Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate Review
Xbox 360 | PS3
Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate Box Art
System: Xbox 360, PS3*
Dev: Team Ninja
Pub: Tecmo Koei
Release: September 3, 2013
Players: 1 (2+ Online)
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
A Great Expansion, a Lackluster Game
by Angelo M. D’Argenio

Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate is the third Dead or Alive 5 release to happen within a year. No really, the original Dead or Alive 5 came out less than a year ago, and we are only a few months off of the “ultimate” release for the PS Vita. Sure, it’s old fighting-game hat to release multiple versions of the same game over and over again, but this is kind of ridiculous. So what does Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate have that its predecessors don’t? What does this version of the game have over the two games we have already paid full price for?

Well, first of all, it has new characters. Ein and Leon return from previous Dead or Alive outings, and Momiji and Rachel have made their way over from Ninja Gaiden. In addition, Jacky Bryant, from Virtua Fighter, has joined Akira, Sarah, and Pai as another guest entry to the roster.

The characters are kind of a hit-and-miss lot. Ein and Leon are practically identical to their previous DOA incarnations, with a few balance tweaks here and there. Fans of both characters will be happy to play as them again, but they are unlikely to make anyone switch from their favorite character. They also don’t do much to put a dent in the already well-established Dead or Alive 5 tier list.

Jacky is very reminiscent of his Virtua Fighter 5 incarnation, which is a good or bad thing depending on who you are. While this means that Virtua Fighter players don’t have to strain their brain to figure out how to use him, it also means that “punch punch punch parry punch punch punch win” is back and plaguing your Dead or Alive fights now. He plays like a strictly better Jann Lee, which is sure to make a lot of Jann players switch.

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Momiji and Rachel are probably the two most interesting character. Rachel moves incredibly slowly, but she’s a powerful hitter, which falls in line with her Ninja Gaiden incarnation. It’s kind of nice to see a slow-moving female brawler, but she doesn’t seem to have the chops to compete with some of the higher-tier characters. Momiji feels a bit like a fusion of all the other ninja characters in the game, and there are a lot of them. There’s nothing particularly bad about her, but she doesn’t really feel “new.”

Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate Screenshot

In addition to new characters, Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate introduces a new move for every member of the cast: the Power Launcher. The Power Launcher is a lot like the Power Blow in that it can only be used once a match, at 50% or less health. However, unlike the Power Blow, which is pretty much useless if you don’t have a convenient stage-object to hit your opponent into, the Power Launcher is usable in pretty much any stage. It launches the opponent up ludicrously high, setting up an easy juggle opportunity that can take off huge chunks of your opponent’s life. It feels like a little bit of Tekken’s juggle system, transplanted over into DOA5.

Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate also comes with a variety of balance changes to help even out the cast. Many Dead or Alive fans may remember that the DOA5 team was religious about fiddling around with balance tweaks to make sure the game would turn out as fair as possible. Well, most of those tweaks are here and then some, and they aren’t unnoticed. You won’t find easy stun-locks, simple juggles, pseudo infinites, or inescapable throws in DOA5: Ultimate. Unfortunately, these changes aren’t really noticeable to anyone but the most hardcore of players. You aren’t going to find drastic changes to move-lists or in-game systems here, just a slight refinement of what made the vanilla version of Dead or Alive 5 awesome.

Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate Screenshot

For online warriors, you will be happy to know that tag battles have been added to the game’s online suite. Not only that, but tag mechanics have been altered to be more balanced. For example, you can now execute a “snap back”-style attack that forces a damaged opponent back onto the field. Character rankings have been added into the online mode as well, but anyone other than score-obsessed leaderboard climbers will likely ignore them. The netcode has apparently been improved as well, but as of the time of writing, there simply aren’t enough people on the game’s servers to come to a concrete conclusion.

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