The Dead or Alive series is a stalwart contender in the fighting genre, and it’s latest release for the Vita marks its departure to nearly every console that can support the flowery graphics and “jiggle physics.” Dead or Alive 5 hit the market in September for its big console brothers and now, as Team Ninja is wont to do with many of its big-budget new releases, it’s been ported to the PS Vita in Dead or Alive 5+. Can you possibly fit all that grandeur on one handheld? We’ll see.
Dead or Alive 5+ is placed two years after the events that transpired in Dead or Alive 4, which (even if you remember them) are pretty forgettable. Helena was able to host the fifth Dead or Alive tournament after dissolving DOATEC’s biological weapons division. DOATEC’S technology is to be used now for only a peaceful outcome, so in the spirit of peace, how about a fighting tournament? The story, like its premise, is a bit silly and more than a little confusing. The non-linear narrative is a bit disorienting, and each story cut scene to be taking place at a different time – but if you’re here for the story you’ll probably want to go back and watch the cut scenes and piece them together yourself.
But realistically, most players will come for the fighting, which is delivered of course in droves. As part of the DOA5 tournament, losing is not an option. In the story mode, winning is the only way to advance. If you fail, you’ll be restarting each match over and over until you finally succeed, so there’s room for plenty of practice. If you need help beyond that, there’s a tutorial that covers an extensive amount of combat training and offers plenty of opportunities to better yourself with the character of your choosing. Before ever jumping into the game, Training Plus mode will allow you to grind out the basic movesets and combos for each character. It’s an invaluable resource for players who need a fighting game fresher and help stringing together moves.
Training aside, DOA5+ is rife with individual fighters, exciting game modes, and plenty to do. The fighting styles are tight and functional – inputs quickly translate quickly to explosive combos, and it’s easy to find a new favorite character. Story mode is robust on its own despite a confusing narrative, Training Plus (Command Training, Free Training, Combo Challenge) and offline Versus/Arcade arenas are perfect for players who wish to test their skills without trying to find other human players. Time Attack and Survival modes offer an extension to the stunted story campaign for those looking for a bigger bang for their buck as well, with tons of reasons to keep coming back beyond human or AI opponents.
Unique to the Vita is Touch Fighting, which is undeniably the worst addition to the package. You’re put in a first-person perspective where you execute attacks as though you’re meleeing in a first-person shooter. Other than its pithy unlocks, there’s really no reason to play using this method unless your sole aim is to ogle digital breasts – well, considering some of the game features, I wouldn’t put it past certain members of the target audience.
In all, Dead or Alive 5+ is the same fantastic fighter seen on the larger consoles, only now packaged with Vita-specific features that are largely useless (save for the move information screen). The extended tutorial mode and enhanced graphics (looking stunning on the handheld) however make up for the excruciatingly bad “Touch Fighting” and other clumsy additions, so this could very well end being the edition the console version needs via updates in the future. Barring a few missteps, this is a totally solid Vita port that deserves to be added to fighter fans’ libraries. Especially since the handheld’s lineup is looking a little barren these days.