Dead or Alive 5 is far from the first fighting game to get an enhanced re-release. In traditional “Super” installment fashion, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate hits store shelves roughly a year after the release of vanilla Dead or Alive 5 and with a handful of new goodies thrown in, such as new characters, stages and modes. These packages are always most appealing to those who skipped the original releases of the games, but a select few pack in enough new content to make the game worthy of a repurchase even for those who bought it once before.
Does Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate number among those titles? That depends entirely upon how you view the game’s new content, of which there is a noteworthy amount.
The new additions to Ultimate can be easily numbered. There are a few new characters, a few new stages, some extra costumes, a new “power launcher” mechanic, an improved online mode and the single player features from the PS Vita port Dead or Alive 5 Plus. All of that comes in addition to across the board balance tweaks to the game system and new attacks or combos for many characters. The additional characters do not get dedicated chapters in the game’s story mode. If you have a Dead or Alive 5 save file, you can import your story mode progress.
The game’s main menu, which I was never a fan of, hasn’t been changed at all, making this title feel from the outset almost identical to DOA5.
The new fighters are all welcome additions. My favorite newcomer is Ninja Gaiden’s Momiji, who moves a bit slower than Kasumi or Ayane but compensates for that with powerful fire attacks and some nasty combos. Of course the game still has great graphics, so the new stages all look wonderful and it’s fun to see which new danger zones you can interact with using the power blows.
Two of the new characters and at least two of the new stages come straight out of older Dead or Alive games. This looks a bit cheesy on Team Ninja’s part, and you can’t help but wonder why Leon and Ein were absent in Dead or Alive 5. It kind of makes you feel like this re-release was planned since before Dead or Alive 5 was released and that’s really not a good feeling.
The game’s net-code has been improved so much that players can now enjoy tag team battles online, something that wasn’t possible in the first game. Unfortunately, you may have a hard time finding challengers, as Dead or Alive 5 was far from the most popular fighter on home consoles, and Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate seems to be frequented even less. The useful throwdown options allow you to search for a match while doing other things, but I’d played nearly ten matches against the CPU before I was actually able to find a human opponent.
Generally speaking, far less people buy fighting game re-releases compared to the original game. Going by the game’s very modest online community, this is exactly what happened with Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate.
The new training options such as the challenge mode are welcome additions, although you should already be aware of what they consist of if you played Dead or Alive 5 Plus. The challenges are fun to complete, and there are several of them. You can also customize soundtracks and there’s a selection of new tracks to listen to. Many changes to the game, such as the balance tweaks, the more advanced training options and the new force out technique, will probably be appreciated most by competitive players.
While there are still dozens of dollars in DLC costumes available for purchase for the game, Ultimate folds in a generous amount of free costumes for each character compared to DOA5. You need points to unlock the costumes and these points are earned by playing the game, so unlocking the costumes creates a nice dangling carrot incentive to keep you playing. You’ll still need to shell out the big bucks if you want to dress Kasumi and the gang in bikinis, school uniforms, idol costumes and the like, but the wider selection of free costumes is appreciated, and it reminds you of the Dead or Alive 2 Hardcore days, when characters had nearly a dozen unique costumes and all of them were already on the disc.
The game’s new power launcher mechanic is limited to one use per round like the power blow. I only experimented with it for a bit, but the attack launches your opponent in such a way that it could obviously be followed up with even the longest, most drawn out combo. In fact, I’m certain that the damage potential of a power launcher is even greater than that of the power blow. I look forward to seeing skilled players implement this technique.
My main gripes with Ultimate are the lack of any compatibility with Dead or Alive 5 and the way it has been delivered. Capcom allowed the Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition crowd to play along with the Super Street Fighter IV players. A similar feature would have been nice here, especially when you consider how few people play DOA5(Ultimate) online in comparison to any of Capcom’s fighters. Capcom also allowed players who had already purchased Super Street Fighter IV to simply purchase the Arcade Edition update, which turned out to be quite a bit cheaper than buying a full Arcade Edition retail disc.
To be fair, Ultimate contains a great deal more new content than Arcade Edition did, but the only similar option offered by Ultimate is Core Fighters, which acts simply as a bare bones foundation, upon which you can add purchased characters, costumes and modes.
Splitting an already modest player base so sharply between two different discs simply cannot be commended. If you’re happy with Dead or Alive 5 but maybe you want to play with Momiji or Ein, then going the freemium Core Fighters route or simply buying Ultimate are your only options.
Ultimate piles a nice amount of new content on top of the already rock solid Dead or Alive 5. It has deep competitive game-play, tons of characters, beautiful interactive stages, lots of things to unlock and is perhaps the very best looking 3D fighting game in existence. Simply put, it’s more Dead or Alive 5, which any fan will surely be very happy to gobble up. I may have some issues with the way Ultimate has been delivered, but that doesn’t do much to diminish the package here.
Like any fighting game re-release (or any re-release at all for that matter), this title is easiest to recommend to those who have not purchased the original game. This is truly a hefty package, but if I’d already paid MSRP for Dead or Alive 5, I would probably wait for a price drop on this. If for any reason you skipped DOA5 though, this is nothing short of a must have and one of this year’s genre highlights.