Anyone who knows me is aware I have a weakness for the Dead or Alive franchise. I have been there day one for every release, and sunk well over 30-40 hours into each version, including portable iterations. When Dead or Alive 5 released I was concerned with Itagaki no longer at the helm, but Team Ninja didn’t fail to impress. A year later, I am sitting down to once again discover DoA5 with the release of Ultimate, which is exactly what I expected from the tagline. This is more DoA5 with new characters, stages, tweaks and of course costumes, and DoA fans are definitely going to love it.
Dead or Alive 5 vanilla was really good. You can check out my review of that right here to get the complete package. For this review I am focusing on the new as opposed to the already established.
For starters DoA5: Ultimate brings in five new characters to the already robust roster. Momiji and Rachel join in from the Ninja Gaiden series. Leon and Ein return from previous DoA outings, and Jacky adds yet another Virtua Fighter face. This collection brings several play styles, both new and familiar to the fray, and rounds out an already impressive collection of brawlers. I really enjoyed the slower pace of the Ninja Gaiden additions, while Ein is certainly a fan-favorite from the days of DoA 2. Leon is my most disappointing with how much he feels like Bayman, while Jacky adds a nice new style from the Virtua Fighter universe.
As far as game play is concerned Ultimate adds one new feature alongside a laundry list of tweaks. The new power launcher is similar to the power blow. This move can only be used once per round and only once the player is below 50% health. It doesn’t add a whole lot to the already diverse mix of styles, but it is great for getting an unexpected juggle in.
The real update is the addition of new modes and features. The story mode returns untouched, but Team Ninja went out of their way to bring in a ton of other new features. Online now has ranked tag matches with up to four players. Survival mode also received upgrades in the form of items that give players points or health depending on what it is, much like previous games.
Training has also been greatly enhanced with an extensive, 40+ stage tutorial that teaches all the layers of Dead or Alive. I only appreciated the series more after going through this and learning how much timing and frames really play a part in the mechanics. There is also a new combo challenge for each character that teaches all of their unique strings. Each challenge is extensive, and completing them all could take me years.
Team Battle has also been added and allows for players to stack up to seven fighters for an elimination tournament. I really enjoyed this mode simply because I enjoy so many of the various fighting styles, and keeping one particular set of matches going for a while was fun.
Team Ninja has also tossed in a ton of costumes. The count has gone from 114 to 231 with all my previously purchased DLC from vanilla transferring over to Ultimate. There are new costumed specific for Ultimate as well as new DLC. One thing DoA fans have always loved is the diversity (and skimpiness) of the costumes, and Ultimate delivers a ton. The game also lets players know which ones have been unlocked, which are DLC and of course which I was missing so I could go buy them in the store. There were 90 items of DLC for Ultimate on launch day, all of it costumes.
There are of course various fixes and tweaks around the game itself. As I mentioned, the new costume unlock system is great for those striving to collect them all. Players can also randomize costumes upon picking a character. The music selection has been expanded to include tracks from previous DoA titles, and the developers have given players the ability to customize music for both stages and characters. It is a cool option, but not one I used a whole lot. I mean no Bomb Factory, meant little interest for me.
Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate is, simply put, more Dead or Alive 5. For anyone who loves the series, the new additions are more than worth the price of admission. Anyone who skipped vanilla though and loves the series, this is the one to snag. It is by far the definitive version of this incarnation, and the content is packed to the gills. I can see myself sinking yet another 50-60 hours into the new stuff. Dead or Alive fans should be pleased, Team Ninja is definitely delivering. Now I cannot wait to see it brought to next gen consoles.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.