Dead or Alive 5 - Review

Dead or Alive 5 is the newest addition to the long running 3D fighting game series, Dead or Alive. DoA has always been one of them fighting series that has been over looked by many, and overshadowed by other fighting series such as Tekken; however with DoA 5 team Ninja has decided to make a change to their formula, and shoot for that full fledged fighter. While in the past Dead or Alive was well known for its sex appeal, 5 tones things down, sharpens the fighting mechanics, and overall, brings a much needed upgrade to the series. Still, just how does it compare to other fighters? Well lets find out shall we?

The Story of Dead or Alive 5:

Going off of the formula introduced in Dead or Alive: Dimensions (a 3DS game which retold the stories of DoA 1-4), 5 does away with the standard "arcade mode story" where you would simply watch a cutscene after every few fights, and actually includes a full story mode. In this story mode the game takes you form character to character in a set timeline, and shows you just how the events of the game unfold. Although there is some backtracking from time to time, everything is in fact very well ordered and there is rarely a time that you will find yourself confused on what is going on.

The game starts out a few years after the events of Dead or Alive 4, and Kasumi is still hunting down her clone Alpha. Feeling that it is her responsibility to take down this weapon of war, she turns to Helena for help, only to once again run off on her own. Really the start of the story is in fact a little bit shakey, especially if you haven't played the past games or Dimensions, but soon after the game starts the Dead or Alive 5 tournament is announced.

Once again fighters from around the world are called to complete in a brand new tournament, and this is what draws two new fighters into the mix. While one fighter (and new comer), named Mila, wants to train hard enough to beat her idol (who just happens to be Bass from past DoA games), other fighters such as Jann Lee simply just want to prove they are truly the best. These personal stories are what make up most of Dead or Alive 5's storyline, but in the shadows the one who pulled the strings during the first four games still lies in wait for the ninjas.

This time around the Ninjas actually decide to stay out of the tournament to focus on their overall goals. While Kasumi is out tracking down Alpha, Hayate and Ryu do everything they can from the background to help her, while Ayane still seemingly is trying to hunter her down for being a run away. Although this aspect of the story really doesn't pick up until the ending of the game, where some shocking truths also come to light about some of the other characters, it still plays a major role in the overall story. In fact, chances are if you've been following Dead or Alive, and Ninja Gaiden for that matter, you will be most interested in the Ninjas themselves, instead of the tournament and the other fighters.

I am a Fighter:

Dead or Alive 5 features a completely reworked fighting system, which is quite a bit deeper than in past games. Although the basics are the same, the changes made to them make DoA 5 feel like the best DoA in years, and it does in fact give the game an edge (one that it seemed to be lacking in the past).

The Basics -

Just like in the past games, DoA 5 is still a 3D fighter. Your characters are viewed from a side view and normally locked into left, right, and crouching movements, but by double tapping on the controls in either the up or down directions, you can actually move around the 3D field. Although your characters always stay facing each other, side stepping and this free movement around the arena really becomes key to fights, and it becomes a feature you will most likely use quite often.

As for the fighting itself, DoA features a four button set up, which is also used in a rock-paper-scissors type manor. While you have a punch button and kick button (which are known as "strikes), you also have a "hold" button, as well as a "throw" button (strikes counter throws, throws counter holds, holds counter strikes). Punch and kick attacks are your basic attacks in DoA, and the ones you will be using a lot of the time. By hitting the punch and kick buttons in different combinations, you can pull off many different type of combos to attack your enemy. The thing about DoA however, is that unlike other fighters the combo system actually relies more on common sense than it does memorization. If you hold up and press punch, you're going to do a higher hit, if you press back as you hit your kick button, your character will most likely do some kind of kick where they turn their body backwards. A simple, yet at the same time deep, combat system like this makes it so just about ANYONE can jump into Dead or Alive, and not have to worry about spending weeks training. Sure there is a pretty expansive list of combos that you can pull off (and players who master their characters will have an edge), but that only adds to the fun of discovery. Newbies can just mix and match their attacks, and flat out have fun discovering new combos.

While Strikes, are well, strikes, Throws and Holds are completely different. Throw attacks are basically attacks that allow you to counter Holds (which will be explained in the next paragraph), they also have many other uses as well. A bit part when it comes to fighting games is confusing your enemy by mixing up your moves, and throw attacks are sometimes the perfect way to do so. Throws allow you to grab your enemy and throw them. Depending on the different direction your enemy is facing, and depending on which direction you are holding on the analog stick/d-pad, you can pull off different types of throws to do massive damage. Although some characters are in fact better at using throws, in fact they may even have "combo throws," every character can use them, and they are quite useful. Sure you do put yourself at risk when you try to pull one off, but if you can, it does massive damage which makes it well worth it.

Hold attacks are the third type of attack in Dead or Alive, and they are also one of the most important. Basically a hold is a type of counter move which you can use to defend yourself against your enemy's attacks. Every attack in DoA hits a different section of the body, and because of this there are different types of holds you can use. While some of your holds will guard against/counter mid section attacks, you can also pull off holds to counter high and lower hitting attacks. The thing about the hold system is that not only does it require you to memorize how to pull off high, mid, and low holds, it also requires you to memorize what enemy attacks hit where (which will require you to memorize common combos and think ahead), and you will also have to practice your timing. The hold system alone really deepens the combat in Dead or Alive 5, and it really isn't an easy system to master because of that; however, if you manage to pull it off, you will be a force to reckon with.

Other basic movements in Dead or Alive 5 also include the standard "block" (which allows you to guard against some damage by either holding back or holding down the hold button), and there are also other special moves and taunts which can be pulled off by hitting a few buttons at the same time. Luckily you can actually set these buttons to the L and R buttons (so you don't have to reach across your controller in a funny way), but most of them don't really play that big of a role when it comes to combos; however there is an exception.

Power Blows and Critical Bursts -

Power Blows and Critical Bursts are two new additions to Dead or Alive, and they are your main reason for wanting to set the special moves to your L and R buttons. Whenever you pull off a combo, you will notice that some of the attacks will actually be critical hits. If you can manage to pull off a few critical hits in a row, you will then put your enemy into a special state, which will then allow you to pull off a "Critical Burst." A critical burst is preformed by holding back on the analog stick/d-pad and hitting Punch + Kick, if you do so, you will actually stun the other player, which will allow you to continue your combo. It's actually a pretty complex system which requires quick reflexes, but once you master it, you'll be pulling it off left and right.

Unlike Critical Bursts, which can only be used when you put your enemy into a special state, Power Blows can actually be used at anytime; however they are much more effective under set conditions. A power blow is basically a strong hitting strike that your character will charge up, and then release on the enemy, this feature in Dead or Alive 5 isn't actually new; however its "special state" version is. If you lose enough health to make your health bar glow red, you can actually charge up your power blow to its strongest state, and if you hit your enemy, you will then trigger a mini cutscene. In this scene your character will do massive damage to the enemy, and then launch them across the field (sometimes causing arena effects). The catch is, you can only do this special move once during your match, and it is a very high risk attack. Every character also has their own button combo required for a Power Blow, so it may take some time before you memorize just how to use it with everyone.

Out on the Battle Field:

Outside of the main fighting mechanics, another major improvement Dead or Alive 5 made was actually to the arenas themselves. In past games there were sections of the area where you could break through walls, or knock people off of cliffs, but this time around they decided to take the whole thing to the next level.

Standard Arena Damage -

Just like in past games, just about every arena you fight in has a few sections, and each section has their own different ways to cause arena damage. While some arenas may be closed in with an electric fence you can knock enemies into to cause extra damages, others may have walls and other objects you can knock your enemies through. While this will in fact do extra damage, sometimes this also opens up other full "arenas" for you to fight in. For example in one battle arena, which is inside a house, you can actually get thrown through the walls, you can get knocked through the ground (up until you hit the basement level), or you can even be thrown out the window which will land you in the small town streets. This makes it so there are actually more battle arenas than there are game areas, and you can actually select which arena you want to play in from the stage select screen; however that isn't all.

Danger Zones and Cliff Hangers -

To go along with the standard arena damage system, there are also "Danger Zones" and "Cliff Hangers." Danger Zones are special events which happen in the area whenever you do something specific. For example, if you pull off a power blow in the war zone you can send your enemy flying into the helicopter flying over head, which will then cause it to crash! This in return will change the arena in different ways, well there's a burning helicopter you can now knock people into, but some effects are larger than others. It's a really nice addition to the game, and it also helps add to the verity of the arenas.

Cliff Hangers are another features which has been added in, but it is really more of an expansion of the standard "falling off a cliff" feature, but this time around you actually have a chance to defend yourself. If you get knocked off a cliff, or if you knock someone else off a cliff, you will then enter the "cliff hanger" state. In the cliff hanger state the "attacker" will begin to run at the "hanger" and time will slow down. At this point the attacker can use any type of strike, or grab, they wish to send the hanger off the cliff, but at the same time the hanger has a chance to counter. Although it is kind of random if you win the cliff hanger or not (since there is no real way to tell if the attacker or hanger will use a strike or throw), it still is a chance to either do more damage, or to just flat out save yourself.

