Fighting games are a pretty great racket, aren’t they? Crank out a new addition with another character or two every year, maybe add a new stage here and there, and you can sell the same game four or five times. Capcom’s gotten pretty good at this, as we can see with the many, many versions of Street Fighter IV, but Tecmo Koei’s no slouch, either. Now e come to Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, the third (fourth, if you count the Vita’s DOA5+) iteration of Dead or Alive 5. So the question remains: is it worth upgrading if you’ve already played previous iterations?
Dead or Alive, as always, plays a bit like a cross between Tekken and Virtua Fighter, though I found the attack inputs to be significantly easier to handle than either of those and it’s certainly much less technical than the latter. The main change from the 3D martial arts formula is the counter system. By tapping back (and, optionally, up or down) and the block button simultaneously, your character will briefly enter a counter stance, allowing a vicious reprisal to any poorly-timed attacks. Learning your foes’ capabilities and the proper counter timing and direction to use against them is as key to victory as learning your own character’s moves. I can’t say I’m especially good at DOA, but I was able to pick the game up and not get my butt handed to me by the AI or online after some practice, so I’d call it fairly beginner-friendly.
While the counter mechanic is common to all the characters, they otherwise play fairly differently from one another. The ninja characters like Kasumi and Ayane tend to favor quick strikes and combos, for instance, while wrestlers Tina and Bass have more powerful grapples. There are over 30 to choose from so chances are you’ll find someone you can deal with. New to Last Round are Honoka, a Japanese schoolgirl whose fighting style incorporates other fighters’ moves with twists here and there, and badass cyborg ninja Raidou. There’s a bit of the usual rebalancing among the returning cast as well.
Last Round is offered as a free-to-play title known as the Core Fighters edition that includes Kasume, Ayane, Hayate and Hayabusa by default as well as a few more on Xbox One. You can then purchase fighters individually at around $4 each or just buy the whole thing for $40; naturally the latter is a much, much better deal. The story mode is also available as a separate purchase for $13 or so, though it hasn’t changed since the original edition of DOA5 so it’s not a necessary purchase.
All this messing around with different business models is kind of pointless, to be honest – if you want the latest and greatest version of DOA5, just buy the full version right out of the gate. There have been a few reports about bugs, particularly during online play, but I didn’t encounter any of those during my time with Last Round. Additionally, it’s still Dead or Alive, so it’s packed with gratuitous fanservice…but you probably knew that coming in as the series is kind of notorious for that.
There’s also the question of whether or not you should upgrade if you already own previous versions of DOA5. The most obvious upgrade in this iteration is to the graphics, which look fantastic and run at a buttery smooth 60FPS. The aforementioned Honoka and Raidou are new…well, Honoka’s new, Raidou’s been around a bit in previous DOA games, but let’s count him just because. There’s also some new costumes…which probably means more to this series than most other games, but let’s not get into that. And that’s about it, really!
That means that if you’re upgrading, you’re mostly doing it for the graphics; if you don’t care about visuals, you’re probably fine sticking with 2013’s Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. For newcomers and fans who have been away from the series for awhile, however, it’s easy to recommend Dead or Alive 5 Last Round. This is a solid fighter with plenty to see and do (in that order), particularly if you haven’t had any experience with Dead or Alive for awhile. Check it out if the usual anime fighter lineup isn’t doing it for you.