Remarkably, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is best symbolized by the title’s two, quasi-new, playable characters. Originally, a boss from the franchise’s inaugural entry, Raidou, points to Dead or Alive’s adherence to tradition. At its heart, the series has always rewarded players who were cognizant of countering opportunities, with reflexes fast enough to seize a tide-turning opening. Similarly, combat has consistently centered around the Triangle System, a rock-scissors-paper-like scheme which incorporates three components: strikes, throws and defensive holding. Each has a specific strength and weakness when pitted against another element, creating an organic sense of balance.
Echoing Raidou’s revival and cybernetic modifications, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round’s fights are still rooted in the Triangle System, while adding in content to help sweeten the package. Danger Zones have existed since the original game, punishing fighters who fell out of the main ring with explosive damage which left the susceptible player prone to juggling. This being the third iteration of DoA 5, they’re still here, prodding players to be mindful of the fighting space, as challengers try to ensnare their rivals. The recent inclusion of Cliffhangers contribute additional tension to these moments- allowing an overpowered opponent one last chance before they amass additional damage.
Neither of these two component are new, as is most of Last Round. Like Raidou, the game’s undergone improvement, starting with the release of Dead or Alive 5 in 2012, an expanded Vita port flaunting a “+” in its title, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, and now, Last Round. Expectedly, it’s the most comprehensive iteration, bundling DLC characters and permitting players to reuse any previously purchased costumes. Nicely, the title brinsg back two stages, The Crimson, last seen in DoA 2, and Kasumi’s stage from the first game.
While passionate players can shell out another $92.99 USD for the Ultimate Content Set (or merely purchase piece-meal), there’s still a wealth of costumes for penny-pinchers, with over 400 outfits, including 31 new costumes crowd-sourced through Team Ninja’s Designers’ Challenge. Of course, you won’t be privy to the nurse, maid, and bunny apparel; which represents some of DoA’s sexiest attire. For those who just want to demo the game, Core Fighters is available to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners, bestowing a handful of fighters for free. Expectedly, additional combatants and the Story mode is available for purchase, expanding the scope of the downloadable title.
Honoka is the other new face, although she might evoke familiarity. She’s a Japanese schoolgirl whose entire fighting repertoire is culled from Dead or Alive 5’s other combatants. She effectively represents Team NINJA’s design philosophy, offering a fighter that both accessible to newcomers while extending a formable adversary for players who invest hours studying the franchise’s fisticuffs. Much like now newcomers can get by with basic combos and ignoring the Triangle System, Honoka is a great entry point to the series, offering a broad arsenal without the burden of extensive training. In the hands of a seasoned player, the character is especially potent, her diverse move set capable of confounding opponents expecting specific strikes.
Honoko’s eccentric arsenal also represents Dead or Alive’s fanciful approach to fighting. Venturing into the game’s Story mode, players will find a succession of cinematics and fights that mirrors the main campaign from the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot. Just like NetherRealm Studios’ title, it’s often disjointed, with the plot shifting between groups of characters, with transitions punctuated by a round of pugnaciousness. While exploring DoA’s loopy lore and gleaning bits about characters and their relationships can be enjoyable, the difficulty level may discourage some players from seeing the conclusion. The component is often unintentionally comedic as well, an issue that’s worsened by the default English dub. Switch to the original Japanese voice-over, if the localization’s misplaced emotions grow tiresome.
For those who don’t need a narrative impetus, the game’s Arcade, Versus, Time Attack, Survival, Team Fight, and Training expend all the requisite play modes, as players tackle CPU combatants, online competitors, or training drones in one-on-one or tag matches. The biggest change here is the improvement to Ultimate’s lackluster net-code. When playing on a hard-wired connection with geographically adjacent players, fights are about as lag-free as current technologies allow. That’s not to say online implementation is flawless, Last Round’s matchmaking can be slow and the interface is less than instinctive.
Visually, Last Round demonstrations the DoA 5 engine adeptly tuned. Small details, from dirt transferring to clothing after a character falls to the trickles of sweat that pool to make attire translucent, become more perceptible given the game’s upgrade to 1080p. Both Last Round’s fighter animations and framerates are near-flawless, with no sign of the split-second hitches that were noticeable in DoA 5. The only blemish on the game’s visual output can be found in the occasionally low-res textures. Quite often in Story mode, environmental close-ups can be muddy.
Fortunately, Team NINJA didn’t skimp on the fan-service. Breast physics are in-place, complete with adjustable levels of bounce, or what engineers would call a “variable coefficient of restitution”. Fastidiously, they seem to be affected by clothing, with tighter tops tuning down the jiggle. After fights, players can use the analog stick to move the game’s camera around, allowing a pervs-eye view of the different panty options.
Although Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a perfect (re)entry point for players who haven’t purchased a recent iteration across the last three years, recommending the game to hardcore Dead or Alive devotees is a bit trickier. Last Round is hands-down, the best now-gen fighter and any PlayStation 4 or Xbox One owners yearning for swift, spirited fighting will appreciate the adept port. But, the shortage of new content removes a bit of the sheen from an otherwise plentiful, yet familiar, package.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round was played on the PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Team NINJA
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release date: February 24th, 2015
Price: $39.99 now-gen, $29.99 last-gen