Dead or Alive 5+ Vita Review
Dead or Alive 5 was released last year on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but as several changes have been made for the PS Vita port the name was also altered to DOA5+. Although the ‘+’ signifies things were added and updated, several things were also taken away. The main features that have been removed are the tag fights (except for certain story matches) and the online lobby system, but the new additions make up for that and way more in this great port. There are still 24 playable characters and 22 stages with no new changes to the plot or story fights, so players don’t need to worry about platform-exclusive differences in the DOA-verse. All the significant adjustments are the inclusion of a huge amount of training exercises, which are exactly what a fighting game like this needs. With deep and often complicated mechanics (for those who actually want to learn and not mash buttons), the addition of a huge amount of tutorials and character-specific challenges is much appreciated.
The story is exactly what you’d expect from a fighting game, using all the common clichés such as clones, evil corporations and world tournaments. It’s confusing and makes little sense to newcomers, although…unlike other games in the genre, DOA5’s story mode is long and contains over 70 fights, giving you a taste of each character and allowing you to choose a few favourites that you feel comfortable with. This helps new players find a character or two that they like and can practice with, instead of forcing them to simply try each one out on the same old arcade mode and boring new players into never wanting to learn the controls properly. Before each fight there’s a story cutscene featuring voiceovers from a brilliant cast of well-known voice actors such as Matthew Mercer (Leon Kennedy – Resident Evil), Liam O’Brien (War – Darksiders) and Laura Bailey (Chun-Li – Street Fighter). Another new addition to this version is the ability to watch all the cutscenes from the Extras menu.
Whilst modes such as Versus, Arcade, Time Attack and Survival are commonplace for fighting games, using the power of the PS Vita comes a totally new and interesting way to fight. Using the Touch Screen to attack has already been done in Mortal Kombat and Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, but not like this. The new Touch Fight mode gives you a first-person perspective through the eyes of your character and offers you a completely new way to fight, as you can’t use your usual punches and kicks. Tapping the opponent attacks, stringing multiple taps into a combo and flicking any direction knocks your opponent, whether it’s launching them in the air or spinning them to the side for a chance to pull off a damaging power blow. You can block by holding two fingers on the screen and can still pull off hold counters by tapping with two fingers at the start of your opponent’s attack, whilst using a throw requires you to use the pinch gesture. It may sound like a gimmick but it’s a lot of fun and works incredibly well, especially when you turn the PS Vita portrait for a fantastic new view. Unfortunately, it’s only available for single player against the CPU.
The expansive new training mode covers three different areas: a complete tutorial to get started with, character specific command training and character-specific combo challenges. There is a huge amount of content here covering just about everything you can do in a fight in DOA5. The main tutorial has over 150 lessons spanning 34 sections to teach complete beginners everything from the basic attack mechanics to difficult reversal techniques. Command training shows you a character’s every available move, which can be between 70 and 140 different attacks. This simply blew my mind coming from a 2D fighting game background where a character typically only has around 20. Once you’ve learnt everything from the tutorial, have a character that you like and have completed all of their moves in command training, you will be ready for the combo challenges. Comprised of five beginner, five intermediate and five expert challenges for each character, the tasks start off as simple combos and quickly become incredibly difficult and involve highly damaging sets of attacks and cancels. This is exactly what fighting games need to teach both new and old players the rules and developed systems that the game has to offer, instead of just expecting them to learn by themselves like so many fighting games do.
The combat system is vast and can get very technical, but sometimes it can feel a little button-mashy. Using a rock-paper-scissors style of fighting that follows the rule of ‘hold beats strike, a strike beats throw, and a throw beats hold’ means that you’ll be throwing out random grab or hold attempts, in hopes of catching your opponent out. Of course, you are supposed to be looking out for their attacks and dealing with them accordingly, but many moves are simply way too fast to correctly analyse before you’re hit. There are also low, mid and high attacks that must be dealt with in their own way, as well as punch and kick attacks which require different directional holds to counter. All these different attack types can feel overwhelming when you’re getting absolutely destroyed by the CPU on normal difficulty, but after some time you feel yourself getting better, even if not by much. Like many 3D fighting games, you need to juggle your opponent in the air with long combos to deal the most damage possible, and that means simply memorising a long list of button presses and executing the combo during a match, but when you get it down it feels extremely rewarding.
Unfortunately, the lobby system for the online mode has been removed, so if you want to play online you must search for a match and wait until someone else searches for a similar match type, instead of being able to just jump into a room. It can take a little while before you find a match – and several times I’ve waited for minutes without anything – but that is obviously also to do with the amount of players currently online. From the matches I have had online, I feel that another reason you can’t always find an opponent is due to the connection level. I played many games at different times of the day with people from all over and never experienced a single frame of lag, which shows extremely impressive net coding. Perhaps the online doesn’t let you connect with someone who has even a mediocre connection, ruling out many that you would otherwise be able to fight albeit with a little lag. Another cool extra that was added to DOA5+ is the Online Dojo mode, which lets you and a friend go into a training room together over the net. This way you can both practice combos and techniques together online without having to constantly rematch when one player dies. The game also allows for cross-play so that you can fight against people who are playing on the PS3 version.
Spectator Mode still allows you to watch saved fight replays and AI battles or photos to be taken, but using the L or R buttons you can also take a screenshot at anytime mid-battle. This allows for some pretty cool action shots, especially in the Touch Fight mode where your opponent is coming right at you. As it is a DOA game, after all, there’s also a lot of cleavage and some new, related extras. The first one I noticed was inside the Options menu under Game Settings, where you can “select the level of motion for female characters’ breasts” with your choices being ‘off,’ ‘natural’ and ‘DOA’. By far, the funniest feature this game has to offer is when a female character plays their win or lose animation after a battle and before you press ‘Next,’ you can use the Touch Screen to influence their cleavage. It’s pretty creepy but I expect nothing less from the series that had a beach volleyball spin-off.
DOA5+ is a must-have for PS Vita owners, as it has a lot of content you don’t normally get with other games in the genre – and it’s portable. DOA5+ offers a lot, with a huge story mode and a tonne of training and combo activities that will last many hours. If that’s not enough, you still have all the classic arcade modes to test your skill against, online ranked matches and the new Touch Fight mode. There’s plenty to keep you going and the game itself looks and sounds great with fluent animation and world-class voice acting. It seems we’ve reached a point where games aren’t completely ruined by porting them to a handheld device and can in fact be even better than their console counterparts in many respects.