Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate Review: Pretty Dumb, But Still Really Awesome

by David Sanchez September 12, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

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There’s an inherent dumbness in the fighting genre. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; it’s just the direction that style of game has gone in. Truth be told, the idiotic themes of fighting games are what draw me and surely countless others to the genre. That said, it helps when a game is actually good in terms of its mechanics. Dead or Alive 5 is a great example of profound dumbness and entertaining gameplay, and the updated Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate gives you more content to enjoy, making it the version of the game to play.

Everything from the original version of the game, which launched last year, is present here. The new content from Dead or Alive 5 Plus on the Vita has been integrated into this version, too. This includes the robust Training mode, which is actually super deep and time consuming, but really useful if you plan on playing this game at least somewhat seriously. You can learn the basics for each character, get the hang of more powerful attacks in Combo Challenge, and so on.

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There are plenty of reasons to sink hours into Ultimate, though multiplayer is where it’s really at. Story Mode remains unchanged, which is to say it’s a ridiculously over-the-top, overly dramatic, and hilariously convoluted mess. You do get some good back story on the characters, but the whole thing is really hard to follow. Seriously, try not to break your brain on this one — it’s not worth it. And honestly, if you want to play a fighting game for the story, you should probably just check out 2011’s Mortal Kombat.

You’ve also got access to the basic ladder-based Arcade mode, which works exactly how you’d expect this type of component to. Time Attack puts the pressure on you and lets you test yourself by defeating opponents as fast as possible. Survival feeds you opponent after opponent to see how long you can last. Team Fight lets you build a team with seven characters to take on another seven. You can have a good deal of fun battling the AI in these modes, but playing against friends locally is always much more exciting.

Traditional one-on-one online match-ups are still available, but two-on-two fights are now playable online, as well. Speaking of online features, if you’re playing a few matches by yourself against the AI, you can get notifications that other players want to battle you. It’s a nice arcade-like feature that lets you fight against surprise opponents. Thankfully, if you’re really into that Arcade mode match you’re having, you can decline the online player’s request and carry on. As far as quality is concerned, I only experienced lag a few times during my online matches.

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Other little additions include the bump from just over 100 costumes to well over a staggering 200. Depending on whether you like seeing those big-breasted female fighters bouncing and jiggling around ever so giddily, you’ll know if the inclusion of so many new outfits is for you. It should be noted that while you can unlock a lot of these costumes, many are being offered as DLC, so you’ll have to pay up for them. That said, if you previously purchased any costume DLC, it’ll all transfer over to Ultimate.

As previously mentioned, the gameplay on hand here is highly enjoyable and immersive. Casual fighting game fans can easily jump right in, mash away at the buttons, maybe learn a combo or two, and still have a great deal of fun. Meanwhile more serious players can learn the intricacies of the 3D fighting system offered and enjoy a deep, enthralling experience.

The big new addition to the gameplay is the Power Launcher move, which effectively replaces the Power Blow from the original Dead or Alive 5. This attack can only be used once per round, but it allows you to pull off a string of combos by first sending your adversaries into the air in a pleasantly unrealistic manner. Your health bar also needs to be below 50 percent for you to deliver this comeback maneuver of sorts, so some restrictions are appropriately in place.

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When it first hit the scene, Dead or Alive 5 looked absolutely great, and that obviously remains true with this enhanced version of the game. Ultimate is an awesome-looking game that features good character models and impressive stages. While some areas are more subdued than others, there are many that drip with style and have a slick, bright aesthetic. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the wacky breast motions remain comically intact, because of course this was going to stay the same.

It’s worth talking about the interesting direction Ultimate goes in, price-wise. You can purchase the game in its entirety for $40, which is a great deal if you don’t already own some version of it. There’s also Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Core Fighters, a free-to-play version that comes with four characters. Fighters can be purchased at $4 a pop, which means you can choose to only get characters that interest you. Admittedly, if you already own some version of Dead or Alive 5, the new content is hardly worth the added investment of $40.

Tecmo Koei and developer Team Ninja have clearly given in to the updated release trend that’s so commonplace in fighters these days. It’s maybe not the most honest move from an ethical standpoint, because you have to buy Ultimate if you want all of the new features it has to offer, but there’s no denying that the game is just damn good. If you’ve held out on it this long and have some level of interest in it, this update is the way to go. True to its name, this is the ultimate version of Dead or Alive 5.

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