Dead or Alive 5 Plus

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By Joseph K. Saulnier


The PlayStation Vita has been thoroughly disappointing in its game selection since its launch just over a year ago. But one thing that can be said is that it has certainly become an excellent portable machine for the fighting game fan. There’s a healthy amount of compatible games from the PSP library and, with few exceptions, all of the native fighting games on the system are good enough to have a huge fan-base. But what is missing from the repertoire is a proper 3D fighter. Tecmo has filled this void with its well-known Dead or Alive franchise. Dead or Alive 5 Plus turns out to be another great fighting game for the fledgling handheld.


Dead or Alive 5 Plus is your typical 3D fighter that’s probably closest to Virtua Fighter in terms of mechanics. The expected singular buttons for punches, kicks and blocks are coupled with a grapple button that also serves as a means of countering your opponent’s moves. This system is simple, yet is home to some depth, and the sidestepping and Power Blows only make things less shallow.


While other titles on the Vita sport some good-looking environments, the environments in this game are stunning both visually and in the interactivity of it all. Getting slammed into objects for bonus damage and falling multiple levels has been a staple of this series for some time, but in DoA5+ the developers kicked it up a notch. Levels will tilt before collapsing to lower tiers, walls on the same tier will break, and moving objects make you weary of where you are fighting.


Despite the technical nature of the game’s mechanics, it very vast paced. Most of the fighters are capable of punches and kicks in the blink of an eye, and throws seem to be the only time they are actually moving at a “normal” speed. Even the slower characters move faster than average ones in other games, so it was extremely rare that I was not able to finish a fight before time ran out.


For the most part, the game comes with the same modes as it did before. Versus is exactly what you’d expect, pitting two fighters against each other in any stage. Spectate is a CPU-vs-CPU variation of the same, essentially allowing you to take pictures in a seemingly endless match. Arcade, Survival and Time Attack play the same as any fighting game, except you don’t have bosses. Instead, varying degrees of difficulty is the focus here. Story mode is the highlight of the game as far as single-player is concerned, and this is one of the few fighting games that seems interested in telling a somewhat logical story. There are two arcs that intertwine for the store mode with the Alpha-152 arc serves as a wrapper for the tournament held by DOATEC to show some goodwill for past actions


While there are mane modes in this port, it does not have everything that the console versions of the game did. The ability to post your fights to YouTube is missing, but that’s to be expected on the portable system. What wasn’t expected, and will be missed, is the tag-team play. A favorite since the Dreamcast days of DoA2, the ability to play modes in tandem is gone due to technical limitations of the Vita hardware.


Acting as a replacement for this mode is Touch Fight. This mode is played from a first-person perspective and pits you against a CPU-controlled opponent. Instead of using the standard controls, you now (as the mode title suggests) use the touch screen of the Vita to execute commands. Taps and swipes with one finger determines the types of hits, while the use of two fingers determines blocks and grabs. Movement is automatic, so things like distancing are not a factor in this mode. Unfortunately, this mode reminded me of the days of button-mashing and it really felt more like I was playing a game on a smart-phone than anything else.


There are also a few other features packed into the Vita that you may not see in the console versions (when they were first released). Zack’s Island is a new stage that was included in a patch for consoles, but is available out of the box for the Vita. Also, all fighters are unlocked from the get go, leaving you with working towards unlocking costumes and titles. Me personally, I would have rather left the game with unlocking characters. It just seems more rewarding.


The game does feature online play, which is largely the same as the console versions. The ability to post to Facebook is still there, along with being able to save match replays and have online training sessions with others. The ranking system is based on a letter grade though, as compared to level based. The leaderboards are combined with the PS3. You can also play online against other Vita or PS3 players from any region, though there doesn’t seem to be anyone currently playing the game for either system so I was unable to see how the cross play worked.


Dead or Alive 5 Plus sets the bar pretty high for 3D fighters on the Vita. It is a compelling port of the console title that sacrifices very little in order to reach parity. The fighting is fast and technically sound, while the environments remain just as gorgeous and deadly. All of this despite the graphical downgrade due to hardware limitations. While previous or current owners of the console version will not find anything new or advantageous in this port, gamers who have skipped the console or who only own a Vita would be have trouble finding as impressive a fighting game in any other title.


4 stars out of 5.