As I’m close to thirty and “technically” an adult, life has become more demanding and my responsibilities have started to add up. Naturally, I still need my regular video game fix, but now days it often has to be in short portions; which I’ve since found as a result that the fighting genre suits my lifestyle perfectly. Even as a kid, fighting games were always my ‘go-to’ at the local arcades, and something that I gravitated to; thus becoming my favourite genre. It’s as if I have now made a complete circle in my gaming preferences, and I’m not sure if that will change anytime soon.
Many fighting games were released during the ’90s, but for some odd reason have become forgotten as only a handful of franchises continued on with sequels. Were people starting to lose interest in the genre in favour of first-person shooters and RPGs? Perhaps (at least it seemed that way to me), but luckily a few much-loved series of fighters managed to live on. Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Soul Calibur, Mortal Kombat, a big category of Capcom releases, Killer Instinct, and, more recently, Dead or Alive have seen a release in the 2010s. It’s fantastic to see and gives me hope that more fighters, new or old, will make a comeback someday soon. Dead or Alive may not be my number one fighting series, but it is one of the most consistent series I have followed since its Sega Saturn/PS1 release.
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round is the ultimate DOA5 package for the latest generation consoles. This robust fighter has always delivered great entries into the series (except for the volleyball spin-offs) as the gameplay mechanics are satisfying and deliver an entertaining array of fighting styles to choose from. Team Ninja released the original Dead or Alive 5 back in 2012 for the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles, but with this enhanced version, the game features a lot of new additions to keep old fans engrossed. The new enhancements also take advantage of the next-gen hardware featuring improved graphics, faster character movements, and high-def rendering. I’m not one to care too much about re-releases or improved graphics, but, fortunately for me, I let the original DOA5 pass me years ago. I was super keen to give DOA5 a first-time spin, and having experienced numbers one to four, the game immediately felt familiar but new and fresh at the same time.
The story starts two years after the fourth DOA World Combat Championships. Being the winner of the tournament; Helena Douglas has now seized full control of the DOA Tournament Executive Committee from the scheming Victor Donovan and plans to rebuild it for the greater good. Subsequently, Douglas announces the fifth annual Dead or Alive Tournament and sends Zack, who is now under her services, to scale the around the world for the strongest fighters to enter the new tournament. However, the threat isn’t over as Donovan has started a new organization called MIST and continued his research toward Project Alpha to build a weaponized clone called Alpha-152.
To be honest, the storyline didn’t really interest me as I felt as if the tournament took a backseat, and as a result, I found myself skipping the in-between movies on occasion. A major plus I found while playing the story, however, was that you get to use nearly all of the characters on the roster to drive the plot forward. I thought this was a great opportunity for newcomers to sample a bulk of characters for a few rounds while finding out which fighter suits your personal play-style. The story is indeed a bit little trivial, but if you don’t take it too seriously it can be a lot of fun rolling through the story while testing yourself using different fighting styles and characters.
Like most fighting games nowadays, it’s built in 3D but plays on a 2D plane; though there is movability with side-stepping to dodge or create new attacks. This often comes into play as each stage is unique in size and shape; especially with the additional element of the ‘Danger Zones’. It’s a fun dynamic that can make or break your win, with many of the stages including walls that you can send your opponent through, as well as being able to throw them off ledges for extra damage. On top of that, there are also explosive barrels and electrified ropes, which reduce an opponent’s health critically once launched into it. A lot of the stages are very striking and well-crafted; one favourite of mine in particular was the waterfall setting. You can throw your opponent from the raft and fly into a group of pink flamingos, before landing heavily on the ground. You can expect frequent danger zone moments that will make each battle unique and exciting as it unfolds.
Gameplay has always been a solid component of the DOA series. Without over complicating things, it’s essentially a four button system that anyone can pick up. Basically, it’s a solid and rewarding fighting mechanic that isn’t dumbed down or overly complex either. You could hammer down on buttons and pull off some great offense or put in the time to study the moves list to execute masterful maneuvers. The counter system is even-handed and simple to apply, and memorising combos and pinpointing the moments to attack make it a more strategic battle. The well-designed stages and gameplay mesh together so well that it creates opportunities to inflict more damage using the environment or using in a combo.
The presentation of the character models and stages are well designed, taking reasonable advantage of the next-gen systems. The sound, voice acting, and music is also decent and suits the games overall tone, though it doesn’t really offer anything too striking or memorable. One big negative that I will point out, however (which is pretty much a staple in the DOA series), is how distastefully they portray the female characters. While all the male characters come in different shapes, sizes and costumes that suit their personalities and traits. The female characters are devalued by being all the same figure, big chested and wearing skimpy outfits. It’s one-dimensional and bigot garbage concepts like this that give video games, and the people who play a bad rap.
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round is the ultimate package for any fan of the genre, and boasts one of the best fighting systems around today. The huge catalogue of characters, stages and alternative attires are also great for replay value; especially for multiplayer, which I found lacking in the latest Killer Instinct game. If you dismiss the goofy storylines and the objectionable female character designs; you’d have a solid and well-balanced fighting game that’s fun to button-mash and challenging to master. It’s a worthy alternative from the Tekken, Killer Instinct and the Street Fighter series. If it is indeed the last game of the 5th iteration, then Dead or Alive 5 Last Round is an appropriate way to wrap it up.