Hurray for boobies!!! Wait… Nope, I got it right!
Seriously though, I am a pretty big fan of the Dead or Alive series. Afterall, I’ve played every version of the game and own all but DoA2 hardcore on PS2 and DoA for PS1. Heck, DoA dimensions is by far my most played game on my 3DS! Still, I have to say that the series did lose its lustre after the last few games. DoA Ultimate wasn’t too great and it introduced that stupid “forward + hold” to counter just mid kicks which I hated with a passion. DoA4 has cheating AI, a fickle counter system and just felt less accomplished than earlier titles. For me, the best in the series were (and still are) DoA2 and 3.
Dead or Alive Dimensions did a pretty good job of scratching a small itch but when Dead or Alive 5 was announced, I was cautiously optimistic. This is, afterall, the first original DoA game since the departure of Itagaki (Dimensions doesn’t count cos it was basically a remake) but my hands on with the Ninja Gaiden 3 demo at the Eurogamer expo last year left me with some major concerns on how the final version of NG3 will play, concerns which proved to be fact if the online reviews are to be believed. That leaves some big questions about how well Team Ninja will be able to handle DoA5.
I have the PS3 collectors edition of Ninja Gaiden 3 on the way but I was able to acquire a code for the 360 demo from a member of Destructoid (thanks, Chris Carter!) so I spent a while blasting through the demo which had Hayabusa and Hitomi as playable characters!
So, how was it?
The gameplay video above pretty much shows most of the new features in the game. The first thing which struck me was a sense of familiarity. Controls are still the same and the moves still have the same feel and impact to them but there were several noticeable changes to the formula. The most obvious one, from the videos released, was an increase in the interactivity in the stages. The demo has the rooftop stage which was shown on the very first video and if you hit some of the danger areas, the level will change as debris makes the stage smaller and the stage tilts slightly, opening up new tactical possibilities which are opened due to your character potentially being higher than your opponent. It also opens up a new danger area which will knock the opponent to the lower level. That’s the bit from the video with the opponent hanging on the edge of the building. The DoA series were always the best at handling interactive stages out of all the fighting games and the new dynamic changes while you’re fighting really takes things up a few notches. However, there’s also a slight problem in that, at times, the screen is simply too busy. Especially with the debris falling. With all the parts falling down and potentially causing damage, it’s easy to lose focus on what’s happening with your character.
The next big thing is a new charge move which is triggered by pressing p+k+g together (or whichever button is mapped). Pressing the button causes your character to begin charging DBZ style and, should the following hit connect, the character will perform a short flurry of moves which conclude with a heavy attack which causes the screen to go into slow motion. During this time, the background become monochrome save for active danger areas and you are able to rotate the camera to a certain degree in order to line up your opponent with the obstacles and hit them into them to trigger set animations which will cause damage to your opponent. The most well known ones so far from gameplay videos are when you hit your opponent into some steel beams on the rooftop, which triggers an animation where the opponent holds onto the side of the building before you kick them off and a flying car which you can hit your opponent into when fighting at ground level. With regards to the flying car, theres a brief QTE which ensures that you do hit the opponent into the car. Not great but it could have been far worse but many (myself included) will bemoan the introduction of a QTE into DoA.
The charge itself is fairly brief but long enough to give opponents time to react. At this point in development, I think that will need to be tweaked before release as I don’t think it’ll be of much use when playing against human opponents right now. It just takes too long to pull off.
The counter system also felt a bit too loose as well, but that could just be due to be shitty 360 dpad. Otherwise, it feels like the foundations are solid.
However, I can’t say that I’m a fan of the new look for the characters. Dead or alive has always had exaggerated character designs which were more inline with anime characters than photorealism. So the sudden change in look which went more towards realism is rather jarring, particularly with the female characters. Ayane got off lightly but kasumi and hitomi do look off. There’s some real “uncanny valley” work going on here!
Otherwise, the alpha demo does look promising. Dimensions was a lot of fun, though I have heard people complain about the dumbing down of the system (like namco did with soul calibur 5) but that’s really only people who take he game way too seriously. DoA is never going to reach the level of complexity or dedication of the likes of streetfighter IV or blazblue but it’s a solid fighter in its own right. Team ninja may have dropped the ball with ninja gaiden 3 but it looks hey they are more intimately familiar with dead or alive and with dimensions already under their belt, I think we have room to be a little optimistic when it comes to #5. And there’s always the boobies!!