Dead or Alive Arcade:

Although the story mode has now been moved to its own section, Dead or Alive still features a deep arcade mode, which will easily burn up hundreds of hours of your life. The arcade mode is actually broken up into two different sections, and there are many different "courses" to go through for each one.

Single Arcade -

The single arcade mode is the "single character" arcade mode, and the standard mode you might expect to see from a fighter. In this mode you pick from one of the eight different courses to go through, each with a different series of enemies to fight through. In this mode the computers actually put up quite the challenge, and because of that it takes a true master to be able to finish all eight courses.

Tag Arcade -

The Tag Arcade is the same as the Single Arcade mode, but with a twist; you pick two characters to fight with, and you'll be going up against teams of two. In this mode fights basically work the same as they do in single battles, but with three major differences: you can switch between your characters at any time, all of your throw moves are special team throw moves, and your character not in play can heal some of their health. This arcade mode takes a lot of skill, the battles last much longer, and it requires you to master two characters (who make a good team) if you want to be able to complete all of the courses.

Dead or Alive Time Attack:

The Time Attack mode is actually the same as the Arcade Mode, but with one difference. While in Arcade Mode you simply fight your way to the end, in Time Attack the whole idea is to actually beat the courses as fast as possible. Once again there are eight courses for single, and eight for tag matches. This mode is basically the mode that will push you to become a better player, as you try to finish your fights as fast as possible.

Dead or Alive Survival Mode:

Survival Mode, unlike the other two arcade like modes, is a mode where you simply see if you can fight everything the game throws at you without dying. Once again there are eight courses to go through, each with their own number of fighters (with the later modes capping out at one hundred.) Basically in Survival Mode enemies will keep coming, and you will keep fighting for your life. The mode really does provide you with a challenge because, not only do you have to fight a lot of people, but you also have to really watch your health and make sure you can SURVIVE the fight. Just like in Time Attack, this mode will really test you as a player, and will require you to think fast, but also be smart.

The Training Modes:

Dead or Alive 5's training mode is one of them features a lot of people will use, and a lot of people will overlook; however this time around it actually has two major uses. The first is, well, its training options, and the second is the Command Training mode.

Training -

In the training mode you can pit yourself up against any other fighter, and you also have complete control over the battle. You can set how the other fighter will react, what kind of moves they will use, how much health you'll have, if you can use power blows, and you can also reset any damage done to the area as well. The way the whole thing is set up, you can basically create just about any situation you might expect from a real battle, and then train yourself on how to deal with it. On top of that, this mode can also be played online or locally with friends, so you can both practice and improve your skills in a never ending battle. Still, that isn't the only use for the training mode.

Command Training -

Command Training is an extra option hidden away in the menus of training mode, and it allows you to go through EVERY single attack and combo your character can preform. At the start of the training you will be using basic attacks like punch, punch punch, punch punch punch, but later on it gets into some of the more advanced combos. The thing is, this is Dead or Alive 5 is actually one of the few games that got this mode right. While some games require you to hit the other fighter as you do these, which often requires them to be standing in the right place, Dead or Alive 5 doesn't do that! Yep, for most of the moves (besides the hold and grab moves) you can actually punch and kick the air, and still get credit for doing the move! This is a very nice feature, it really speeds up the command training, and I really hope other games will learn from this. This, in short, is training done right.

Lets bring the fight Online:

As I mentioned above, Dead or Alive 5 features an online mode, and it can be used for MORE than just training! Yep, the online mode is actually broken up into quick "simple matches," ranked matches, and lobby matches. While the simple matches are just quick random matches which allow you to jump in and jump out without any risk or reward, and lobby matches are "free" matches you can play with people who set up lobbies, ranked matches are the matches you'll want to play to climb the ranks.

In DoA 5, after every match you will either earn or lose ranking points based on if you won or lost, and based on the rank of the other player. As these ranking points go up, you will also increase in overall grade, which in return will bring you higher up in the leader boards. Although for the most part these rankings are just for show, there is an actual reason to make it to at least B - rank (rankings start at F+ and go all the way up to S+). Anyone who reaches the rank B - can upload replays they have saved to the leader boards for other people to watch. This allows them to show off their skill to the world, or to simply just show off a cool fight to friends. Before you get to B - you can still record these replays, but you'll need to rank up if you actually want to show them off.

Another nice feature online is the addition of a "Fighter List." A Fighter List is simply a list of anyone you have met online that you decided to add as a rival. Once you do so you can then view that player's progress at anytime, and also send them invites to fights. In short, this is an in game friend list outside of your console's actual friend list.

