They say that every great fighter has one final match burning deep in their belly. Then again, they also say that it’s important to know when the time has come for retirement. The third iteration of a fighting game from 2012, it’s time to find out which statement rings true for Dead or Alive 5: Last Round.
Promised to be the actual “last round” for Dead or Alive 5, this latest iteration in the flashy fighting series screams onto consoles with all of the usual trappings, including everything that was included in previous versions of the game, as well as a couple of new additions to the roster and a pair of new arenas. It’s a formula we’ve seen before in games from series like Street Fighter and BlazBlue, and something that fighting fans seem to have grown accustomed to over the years.
In other words, if you’ve just got to have every version of Dead or Alive 5 that hits the scene, then nothing I’m going to say here will alter that decision. Similarly, if you’ve held out on the series and are looking to finally take the plunge, at least you can rest assured knowing you’re getting the most complete version of the game available and, so long Team Ninja isn’t yanking our chain, you can also be comfortable in the knowledge that another iteration of the game won’t drop sometime in 2016.
Having played both previous versions of Dead or Alive 5, I was a little bummed to find how little had actually been added to the game. As far as I can tell, the Story mode is the same as it’s ever been, boasting a ridiculous tale about clones and ninjas and what-have-you. Cutscenes do little to set the stage and mostly boil down to odd banter that leads into a fight. Those fights are frequently followed by additional fights that don’t even offer a reason for taking place. Then again, who really plays a fighting game for the story?
Any fan of the series should be interested in a couple main things: Solid mechanics and plenty of ways to beat the stuffing out of your opponents. Dead or Alive 5 boasts an impressive roster and modes, allowing you to take part in solo or team battles. There is a comprehensive tutorial that teaches you the basics on up to the more complex strategies, as well as the usual assortment of gameplay options like Arcade, Time Attack and Survival. You can play online or with a friend sitting next to you on the couch. So, yeah, basically everything you could want in this type of a game.
As I was saying earlier, the new content you’ll find in Last Round mostly boils down to a couple of new fighters and levels. The levels include Danger Zone and The Crimson. The former is a (literally) explosive new take on an old arena that makes the player bounce into the air each time they hit the ground. The latter is set in a city, letting the fight rage from high up on a rooftop, all the way down to the city streets. Like most of the game’s arenas, these new additions feature dynamic backgrounds and multiple tiers, allowing you to fling or kick your opponent to a new area, where the fight will continue.
And then there are the new fighters, a cyborg version of the first Dead or Alive’s main boss, Raidou, as well as a young new female fighter, Honoka. In a fighter that isn’t typically seen to be as “technical” as some of the other genre offerings, this duo adds a little extra variety with some interesting new combos and crazy moves.
But don’t think that I’m downplaying the combat in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round by comparing it to, say, Street Fighter or Mortal Combat. The flow of high-mid-low attacks paired with throws, blocks and cancels means that it’s easy for anyone to pick up the controller, hammer on the buttons and have a good time. Basic chains of attack pay off with over-the-top maneuvers that look like the types of moves you’d need to input complicated commands to achieve in similar games. And after playing my fair share of online matches and taking on more serious players at various events, I can safely say that there’s plenty of depth on offer for those who really want to dig in and learn the systems.
Last Round is also a treat for the senses. The game sounds as good as ever and, playing on the PlayStation 4 for this review, it looks great running on the newer hardware. The characters look more lifelike, the arenas are full of all sorts of lovely details and all of the effects have been pumped up to 10, resulting in flashier explosions and dynamic events.
I’ll take a quick moment to say that I’m not a huge fan of the continued ridiculous breast physics and barely-there costumes on offer for female fighters but, for the most part, you can dress everyone like a human being and keep the physics set to a less obnoxious level. And yes, there’s a setting to alter the “jiggle.” I’m comfortable with a game being racy, but there’s a difference between sexy characters and physics/design that feels like it was thought up by a 14-year-old who just discovered the female body and is having some serious trouble figuring out how to cope with this new information. If you don’t seek out the blush-inducing side of Last Round (typically in the form of lots and lots of DLC costumes and, like I said, an option available in a menu), and don’t mind a bit of fan service, you should be fine. On the flip side, all of that stuff is there for those of you who actually want it. Either way, it’s probably not a game you want to play when mom and dad are around.
This all boils down to the simple fact that Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is pretty much what it should be: The best version of an already solid fighting game. My main gripe is that being “the best version” amounts to a (admittedly nice) graphical facelift and a couple new additions to the roster/arena lineup. If you have already played either of the previous versions of DoA5 and are content with that experience, you can probably just sit this one out and wait for whatever Team Ninja has planned next for the series. If, however, you’re in the market for a solid brawler and are eying Last Round, it’s a solid pick, especially since the lower price tag reflects the fact that this isn’t a wholly new game.
A PS4 download copy of this game was provided by the publisher.
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo