Dead of Alive 5 Ultimate Review

doa5u-logoAnother year, another fighting game repackaged for the masses. Tecmo and Team Ninja listened to the fans’ feedback from last year’s Dead or Alive 5 and have tweaked a new version aptly named Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (DOA5U).


DOA5U features several new additions in the form of modes and characters. Joining the cast now are Virtua Fighter’s own Jacky; while Momoji and Rachel from Ninja Gaiden make their debut. Other returning characters are Ein and Leon from previous DOAs, bringing the playable roster up to a modest 29 characters. As an added bonus, your DOA save will transfer over meaning you won’t have to replay through all the characters in order to unlock their costumes. Something of a nice bonus from Team Ninja.

In addition to balance changes and additional characters, DOA5U also features a revamped netplay code that seeks to smooth online play and matchmaking even better. New mode such as survival mode and the Legend difficulty are available. Tag Battles are now available for online. The first thing I did was hop on to a public lobby and was pleasantly surprised to achieve smooth buttery frame rates and inputs. Buttons were responsive and no one tried to employed any “lag” tactics. The in-game Spectator Mode was a treat too, allowing spectators to discuss the current match in real time. In short, it felt great.


Perhaps the most significant addition to DOA5U is the extensive training and tutorial mode. As anyone know that fighting games are extremely technical, from the complete knowledge of the game’s system to difficulty of executing of combos (Skullgirls did this marvelously). While this mode is completely optional, anyone looking to take their licks online and beyond would benefit greatly from spending some time in this mode. It features over 100+ lessons ranging from basic fighting fundamentals (rising, tech rolling, delays, etc) to the most advanced knowledge such as knowing character states, risk/rewards, to maximizing power launchers and wall combos. This is truly one of the most in-depth tutorials for any fighting games made thus far.


As with any fighting game, the meat is in the actual fighting. Along with the normal high, mid, and low attacks that are fundamentals of 3D fighters, DOA incorporates a hold mechanic, where if timed correctly allows one to punish a predictable blockstring. Press too much of one type of move and an opponent can easily hold you to death. In order to avoid these, carefully delaying your attacks can bait out these holds which makes for heavy mind games.

Visually, the models are relatively unchanged, but still look gorgeous. The infamous “DOA” breast physics are also tone downed to avoid any sort of “distraction” while pummeling each other with a flurry of punches and kicks (which can also be reduced even more in the options). Hit effects sound deep and satisfying as are the cues for all the bounces and critical stuns allowing one to juggle and crumple effortlessly. Danger Zones adds a dynamic touch to the game that can turn the tides in a fight very quickly. There’s something about knocking someone off a high rise temple that feels immensely satisfying. Little touches like dirt and sweat on your characters as the fight progresses adds a lot of life and character to the fighters as they often breath heavily by the post-fight selection menu.


If there was something to complain about DOA5U, its that the story mode tries too hard to come off as meaningful at all. The timeline takes you through all the character’s little arcs, but much of the cinematic are often uninteresting and merely just an excuse to just set up the fights. Because it is basically the same, the new characters do not have their own little story to play through unfortunately. They’re good for a first playthrough, but beyond that it is nothing but filler conversations.

There are a lot of things to like about DOA5U, while it does not add anything new in the way of story, there are a wealth of new options and modes for new or returning DOA players. The tutorial and training mode is one of the most robust of any fighters I’ve seen recently (Its 2D equivalent would be SkullGirls). Temco does certainly want players to evolve pass the mash-all-the-buttons phase. Most, if not all of game play bugs have been patched out allowing for a true DOA5 experience.

I still believe that a $40 price tag is a bit too excessive for those that already bought the original DOA5 (there’s no DLC update like SFIV’s Arcade Edition). For those that do not want to invest in the ultimate version, fear not as TEMCO has a free slimmed-down version known as Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Core Fighters. It is essentially everything except the story mode and 4 characters (Kasumi, Ayane, Hayate, and Ryu) unlocked from the start with additional characters unlockable at $4 each. That said, it’s been a long time for DOA since 4 was released as a 360 launch title, but DOA5 Ultimate is the definitive Dead or Alive experience.

Grade: B

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