Seven years is a long time in gaming. In the fighting game community, it’s almost an eternity. In the time since Team Ninja’s 2005 release of Dead or Alive 4, the fighting genre has seen a huge resurgence. With heavy hitters such as Super Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and SoulCalibur V on the market, can Dead or Alive 5 stand out after such a long absence from the fighting game scene? If my hands-on time with the game at this year’s E3 is any indication, then the answer is an enthusiastic yes.
With so many competitors on the market, the goal of a good fighting game is to differentiate itself. The Dead or Alive series has always accomplished this by incorporating dynamic stages and interactive environments into its fighting arenas, and the fifth entry is no different. In fact, it ups the ante. Stages are bigger and more destructible than ever before. One stage I saw in the demo took place on a collapsing skyscraper. As it crumbled, the floor of the stage would oscillate violently back on forth, resulting in the combatants losing their footing and sliding throughout the arena, and even falling off at some points.
One of the new features is the “Danger Zone” system. Once players fill up their power blow meters, a short quick-time event will ensue, resulting in a slow-motion sequence where the player throws their opponent into an area of the stage. Depending on which area they’ve been thrown to, a specific “Danger Zone” scene will occur. In the demo I was shown, my character was the victim to one of these power blows. In slow-motion, my opponent selected where I was to be thrown, and I was sent skyward, straight in the path of incoming helicopter missiles. Clearly, Dead or Alive’s fighters do not mess around.
A fighting game is nothing without a memorable roster, and Dead or Alive 5 brings back a slew of classic characters as well as some new ones. Kasumi, Hayate, Bass, Ryu Hayabusa and more all return. Also, Team Ninja seemed to have caught on that character crossovers are all the rage these days, as Virtua Fighter’s Akira and Sarah Bryant also join the fray. Akira and Sarah handle very similarly to their source game counterparts, yet it’s surprising how well it works within Dead or Alive’s framework.
So far, my experience with the game has been great, yet the concern remains of the lack of involvement from series creator Tomonobu Itagaki, who parted ways with Team Ninja back in 2008. Normally I would not be worried over something like this, but the massive design and gameplay flaws present in the Itagaki-less Ninja Gaiden 3 warrant just a little bit of hesitation for Team Ninja’s upcoming fighter. However, it appears that Dead or Alive 5 retains the classic gameplay that put the series on the map, while simultaneously introducing new and exciting features for the fighting game crowd to enjoy. The fighting game market may be starting to get over-saturated, but Dead or Alive 5 looks like it will easily stand out come its release this September 25th.