games / Reviews

Dead or Alive 5 Plus (Vita) Review

March 27, 2013 | Posted by Stephen Randle

Title: Dead or Alive 5 Plus
Publisher: Tecmo Koei America Corp
Developer: Team Ninja
Genre: Fighter
Players: 1 (Online Multiplayer and PS3 Cross-Play available)
Rated: Mature

I don’t think the Dead or Alive series gets enough credit for being a good fighting series. While Mortal Kombat grabs headlines for its over-the-top violence and grim atmosphere, and Street Fighter has its rich arcade history and occasional crossover with the Marvel license to bring in the fans, it seems to me that DOA often gets dismissed as “the cheesecake franchise for perverts”. And while there is no denying that Dead or Alive features a bevy of beautiful women who are never shy about showing off their generous assets, that’s only one part of what is actually a very deep and complex fighting game.

We still know why you’re going to buy it, and we don’t blame you.

Dead or Alive features a roster of fighters that is every bit as deep as any other game you’ll find on the market, and each one of them is unique. There are no palette swaps or cloned fighting styles here, as each character brings a different, realistic moveset to the table, from karate to taekwondo, pro wrestling (American and lucha libre) to MMA, muay thai to drunken boxing, and everything in between. Forget UFC, Dead or Alive is the real search for the ultimate fighter.

If they could put this on Raw, I probably wouldn’t keep falling asleep during the second hour

DOA is has a four-button control scheme, with the action buttons representing punching, kicking, throwing, and blocking. Combined with the directional buttons or analog stick, various combos can be executed, and each fighter has a long list to choose from. Since the game is based on real world fighting styles, all the combat is done in close range (no sitting back and throwing fireballs from a distance here), and that means you had better learn blocking and reversing if you want to succeed. In addition, while the game isn’t a true 3-D fighter, there is a “side-step” move that allows you to circle your opponent, giving you different angles for attacking and blocking. While the control scheme is simple and easy to learn, I did find myself having significant problems with the Vita itself while I played, as the smaller buttons and loosely-controlled analog stick on the handheld seemed to make it harder to input exact commands, resulting in many frustrating moments. This is especially true when blocking, as I found myself failing to pull off the necessary timing because the margin of error between moving the control stick “right” and moving it “down and right” was often paper-thin.

As a special addition for the Vita, DOA includes a newly-created first person fighting mode, separate from the regular modes, where you can use the touchscreen to deliver attacks and blocks. It’s an interesting experiment that is indicative of how versatile the Vita actually can be when a developer tries to be creative. I did find, however, that the touch controls were not exactly intuitive, and it was very difficult to figure out how to succeed in this vastly different environment. It’s a good first step for the idea, and I imagine future iterations will improve greatly upon it, but for right now, it’s a novelty that definitely requires improvement before it will have a real chance to catch on.

I could explain how it works, but you’re totally not listening anyway

Graphically, Dead or Alive has always stood atop the pile, and DOA5+ continues that trend, creating highly detailed, unique characters with all sorts of flashy costumes and styles. The environments you will brawl through shouldn’t be ignored either, as they feature a wide range of fully realized battlegrounds, from an offshore oil rig to a lively South American jungle to an isolated polar icefield to the center ring of a circus. The only place where the truly impressive graphics fail is tied into the sound. The characters have all been translated and fully voiced, but little to no effort was given to tie the dialogue in with the animation, so try not to get distracted by the fact that what people are saying in no way represents their mouth movements. Again, it’s not a big deal in a fighting game, but if you’re going to bother translating the dialogue into English and hiring voice actors, why not make sure the animation lines up as well?

The game has a story mode, where you follow all the characters through scenes that lead up to the Dead or Alive tournament itself. The story itself is fairly vague and entirely “on-rails”, forcing you to switch between characters as the overarching story demands it, rather than choosing a character and progressing through their own personal story. It’s really just an excuse for you to run through a series of one-round fights between various characters in between looking at some pretty cutscenes, and aside from a few unlockables that you gain for beating it, almost isn’t worth your time. I know, fighting games don’t really need story modes, but if you’re going to put one in, it would probably be worthwhile to put some effort into it, right?

Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on here.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other options, both solo and multiplayer, that you’d expect to find in any fighting game, both of which can get you access to a wide array of unlockable costumes (everyone has a few, and yes, there are bikinis involved) and titles related to your accomplishments. And yes, this title does include cross-play, allowing Vita owners to face off online against PS3 owners, which is a great option to have given the limited numbers of Vita owners at the present time.

PS3 vs Vita. They said it couldn’t be done. Actually, they said it totally should be done. And now it is!


– Graphics, as always, are out of this world
– Every fighter is unique with vastly different combat styles
– Multiple difficulty levels and training modes give you all the tools to learn what you need to succeed
– While other franchises tend to get grimmer and darker, DOA continues to be light, enjoyable fare


– The Vita itself causes control problems due to its smaller buttons and oversensitive analog controls
– First person touchpad fighting is a cool idea, but the execution needs work
– Story mode is a joke with little actual benefit, stick to arcade mode for the unlocks if you want to play solo
– Why bother with translating the dialogue if it never matches the animations?

The 411

If you’re looking for an enjoyable fighting game, then Dead or Alive is well worth picking up. It may not have the brutality of a Mortal Kombat or the super flashy 83-hit combos of a Street Fighter/MvC, but the combat engine is solid, the characters are unique and fun to play, and the cross-play feature means you aren’t limited to finding Vita owners to play against online. Some may find that the controls are a bit too loose for their taste, but the combat is simple enough that anyone with experience in fighting games shouldn’t have too much trouble. And with dozens of alternate costumes and hundreds of titles to unlock, once you get hooked, you may not stop playing for a long time.

Graphics9.0The fighters are realistically rendered in all their unique glory, and the battlegrounds are all lush, vibrant vistas full of detail and energy. 
Gameplay7.5Vita controls are less than ideal, but dedicated fighter fans probably won’t have any troubles. The first person touch controls are an interesting first attempt, but need refinement. 
Sound7.0The voice acting is serviceable, even if the dubbing doesn’t ever match up. Good array of up-tempo background tracks as well. 
Lasting Appeal8.5The single player modes don’t offer much challenge, but online multiplayer and costume unlocks are probably what you get a game like this for anyway. 
Fun Factor 8.5A light-hearted cartoonish fighter that never takes itself too seriously, with enough skill required to be more than just a casual beat-em-up. 
Overall8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend

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Stephen Randle
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