But in all honesty, it’s been so long since I’ve played a Dead or Alive game – my last one was 2, for the Dreamcast – that I haven’t really gotten what the big deal is. Even that’s not an accurate statement; the last time I really did anything with Dead or Alive, it was on a shipmate’s XBox, and it was with Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball. For those that don’t know what that is, it was Barbies for perverts, with a little bit of simple volleyball thrown in. This came after DoA3. A few years later, Dead or Alive 4 launched with the XBox 360, and was followed by Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, a game so flimsy it didn’t even pretend to advertise volleyball. Things were quiet until the release in 2010 of Dead or Alive Paradise, which was even flimsier than Xtreme 2 and suffered the indignity of getting a 1.0 from Destructoid. It was only with the release of the 3DS that Tecmo remembered that this was actually a fighting series, and here we are, finally, with the fifth installment.
I should note that I did not buy this, I rented it. What’s sad is that it took me a long time to get to the point of renting it, largely because my girlfriend won’t let it into her house. Literally, she refuses to have a Dead or Alive game in her house. At that point, it became a matter of curiosity to see if the actual fighting game was as bad as the spinoffs.
After playing a few days, it’s not bad, but it’s certainly not good.
For those who have never played a DoA game, or are like me and have forgotten how they play, Dead or Alive is basically Tekken for Horny Dummies. The four face buttons are for punching, kicking, blocking (which holding back also accomplishes), and throwing, with combos being strung off of those. Combos are the main way of doing damage, as they can be whipped together very quickly. Therefore, most Dead or Alive fights devolve into simple button-mashing affairs, with both players playing the role of drunken circus seals as they haphazardly slap the controller for fish and to see who gets the most five hit combos. Really, that’s all there is to the fighting. There isn’t any kind of deep combo or counter system like in BlazBlue or Persona 4 Arena. There’s no tight control or depth like in Tekken, and there isn’t even any strategic gameplay like in Soul Calibur. Slap, slap, slap.
I will say the base gameplay goes well with the story, which hits “so bad it’s good” territory, easily. I’m not far, but the general gist is that Ayane still wants to kill Kasumi, and something about another tournament, and Zack’s still a doofus, and honestly no one really cares because the men in this game seem to be little more than roster filler. Dead or Alive has always been about the ladies, and it’s to ridiculous lengths now. They feature more prominently, they get more marketing attention, they get the vast majority of the DLC costumes, for all we care, the men are just there as cannon fodder and story flags. Not that the story needs it; the general gist of the story goes like this: two characters have a random conversation, then they have a fight, then sometimes, they talk like nothing happened. Some of the things you see in the story make absolutely no sense, or have nothing to do with anything other than just being a way to justify having a fight. After Persona 4 Arena, this dreck just doesn’t cut it.
Of course, saying “I play Dead or Alive for the story and the fighting engine” is much like saying you read Playboy for the articles; maybe you do, but you can do better elsewhere, and you’re probably full of shit. This game is gorgeous, and the women have a lot to do with that, being rendered beautifully. Of course, in standard Dead or Alive fashion, their breasts seem to be sentient, going off in their own directions, and doing their own thing, completely independent of what the body they’re attached to is doing. I thought this was something they did only for Xtreme 2 and Paradise, games that exist solely for people to ogle said breasts, but they brought it over to a fighting game to boot. Combine the ridiculous breast physics – I can’t believe I just typed the phrase “breast physics” and meant it seriously – with the fact that some of the female characters are fighting in high heels, and things start to approach absurd levels. Of course, the really “good” costumes – see: bikinis – are locked away as paid DLC. I’ll bet it made Tecmo a boatload of money, too.
I’ve been rough on the game, but I have to stress that Dead or Alive 5 isn’t a *bad* game. It’s basically the popcorn flick of the video game fighting genre, though. It’s simple, flashy, there’s lots of explosions, and a lot of beautiful, half-naked women. I wouldn’t pay more than $20 for it, and that’s without considering the fact that my girlfriend would throw it at my head at 90MPH. If someone out there has a need for his masturbation fodder to beat each other up, then this is a good purchase, but otherwise, there are better options out there.