It looks like Team Ninja is jumping on the fighting game re-release bandwagon like so many other developers. Within the past two and a half years, Dead or Alive 5 has been through four iterations. It makes you wonder; is it worth getting if you've already played a previous version or is it best to wait for the inevitable Dead or Alive 6?
To recap, so far we have the original Dead or Alive 5, a portable version entitled Plus, and an Ultimate version featuring five new characters and stages, three additional DLC characters, and plenty of other extras. Now, here comes Last Round with everything included in Ultimate (along with the DLC characters), two new characters and stages, and next-gen graphics. There's also an assortment of superficial content such as extra costumes and other ways to change the characters' appearance if you're into that sort of thing.
Dead or Alive has consistently set itself apart from other fighters by offering a more reaction-based combat system as opposed to most fighting games which tend to rely on button-mashing. This is accomplished through being able to reverse your opponent's attacks. For example, if you see your foe about to punch you in the face, you can grab their fist and flip them to the ground before they can land their blow. Although they are simple to pull off, being able to execute these reversals requires a great deal of precision and timing. As you play and learn how to effectively beat even the toughest opponents, you'll be impressed by how much your skills have improved since the start of your quest to be the ultimate fighter. The simple, intuitive, and responsive controls make having to memorise long combos and complex moves in order to win a thing of the past.
Although this version of Dead or Alive 5 looks fantastic, it doesn't seem like a full leap into next-gen. Sure, the frame rate is smoother and the resolution is fuller, but it's definitely not a huge step up from the previous installment. The audio is as good as it's always been with a wide range of music, satisfying sound effects, and mostly well-done voice work in your choice of either English or Japanese. Overall, if you don't expect Last Round to blow you away then you'll be happy with the slightly better visuals and familiar audio.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round only features two new characters and stages which is not as significant as Ultimate's offering, but it's hard not to be pleased by the vast available selection. For the unfamiliar, characters range from ninjas, professional wrestlers, commandos, martial arts masters, assassins, clones, and even a mythical creature known as a Tengu. There are even a handful of folks from other game series like Virtua Fighter and Ninja Gaiden. This variety coupled with the fact that there are over 25 stages to battle in means that there's a lot to experience. Many of the stages feature multiple levels and interactive pieces such as being able to punch your opponent through a wall or get them fired out of a cannon in a circus. It surely is nothing to sneeze at.
What good are characters and stages if there are no modes to fight in? Thankfully, Last Round retains every mode that you're used to. Story mode has you fighting through a series of battles as cutscenes play in-between. It's a convoluted plot that only series veterans will appreciate, but it's enjoyable to play through at least once. If you want to sharpen your skills then you can do so in a wide variety of in-depth training modes. Once your ability is up to snuff, it's time to face off against some friends or the computer in versus battles, tag matches, and team fights. If you're up for a challenge then you can try to climb the leaderboards in the arcade, time attack, and survival modes. Last but not least, you have the option to take the fight online with a decent array of options. No matter how you decide to play, you'll unlock collectable titles as well as a few other features so you're always rewarded for your efforts.
Of course, I should mention the elephant in the room which is the scantily clad female fighters. Dead or Alive's debut title also included sexualised characters so it's been a staple of the series since the beginning, but it's no longer a quirky feature almost 20 years later. In fact, it can be quite off-putting for some people. Serious fighting game fans who enjoy the series for its awesome gameplay might get red in the face if someone watches while a bikini-clad woman with bouncing breasts struts into the ring. This doesn't apply to everyone since some gamers may delight in such things, but there's no denying that it can be uncomfortable if not downright offensive.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a must-buy for both hardcore fans and fighting game enthusiasts who are looking to get into the series. However, if you've played a previous version and aren't dying for more, then it's best to wait for a completely new installment.
- + Responsive reaction-based fighting at its best
- + Large cast of unique characters with many interactive stages to fight in
- + Familiar modes offer plenty of replay value
- - Over-sexualised female characters can embarrass and offend some gamers
- - Not much of an improvement over the previous Dead or Alive 5 iteration