Timing is everything. Jumping in too early or late can change the entire experience. With last year’s console version of Dead Or Alive 5, I just wasn’t ready to give the overhauled DOA a try. The changes to the characters, at the time, made me feel like it wasn’t “my Dead Or Alive” anymore, so I skipped out on grabbing it at launch and still haven’t picked it up. After getting a PS Vita and enjoying every noteworthy fighting game on the platform, the announcement of Dead Or Alive 5 Plus got me excited in a way the console version never did. In some strange way, this portable port triggered my willingness to give Dead Or Alive 5 another look. Now, having invested over thirty hours into DOA5 Plus, I can safely say that the timing was right.
Any concerns about the gameplay of DOA5 Plus should be put to rest immediately. The fighting is one-to-one with the console version, allowing for Cross-Play (not to mention Cross-Goods for DLC costumes and Cross-Save for unlocked titles and costumes) with PlayStation 3 players. Understandably, character models and arenas have been scaled back a bit in order to work within the confines of the Vita hardware. It’s a small price to pay when you see the game in action. The frame-rate, save for a split-second, start-of-fight skip during some offline modes, is locked solid at sixty frames-per-second. This is accomplished by decreasing the resolution during gameplay and by limiting background elements to what appears to be thirty frames-per-second. When compared to every other polygonal Vita fighting game, Dead Or Alive 5 Plus is easily is the most visually impressive fighter on the system.
The “Plus” portion of Dead Or Alive 5 Plus comes from the fact that several new pieces of content have been added for the Vita version. The first of which is much more informative move data. Either mid-fight or in the revised and expanded Training Plus mode, you can choose to display an onscreen window with extensive move and frame data. In the home versions, there was only a single page of info. Now, there’s three pages of analytical data about your current fighting situation. Simply tapping on the screen cycles through the pages. To the hardest of the hardcore DOA5 players, the Vita is the definitive platform for training. Speaking of Training mode, DOA5 Plus has a new costume for each of the ninja fighters. Long-time players will recognize them as Ayane’s Tron-like “training dummy” costume from numerous DOA games.
Because people just weren’t happy with the original soundtrack, a new Background Music mode has been added with DOA5 Plus. You’re given two basic options for the soundtrack: stage and character. Stage, obviously, plays the music assigned to each stage by developer, Team NINJA. Character, on the other hand, plays songs specific to each fighter, with a twist; you can select tracks for each fighter individually. Character themes from Dead Or Alive 4, as well as two brand new tracks for Rig and Mila, join with the original Dead Or Alive 5 soundtrack, to give you plenty of choices for customization. I will say that I’m a little disappointed that tracks from the earlier games in the series didn’t make the cut, but what’s here gets the job done.
Last, and certainly not least, is the brand-new, Vita-exclusive Touch Fight mode. It’s you against the computer in a best-of-three-rounds fight controlled entirely through screen taps, swipes, presses, and pinches. Unlike the regular modes, Touch Fights play out from a first-person perspective. You see what your fighter sees. As one can imagine, fan-service and upskirts are the big draw for this mode. Perhaps the best proof of this comes from a hidden silver trophy that unlocks after five-thousand screen taps. Called “OMG”, when this trophy has been unlocked, a new breast physics setting with the same name shall be, too. With that setting on, the chest area of the female fighters reverts to Dead Or Alive: Xtreme 2 status. Furthermore, using the touch screen, you can shake the mounds of your lady of choice during their win/loss pose. When paired with the OMG setting, touch screen jiggling pushes Dead Or Alive 5 Plus past the DOA:X titles in terms of fan-service. Whether this is a good thing or not is in the eye of the beholder.
Where the game loses a step or two is in the online. Matchmaking is terribly slow for ranked matches, sometimes taking as long as ten minutes to get into a fight. Searches also suffer from a glitch where the game continues to seek out opponents even though you’ve hit the circle button to cancel. The bouts themselves are hit-or-miss. At best, matches are smooth and enjoyable. When the connection is less than optimal, however, fights can be down-right unplayable due to input delay of as much as a full second between button press and action. With DOA5‘s strict window for countering, fighting competitively is practically impossible in those circumstances. It’s also worth noting that both lobbies and YouTube uploading for replays have been given the boot for the Vita version.
In spite of the online woes, Team NINJA has done a phenomenal job porting DOA5 over to the Vita. While missing some of the bells and whistles from the home console release, such as tag fights outside of story mode, the core gameplay remains faithful to the source material. The 3DS’ Dead Or Alive: Dimensions did a great job at recreating the DOA experience on a portable, but Dead Or Alive 5 Plus has surpassed it in almost every way possible.