Similar to their recent release of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, Tecmo Koei once again is taking a previous title of theirs and re-releasing it on the Vita with some extra perks. Dead or Alive 5 Plus is their latest portable revamp, and the whole package offers various new modes. Not all of them are winners, but others offer a lot of substance for hardcore Dead or Alive fans looking to improve their skills.
I never got around to playing the console version of Dead or Alive 5, but upon doing some research, it doesn’t seem that any of its features were lost in the transition to Sony’s newest handheld. Both local ad-hoc and online multiplayer are available, as is the Mortal Kombat-esque story mode that sees players automatically switching between characters as fully animated and voiced cutscenes play out the game’s main story.
The story itself isn’t particularly deep or memorable, but I did like the idea of alternating between each character’s point of view and seeing their different reasons for being involved in the plot. On the downside, some of the reasons for each fight can feel very forced or weak. Early on, the burly motorcycle enthusiast Bass challenges a friend to a beatdown simply because he asks why Bass would bother bringing his motorcycle on a cruise ship. Another point sees Akira, one of several Virtua Fighter characters making cameos as playable characters, walking up to another character, posing and yelling a bit, followed by the beginning of a fight with no explanation at all. I don’t expect a very complicated story from a fighting game, but sequences like that make me think a little more effort should have been put into making the reasons for some of these fights a little more believable.
The most notable new feature is a revamped and more in-depth training mode. Not only do you get individual lessons for practicing each basic gameplay mechanic, such as sidestepping and throwing high or low hits, but each fighter has their own set of lessons that help players learn how to pull off each of their numerous combos and special moves. There are even combo challenges unique to each character that allows players to get an even better grip on stringing moves together.
This is a great feature for both hardcore fighting game fans and those who are not as experienced with the genre. Longtime players will be able to get even better with their favorite characters, and newcomers will be eased into how to play the game and utilize each character’s unique move set. The fact that the game runs silky-smooth and without any performance hitches also allows for the precise timing a fighter like this needs.
The game’s overall graphical quality is quite impressive. Much like Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, it appears to use prerendered footage of the console version for cutscenes, but unlike that game, there isn’t as much of a noticeable drop in quality during actual gameplay. Character models and environments are lively and detailed, down to a point where I noticed beads of sweat coming off of my character after a match had concluded. I never ran into any slowdown, either, so I have to give props to the development team for making a near-seamless transition to the Vita’s smaller screen.
On the downside, the other new mode exclusive to the Vita version, Touch Fight, sees you fighting from a first-person perspective, relying entirely on the system’s front touch screen for attacking. Not only are the controls often too unresponsive and imprecise to incorporate much strategy (I found myself winning several matches simply by tapping the screen repeatedly), but there’s no real structure to the mode. You simply fight a match and are then asked if you’d like to fight another afterwards, with no tournaments or unlockables involved. It’s a very forgettable addition.
Not only is there both local and online multiplayer support, but you can even battle against gamers playing the PS3 version of the game if you desire. The online matches I played ran smoothly and with no performance problems, and similar to Sony’s recent Cross Buy program, you can even sync save data between the portable and console versions if you own both. It’s a nice use of the Vita’s ability to interact with the PS3, and hopefully if Tecmo Koei does more ports like this in the future, they’ll continue to make use of it.
Dead or Alive 5 Plus is one of the better titles to grace the Vita in a while. Though not every new addition is a winner, most of them do help to enhance an already fun experience, and get both hardcore fighters and novices better acquainted with the game’s mechanics. I don’t think it’s an absolute must-buy for someone who already owns the console version due to its similarities, but for those like me who have a Vita and missed out the first time around, it’s worth looking into.
This review is based on a PS Vita copy of the game that we were provided with.