Dead or Alive 5: Last Round Preview
When the words "last round" are in the title, consumers might be quick to jump to conclusions. The last Dead or Alive?! Nah, just the definitive version of an already good fighter, upgraded and released for new hardware. The newest DoA iteration hits in just a few weeks time and it'll be a beast of a game: 34 characters (including two new faces; Raidu and Honoka), 31 arenas (including two new stages; Danger Zone and The Crimson), and over 300 open and unlockable outfits to select. Content-wise, you can definitely expect a solid package in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, but don't forget that we get improved gameplay as well.
From a graphical perspective, characters have been given more detail; they will now appear clearer and more defined than ever before, and their animations will appear quite realistic. The cool part is that fighters will get dirty during combat; dust and dirt will accumulate on their skin and clothes, and we'll even see sweat start rolling down those smooth cheeks. The backgrounds received an upgrade as well, with sharper images and more detail, and the locations have been expanded. Some areas will now feature fresh danger zones and new breakable areas, so if you think you're familiar with every aspect of an arena, think again. You might stumble upon something new!
Even the controls have received a touch-up from developer Team Ninja. Timing and strategy will be more important than ever before, and the AI has been improved. If you want to succeed on the higher difficulty levels, or you wish to emerge victorious when competing against skilled players, you'll have to embrace the critical burst combo system. If you can master it, you can end rounds fast but if you're not reading your opponent correctly, you could end up on the receiving end of a devastating assault. Of course, the core gameplay hasn't changed; DoA has always been about the rock-paper-scissors set-up and this means there's a combination of luck and skill when executing your attack plan.
A new addition is the cliffhanger. Cliffhangers occur when a player knocks his or her opponent to a lower level, and the falling fighter can grab a ledge. If they're successful, they have a chance of stopping a follow-up attack from the aggressor. But you have to be quick and you won't be given a second chance; if you react fast enough, you can save yourself a lot of damage you'd sustain from the fall. This doesn't impact the gameplay too much, as I understand it, because it's really just a last-gasp chance to save yourself. You're not suddenly given the upper hand; you're just given an opportunity to avoid any further abuse. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Lastly, the game will come fully equipped with a wide range of modes. Newcomers and veterans alike will find something to suit them; there's the simple Rookie Mode if you're a little tentative, for instance, and you can take advantage of tutorial modes as well. These will give you a basic knowledge of the game's core rock-paper-scissors system, and they'll also give you an idea of the game's relative speed and complexity. They even spice up the tutorials with accompanying challenges and missions so it won't feel too much like drudgery. Nobody likes to take lessons when they could be jumping into the ring but hey, if you're a novice, you should just accept it and take the necessary steps.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is scheduled to land on North American store shelves on February 17. Hopefully, Team Ninja won't take long in announcing Dead or Alive 6, made exclusively for new consoles...at least, that's what we assume - and hope - they're working on.
2/4/2015 Ben Dutka