Dead or Alive 5 Plus Review
I never thought Dead or Alive would actually be a better experience on the PlayStation Vita. While I’ve always respected the excellent power and potential of Sony’s new portable, I’ve always seen DoA as a franchise that is best played on the big screen. Perhaps it’s because the technical proficiency and smoothness of the visuals need the capability of a console, or maybe it’s because the overt, over-the-top nature of the series is just begging for portrayal on your HDTV. But despite the reservations, Dead or Alive 5 Plus turned out very well.
While it’s true that not every element of those super slick graphics has faithfully made the leap to the portable world, this remains one of the most impressive graphical presentations ever seen on a handheld. There’s plenty of great detail and the character modeling is fantastic. There are also a lot of really nice touches, such as the dirt and water accumulating on a fighter during a fight (falling on the ground a lot will do that). The animations are great and even though you will spot a few low-res textures here and there, this is a beautifully appointed visual display.
The audio doesn’t hit the same level of accomplishment in my eyes, but that’s only because I have an issue with the generic soundtrack and some of the effects sound off. Still, the ability of the Vita to produce high-quality audio comes to the forefront, and it actually seems to make up for the software’s lagging. This is the one area where I found the console iteration to be significantly better but again, much of this is based on subjective perception. The objective analysis is solid, as the combat effects are on point and appropriately loaded with jarring impacts, and even the voices aren’t too tremendously bad. …as if that really matters.
As I said above, I was a little leery about playing this supposedly updated version of DoA5 on a handheld. #1 on my reservation list was the fact that if Tecmo really wanted to go all out with the graphics, the frame rate was bound to suffer. This has happened in past Vita productions and when it does, I always lament the design choice because I’d much rather have silky smooth frame rate as opposed to a few extra pixels. Thankfully, Dead or Alive 5 Plus sacrifices very little and still runs like a champ. Those crystal clear visuals and awesome animations don’t have any negative effect on a frame rate that rarely – if ever – dips below 60 frames per second.
The best part is that Tecmo did a really good job of making very minor graphical cuts. Therefore, what they did have to sacrifice is barely even noticed, resulting in a production that looks great and consistently runs along without a hitch. You also won’t complain about the gameplay sacrifices because in truth, there really aren’t very many. Sure, we don’t have the online lobbies anymore, but we’ve got cool replay downloads, in-depth training, Facebook integration, and even a slight reorganization that makes the experience more streamlined. All in all, most every significant and important feature made it into this handheld installment.
The training mode is once again a highlight and this is critical, because it allows the uninitiated to get a firm grasp of the fighting mechanics. While DoA has never been quite as intricate as other fighting franchises, there’s still a very particular flow and style that is unique to Tecmo’s series. Furthermore, the tutorial has been altered— Rather than seeing bits and pieces of it during the Story Mode, it now is completely separate, so you can learn as much about the combat as you wish, whenever you want. Combo trials have been implemented that will test your experimentation expertise, and the addition of cross-save and cross-play are very much appreciated.
The only fresh feature that can be considered a disappointment is the Touch Fighting Mode, which takes advantage of the Vita’s touchscreen functionality. This one sounded iffy the minute I heard about it and unfortunately, my fears – at least in this respect – were justified. You have to tap and swipe the screen in order to execute attacks, but it’s not a 100% science. Some strikes are completely missed by the detection system the camera view is really frustrating. It’s a good idea (especially because we get a better look at the DoA hotties) but from a development and technical standpoint, it doesn’t pass muster. I’m not surprised in the slightest, really.
Other than that, we get mostly the same game we enjoyed last year. The story hasn’t changed but how you progress has been altered just a bit. The level-by-level goals have been shifted to the now-separate Tutorial Mode, as I said above, and Story Mode is now the only place to find the invigorating tag-team matches. I admit that some fans might not like the removal of tag-team from other modes, but it sort of makes sense in a way. The varieties of modes are here in full and although I experienced some slow connection time, the multiplayer works out well. There’s not much in the way of lag and the action is always fast and satisfying.
Then you’ve got the core of DoA5, which is still highly entertaining and even challenging in its own way. I’ve always thought these games were pretty well balanced and the latest entry is no exception, and it retains depth while sporting good accessibility. Taking this wicked fun fighter with you on your travels should be appealing, because this particular port/update doesn’t feel like compromising. It’s forced to in some respects but the end result is actually more cohesive, in that it almost feels as if it was always meant for portable entertainment. Besides, there are few better pick-up-and-play titles available for the Vita right now.
Dead or Alive 5 Plus gives you nearly everything you had in the console version, and even enhances the overall experience. The touch fighting thing just didn’t work out, the anal might complain about a few low-res textures, and you may encounter a few connection issues at first, but those are the only negatives. The story, tutorial, tag-team, online, and general combat are all great features, and the gameplay always runs along at a gloriously solid frame rate. And overall, it’s still an accessible yet relatively deep fighter that offers plenty of bang for your buck.
The Good: Fantastic visual presentation, with few visible sacrifices. Excellent character modeling and animations. Fast, consistent frame rate. Training is better than ever. Tweaks and enhancements add a sense of completeness.
The Bad: A few disappointing textures. Touch fighting is a mediocre gimmick. Minor connection issues.
The Ugly: “Sorry, can’t think of a ‘touch’ joke that isn’t totally lame and really unfunny."
4/9/2013 Ben Dutka