Dead or Alive Extras and Unlockables:

Like in most fighting games, DoA 5 features quite a few extras, and MANY unlockables (so many in fact, you may be looking at thousands of hours of gameplay, especially if you want to get all of the titles which require hundreds of hours of gameplay per character). Because of all of these features, Dead or Alive 5 stays fun, and just about every single thing you do will be progress. If you're the type of person who likes rewards, then these rewards will be a very much welcomed addition.

Spectator and Album -

The spectator mode is a mode where you can actually create movies of your own. You pick the players, pick the stage, and then... You watch. Yep these are never ending battles which have two CPU players going all out showing off their most flashy moves, all for the sake of you stopping time, and taking pictures (which can then be viewed in the game's album mode). Really there isn't too much of a reason to use the spectator mode unless you want to get some cool pictures of the characters fighting, but it is a nice mode if you like to watch fights. Who knows, maybe you'll get some ideas from it?

Fight Record -

The Fight Record is a record of every single thing you have ever done in Dead or Alive 5, and it is an easy way to track your progress. It shows you how much you use each character, who's your favorite character, how many punches you've thrown, how many times you've done a high hold, and it also shows you how many matches you've won/lost. This record does in fact track every single thing you do in this game, and it can be a nice feature to go back and look at from time to time.

Titles and the Mission List -

A big part of DoA 5 is the addition of the titles and missions to get said titles. There are HUNDREDS of titles to earn in the game, and many of them will really challenge you. While some titles are unlocked from completing challenges during the main story mode (each story fight has one challenge to go along with it), others can be unlocked from beating arcade modes, using a character so many times, winning online so many times, or doing any other task which will require quite a bit of effort to pull off. Truthfully, if you were to try and 100% this game and get every single title, you are looking at, as I said before, thousands of hours of gameplay.

Once you unlock a title from doing a mission you can then actually attack it, and another one, to your profile to show off online. These titles show up at the start of each battle, and they are an easy way to show off some of the things you've done to other players. Although you may simply just want to use a title that sounds cool, keep in mind that some people may fear you after they've seen you've spent 100 hours as the character you're using.

Costumes and Extra Characters -

Like in most fighters, there are unlockable characters AND costumes in DoA 5. While most of the characters are actually unlocked from playing the storyline, except for one secret character which is unlocked by earning titles, the costumes are a different story. To unlock costumes for characters you have to beat arcade modes as them, and each time it has to be a different course. Now although this may not seem too hard for most characters, there are actually some characters that have "secret costumes" which can only be unlocked if you play the hardest settings, with that character, and without dying, and even then you only have a small percent chance of actually getting it. These characters are a real challenge to unlock for, and once again, it will require you to master them.

Little Extra Touches -

Dead or Alive 5 is an EXTREMELY detailed games, with it's graphics being some of the best I've ever seen in a fighting game. All of the character models are detailed, the world is detailed, and the clothing is detailed; however it doesn't just stop there! By holding down different buttons when you select a character, you can actually alter what their costumes look like! For example, while some characters may change their hair style, other characters may put on a hat. It's little changes like these that help make the costumes unique to you. Although many people will be using the same costume as you, not everyone will know about the extras you can put on them. It's just a nice little addition, and it is pretty fun to play around with.


As should be expected with a fighter this generation, there is downloadable content as well. Although just about anything from characters, to costumes, to arenas, to game changing patches can be released, you just really don't know what a company is going to do. As of the time of this review (12/5/12) there are quite a few costume packs up for download, and one of them is free, but who says more isn't to come? The fact is, Dead or Alive 5 is an expanding game, and you never know what the future might hold.

The Good and the Bad:

Dead or Alive 5 is a game that did a LOT right, and very little wrong. The character models look amazing, the world looks amazing, the soundtrack is ok for a fighter, the new additions such as the Danger Zones, and Power Blows really add to the gameplay, the new characters are really nice (including the cameos of a few Virtua Fighter characters which can be unlocked), the longer story mode is a great addition, the titles really push you to complete challenges, and well, the game is just PACKED full of content! This game is no small game, and you really are getting your monies worth with it. It's a simple fighter to jump into, but at the same time it can be very deep and take quite a lot of time to master. Still there were a few minor issues at launch.

The only "bad" points of Dead or Alive 5 would actually be the paid for costumes. Sure you don't have to buy them if you don't want them, but if you find out your favorite costume from past games is up for $4.99, you may find yourself paying just that. The only other issues were minor imbalance issues with a few of the characters, but since then patches have been released, and another major patch is planned as well. So whenever you're reading this review, be it today, or years from now, these issues will most likely no longer be an issue.

With all being said, Dead or Alive 5 is great, and it is easily one of the best Dead or Alive games to date! This game deserves a 10/10 in my book!

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