The Dead or Alive franchise has always held a special place in my heart. Back when the original Xbox was initially released, Dead or Alive 3 was one of the first games that I bought. It’s a good thing that the console couldn’t keep track of how much hours I logged on it, because if I saw that number now, I would probably be embarrassed. And no, I didn’t waste my hours playing the game because of the scantily clad fighters, you jerks.
After a successful launch of the original Dead or Alive 5 back in 2012, Team Ninja has finally brought the franchise to current-gen consoles. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round stands to be the most complete edition of the series yet, as it features the biggest roster in an entry so far, as well as a sizable amount of bonus outfits.
As always with the franchise, the main storyline of Last Round can be a little hard to follow if you are unfamiliar with the series’ lore. Set two years after the events of Dead or Alive 4, Helena and the reformed DOATEC are once again planning on hosting the Dead or Alive tournament. While that’s going on, Kasumi is searching for her evil clone, while she herself is being hunted by not only Hayate and Ayane, but also Bayman.
There’s no way my description of the story could ever do justice to how hilarious and crazy this thing is though. It tries to go for the Arrested Development season 4 style of plotting by showing character-specific vignettes at one time, and then filling in the details later on. However, things are never really fully explained for a majority of the characters, and what does get explained is done so in incredibly odd ways. Moments like Ryu Hayabusa sending his bird to drop off a message, despite the intended recipient being quite far away, will never not be funny to me. The story doesn’t appear to take itself too seriously, which I appreciate in something as ridiculous as Dead or Alive.
What has always drawn me to the franchise, though, is not the outlandish storyline, but rather the fast and furious gameplay. Thankfully, Last Round does not change the improvements to the formula that were already present in Dead or Alive 5 and the Ultimate re-release. For the uninitiated, though, the combat basically boils down to the use of four buttons: punch, kick, block, and throw. Due to the simplicity of the button scheme, chaining together combos and countering are easily learned.
While it may not have the deep fighting engine of the likes of Gulity Gear or Virtua Fighter, the simplicity of it is what drew me to the franchise in the first place. Every fighting game lets players be able to button mash to some extent, but only in Dead or Alive does button mashing feel as good as it does here. I think this simplicity is good for drawing in casual fans who may have been intimidated by some of the more complex brawlers out there. And once you are done messing around, there is a robust training mode included so that you can really learn how to use your chosen combatant.
As mentioned before, there are plenty of fighters for players to choose from in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round. The release features series regulars, guest characters from Virtua Fighter and Ninja Gaiden, and two new fighter exclusive to this release. One is actually a returning character, Raidou, who was previously featured as a boss character. The other is a brand new face, Honoka, who features a fully unique style of fighting. I’ll always be a Bass Armstrong man, mostly due to my love of classic wrestling, but every character is enjoyable to use.
One of the minor complaints I have had with Last Round so far, though, has been the shaky online play. While not as troubled as other major releases, the title as had its fair share of technical problems since launch. Things have not been completely catastrophic, but there are some kinks that still need to be ironed out. For starters, waiting for a match can feel rather lengthy at times. Perhaps this is due to when I’m signing on (weekday afternoons/late nights), but it’s a little concerning. I’ve also been hit with bouts of lag during a few matches. Again, nothing too terrible, but in a fast-paced game such as DoA, even the tiniest of lag is noticeable.
Besides the online issues, Last Round is quite solid from a technical standpoint. The title runs at 60 FPS, which is impressive considering all of the various effects and actions that happen over the course of a match. The graphics are still strong as well, but they are definitely beginning to show their age here. They don’t look as good as most current-gen games do, especially when it comes to the environments and some of the non-human characters you see.
The character models, however, are still some of the best looking in the industry, for better or worse. From a pure technical standpoint, they look excellent. Sweat glistens on each character, water slides off them, and they are all animated fluidly. That being said, I’m not sure how much they look like actual human beings. Some of the female fighters, particularly series mainstay Kasumi, have that dead behind the eyes look that populated CGI films such as The Polar Express.
Of course, since this is a Dead or Alive game, I have to mention the rampant fan service that is present. The series is known just as much for its buxom female fighters as it is for anything else at this point. I’m not going to judge anyone for enjoying that aspect of the franchise, though. If you get your kicks from busty female ninjas, then more power to you. It’s not necessarily for me, and I do find it a little uncomfortable to play around non-gamers still, but that’s alright. I will judge you if you spend $100+ on additional costumes, however.
Ultimately, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is not going to reinvent the wheel. Essentially, everything here is a carry-over in some way from previous releases of the title, and the few notable additions and improvements aren’t groundbreaking. I’m not sure there is anything wrong with that, though, at least in this instance. Current-gen console owners are getting the best version of one of the better fighters to be released on last-generation consoles. It’s a solid debut from Team Ninja on these platforms, and hopefully, whenever the next full entry in the series is released, we get an evolution of the traditional formula.
This review was based off the PlayStation 4 version of the title, which was provided to us.
Despite the creaks and cracks of the franchise beginning to show, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a solid and content-rich debut for the series on current-generation consoles.