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Dead or Alive 5 Plus

Dead or Alive

What was the original Dead or Alive famous for? A deep combo system? Incredible character parity? Revolutionary new game modes that would shape the genre for decades to come?

No.

Slinky breasts. There really is no way to sugarcoat it. Think about that for second: Tecmo’s series was shaped from the ground up on a foundation built on Slinky breasts. Literally and figuratively, that just might be the most unstable foundation to build anything on. It’s really quite astonishing that Team Ninja was able to evolve the series into what it is today – fighting games that are responsive, fluid, balanced, feature-laden and, most importantly, fun.

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“Tecmo’s series was shaped from the ground up on a foundation built on Slinky breasts.”The latest game in the franchise, Dead or Alive 5 is one of the best so far. The counter system has been iterated on to the point where you can’t button mash out reversals, the environmental hazards are present, yet not damaging enough to feel cheesy when you get blasted into them – this is a finely-tuned fighting game experience that is absolutely worth your time. But what about the Vita version? Dubbed Dead or Alive 5 Plus, the portable entry manages to avoid most of the pitfalls that crippled Team Ninja’s other recent PS3 to Vita port – Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus.

That is to say, DOA5+ actually runs smoothly. That’s right, the framerate stays perfectly fluid no matter what kind of stage-related pyrotechnics or other graphically intensive hijinks are going on in the background, which is critical for this genre. Even better, not much was sacrificed visually in the transition from PS3 to Vita to keep the framerate blistering fast. Sure, eagle-eyed gamers will note a general decrease in texture quality in the environments and fighters lack a handful of minor details (like teeth – it’s not as noticeable or horrifying as it sounds), but that’s just nitpicking – visually, this is a fantastic port and one of the better looking titles on Sony’s handheld.

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“Wrestling is the BADDEST!” As likely as it is that people are clamoring for Bass to exclaim this nugget of wisdom over and over post match, Team Ninja decided to go ahead and include the game’s original Japanese voice acting (another lesson learned from Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus). This is certainly a good thing. That said, I’d like to be able to say that the inclusion of the Japanese voice acting makes the Story mode bearable, but, well… it’s still pretty bad. They were clearly aping NetherRealm’s work with Mortal Kombat here, but while that game had a deviously engaging plot and fleshed out personalities, DOA5+ is still stuck with the unenviable task of trying to craft King Lear out of a Here Comes Honey Boo Boo screenplay.

But that’s ok, because the real meat of the game is the one-two punch of the improved Training Plus modes and online matchmaking, both of which offer up enough features and functionality (and in online’s case, stability) to keep most players busy for some time. Compared to many other games in the genre, DOA5+’s Training Plus is a versatile, fully-featured boot camp, drilling players in all aspects of strategy and mechanics, from simple evasive maneuvers and strikes to complex combos and juggles. Completionists will be kept busy mastering each character’s move list, while more casual gamers will appreciate the usability and robustness of the game’s comprehensive tutorial (now smartly separated from Story mode).

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On the online side of things, matchmaking is bolstered by strong netcode, and the addition of cross-platform play means Vita owners can duke it out against Dualshock 3-wielding opponents across the globe. In my experience, cross-platform matches are seamless (latency permitting, of course), an impressive feat considering the hardware differences between the two systems.

“…manages to avoid most of the pitfalls that crippled Team Ninja’s other recent PS3 to Vita port – Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus. “Finally, for the sake of thoroughness, it must be noted that Team Ninja added a Touch Fight mode to the Vita version, but it’s really nothing more than a mini game to play around with a few times and then never touch again (pun intended). Essentially, you hold the Vita system so the screen is oriented vertically and, looking through the eyes of your chosen pugilist, tap and swipe your opponent into submission; yes, it’s the equivalent of a throwaway smart phone app game. Fortunately, the only unlockable feature gated behind this mode is the game’s “OMG” setting (go ahead and Google it, you Slinky breast lover, you).

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Overall, DOA5+ is a great port of a great game. There are already a handful of fantastic versus brawlers on the Vita, and DOA5+ nestles right in there with the best of them. A few features were left on the cutting room floor in the transition from console to handheld (Tag mode, online lobbies…teeth), but their absence is more than made up for by the new and improved Training Plus, PS3-like visual fidelity, cross-platform functionality and, most importantly, fluid and balanced gameplay. If you are in the market for a portable brawler, consider this one of the best options currently available.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in May 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @Joshua_Luke.

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