Most wouldn’t consider Dead or Alive balanced, or even grounded. For all of its tiger strikes in a circus, missile launches in a war zone, and tanker truck collisions that stun the Michael Bay Appreciation Fan Club, designers respect their influences.
In steps a confined, dusty home. Bare concrete walls and pottery exist as trajectory stoppers, objects become impediments to the fight, while the brawlers execute moves dreamed up during cinema’s kung fu boom of the ’70s. It roots a franchise more concerned with virtual wide angle lenses focused on fetish-y costumes – a lens tracking females only of course. Despite the stupid, it has a heart.
Chugging along on laurels much like the inferior Tekken, Dead or Alive merely embellishes. It raises standards for what fighting arenas can be, flourishes the combat system with a wild active camera system, while forging ahead with a three-tiered fighting system that remains the most fluid in the industry.
Most importantly, Dead or Alive is weighted and snappy. You can picture a live audience watching at home – baffled first as to why a worldwide, prestigious fighting tournament is taking place in a circus – awaiting a vicious kick from Jan Lee. There’s little difference between modern MMA and DOA in terms of spectacle or audience need, fantasy being their only separation. Tecmo’s fighting franchise adores pot shots, colorful in its violence as often as it’s proper.
As the series progresses, the expanding roster brings with it tighter styles, more defined in their move sets. A fiery red head in Mila carries all the basic flair of the stock MMA fighter, bits of jujitsu, front kicks, and head combos all working within a stock routine. Not only is Mila well dressed, she’s spunky and less degrading than the franchise is infamous for.
Intertwined is Virtua Fighter, a trio of incomers from Sega’s 3D rumbler now brought into this realm of the weird. They fit, if only because DOA feels comprised of remnants of its revolutionary brethren. Technique isn’t afforded to DOA in the proper quantities, but Akira, Sarah, and Pai are paid proper homage. Sure, Sega dictated their presence in a behind-the-scenes discussion. The fact that they fit at all is worth noting.
The introduction of power moves isn’t breaking open this universe, charged attacks that can implode a fighter when landed. If nothing else, they stunt the speedy thrills and interrupt a perfect fighting game flow. Almost undoubtedly, they exist because Tecmo is well aware of the genuine bashing they would receive pumping out a direct clone of Dead or Alive 4 in a post-Itagaki era. This shows they’re in fact thinking, even if it feels desperate or misguided.
Of greater concern is the lack of anti-aliasing that gives the backgrounds a more jagged, harsher look than is necessary. Tecmo’s business call to institute an online pass is also woeful in the consumer realm, and it didn’t do much for net code.
While DOA4 still runs strong, the often jittery versus romps in worldwide skirmishes feels all the more unacceptable. If nothing else, the deletion of the doltish lobby system from the previous entry is appreciated. And, when it’s all clicking across lines of technology, DOA5 fits into any schedule. It remains as rapid-fire as they come, and fans wouldn’t want it any other way.
Dead or Alive 5 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3.