Review: Dead or Alive 5 Plus
Team Ninja has something to prove as far as developing for the PlayStation Vita is concerned. Their port of a port Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus looked and played very poorly compared to its HD console counterparts. Dead or Alive 5 Plus takes last year’s well received fighter, tosses in a couple of new features, and shrinks it down to fit the Vita’s OLED screen. The result of this is what might be the best looking game available on the console at the moment, and certainly a much better port than Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus.
If you haven’t read our full review of Dead or Alive 5 for the PlayStation 3, please do so here. Here, we’ll talk about the new features added to the Vita version of the game and how well the game makes the transition from home console to the handheld.
The first thing that struck me about Dead or Alive 5 Plus is how good the game looks. The game looks absolutely superb running on the Vita. The characters are just as detailed and beautiful as they are in the PlayStation 3 version of the game. You can even see the sweat, dirt and grime that accumulates on the fighters as they do battle. The environments exude just a bit less polish than I remember, but still look quite good.
The dramatic power blows, dynamic, changing stages and flashy juggling combos look just as good as they do on home consoles. If you look closely at the game, you’ll notice a slight discrepancy within the detail of the stages. This is hardly an issue though, because of how good the game looks in general. If you’ve seen the HD versions of Dead or Alive 5, you know that Team Ninja has accomplished something commendable with DOA5+ for the Vita. The screenshots and trailers you’ve seen of the game are not exaggerated; it really looks that good.
If you compare the PS3 and PS Vita versions of this game side by side, it’ll probably look best on PS3 but you’ll no doubt be impressed by how the Vita version is nearly identical. Though I haven’t played many Vita games yet, Dead or Alive 5 Plus is easily the most visually intense title that I’ve seen.
All of the single player modes from the console versions of the game are present in DOA5+. All of the characters are available from the beginning, meaning you don’t have to go out of your way to unlock fighters like Pai anymore. The story mode, in all of its cheesy glory, is here to be enjoyed. There’s no gripping narrative here to be consumed but it does pass the time with some wonderful cutscenes. Survival mode is back, along with an expanded training mode (we’ll get to that), arcade mode, free battles, spectator mode and the rest.
Having all of these modes available while on the go is pretty neat and the game’s great visual presentation makes them easy to enjoy.
One of the new features to the game is the touch fight mode. This is a pretty throwaway mode where you’re able to fight your opponent in first person and using only the touch screen. I think it’s single player only, which is fine because I can hardly imagine someone using this mode to seriously fight another opponent. Being able to play holding the Vita vertically is pretty cool, and the enlarged characters let you really observe the fine details on them.
Because you’re treated to so many gratuitous panty shots and because of the very compromising positions the female characters wind up in after the fights, the touch fight mode does make you feel like a bit of a pervert. It’s fun for a couple of bouts and if I remember correctly it is the only feature in the game to utilize the console’s touch screen. If you have the bikini costume DLC, I could almost see it as a kind of gravure mode.
The next important new feature is the enhanced training suite or training mode plus. Free training has been enhanced with more detailed frame data. Unless you’re a hardcore competitive player or interested in becoming one, this data isn’t really important. This is something of an odd inclusion here, because I would assume that anyone interested in competing in this game at a high level would have access to it on console. So, it’s kind of weird that this expanded data is available here and not on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Maybe they’ll add it in via an update down the line.
For the tutorial mode, Team Ninja yanked out all of the boring story mode tutorials and compiled them into a single, comprehensive mode. Now you’re no longer tasked with completing a certain action during the story mode and you can instead focus on them all at once in this new mode. There are dozens of tutorials here and they cover essential game-play components, such as holds, movement and so on.
What’s cool about the tutorials is that they introduce some new information and then they allow the player to see it in action. For example, one tutorial explains that a high attack will miss against a crouching opponent. The player is then prompted to perform some high attacks against a crouching opponent and see that they’ll miss. This is another feature that probably should have ended up in the console version of the game, but you can’t fault the developers for adding more content to entice Vita players.
My favorite new addition is the last new piece of training mode plus: the combo challenges. This mode is similar to the challenge mode that has appeared in BlazBlue, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and other fighting games. You are challenged to complete a long list of character specific combos that get more difficult to execute as you progress through them. I spent more than an hour trying to complete all of Kasumi’s challenges. This mode probably wouldn’t be fun if you didn’t have a ton of patience, but it is very rewarding to finally pull off one of the difficult combos. Also, you learn some things that could have practical applications in competitive play while completing the challenges.
The last new mode in the game allows you to change the music that plays in certain stages. This custom soundtrack mode is nice, but it doesn’t hide the fact that the game doesn’t allow you to play your own music while you’re playing it. I think there may be a few new songs in the game, but considering the game’s soundtrack isn’t really all that, this mode is kind of lame. Also, it sucks that I can’t listen to my favorite tunes while training or completing challenges.
While the overall online suite in DOA5+ does seem a bit scaled back compared to the console versions, one of the highlights is the ability to play against PS3 players via cross-play. To be perfectly honest, when I went on to test the modes out, there was almost nobody playing. After an hour of searching across both platforms and in every region, I was only able to find two matches. Lag was tremendous in both of those matches, but I couldn’t be choosy about the connections because there were so few players.
It is a bit alarming that there seems to be so few players across both the PS3 and PS Vita. There’s also an ad hoc mode that I wasn’t able to try, though it seems ideal if you can have a friend who also has the game. The enhanced training suite is nice, but unless you’re part of a thriving local scene for the game, you’ll be getting all beefed up to play against nobody.
One of my only issues with DOA5+ is that it does not include any of the premium costume DLC released for the game. There appears to be cross-buy, meaning that if you bought the DLC on PS3 you don’t have to buy it again for the Vita and vice-versa, but this still seems really cheap to me. The Vita versions of Street Fighter X Tekken and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 came with all of the premium DLC released for the game. This made the games on a whole seem more attractive and the cross-buy added an incentive for players who already owned the games.
I mean, it’s far less expensive to buy a copy of DOA5+ than it is to buy the $80+ worth of premium costumes they’ve released. It doesn’t really take anything away from the game, but I kind of wish it had just followed the trend set by other Vita fighters released before it.
If you already own DOA5, the expanded training mode with challenges and such is probably the biggest single incentive to pick this game up. That and the chance to carry around a game that looks this good. The online community is nowhere near as thriving as it once was and this isn’t really the game’s fault, but it still needs to be taken into consideration.
If you’ve never played DOA5 and you own a Vita, then this game is pretty much a must have. You’ll be blown away by how good the game looks and there’s a wealth of single player modes to enjoy. The costume DLC would have been a nice bonus and the online community has dwindled, but the game is still awesome. The new features are just the icing on a beautiful and graphically intense cake. This is the best looking game I’ve seen on the Vita yet and it truly demonstrates what the powerful handheld is capable of.
It’s the best version of a great fighter, it’s portable and beautiful and it’s good enough to redeem Team Ninja for the slop that is Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus.