ever (image via push.start.co.uk)
 Power Blows are DOA's new way to interact with the environment. Activated in a way similar to SNK games such as Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, these powerful attacks are capable of sending your opponent flying into moving trains, electrical boxes, and other hazards, and can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Together, these tweaks and additions result in matches that put more emphasis on player ability, instead of simply getting lucky with button mashing and counter guesses.
DOA cover girl Kasumi shows off her before and after
pics. The improved character models are readily apparent.
(image via justpushstart.com)
And speaking of the environment, DOA5's visuals are a real sight to behold. The arenas are quite detailed, and feature lots of little touches that really make them come to life. Even more impressive are the brand new character models. Team Ninja have finally decided to do away with the glassy eyed Barbie dolls they've been using since DOA2. In their place are characters that are much more expressive and...well, human that what you're used to seeing.
While not as feature filled as other fighting games, DOA5 still offers up a good chunk of content. Taking a cue from the recent Mortal Kombat reboot, the Story Mode serves as a tutorial, in which players learn the basics of the game while witnessing the events of the fifth Dead or Alive tournament unfold. Set two years after the destruction of DOATEC's Tri Tower headquarters, Helena Douglas has called together the world's best and brightest martial artists to trade blows and barbs inside the squared circle. Fan favorites such as Kasumi, Ayane, Ninja Gaiden's Ryu Hayabusa, and Jann Lee make their triumphant return, and are joined by newcomers Rig (a taekwondo expert) and Mila (an MMA ground 'n pounder). Team Ninja has also jumped on the guest character bandwagon, as Akira, Sarah, and Pai from Sega's Virtua Fighter series join in on all the fun.
Hitomi and Ryu Hayabusa duke it out, and get dirty
in the process. (image via grimmgames.com)
 Rounding out the feature set are standard Versus, Time Attack, Tag Battle, and Survival modes. A more robust Training mode. A Spectator mode, in which players can snap photos of the action (or load up on panty shots.) And, of course, local and online multiplayer, which benefits from improved netcode. Tecmo have even thrown in Facebook integration, so you can let all your friends know how much ass you've been kicking.
 You're probably thinking "Man, this sounds pretty good...but there's gotta be something wrong with it! C'mon, Pigeon, what's the deal?" Well, the only 'major' fault I can find with the product is that it's a bit lacking in terms of features or customization when compared to some of the more recent fighting games out there. Sure, there's a fair bit of costumes and swimsuits for you to unlock, but the inability to customize your character is a bit of a letdown. And while I think Tecmo have made tremendous strides in making DOA5 a more competition worthy title, there's bound to be some folks that will still find it to be too simplistic for their tastes. The Fighting Game Community can be understandably picky in that regard.
 However, if you are willing to look beyond the limited feature set, the casual friendly mechanics, and it's sketchy past, you'll find plenty to enjoy here. Dead or Alive 5 is easily Tecmo's best brawler to date, and will offer up many hours of over the top fighting fun for gamers of any skill level.
Pigeon Says:

A PLAY IT! rating indicates a game that, while certainly playable and enjoyable for some, may contain a couple of glaring flaws or gameplay features that could dissuade you from shelling out full price for a copy. As such, I recommend you 'try before you buy'.

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