Dead or Alive 5 Plus: A console-to-Vita port done right

March 27, 2013


As someone who is far from good at fighting games, especially 3D fighters, the Dead or Alive series always seemed like my perfect match. The series was always approachable, and offered plenty of incentive for those who never had the patience for a lot of fighters to learn the basics. Dead or Alive 5 continues that tradition, giving those without much fighting game experience a title that can keep them coming back for more. And now with DOA5 Plus on the Vita, you can take that great experience on the go with you.

The mechanics that are at the core of Dead or Alive 5 are still as fun as ever, allowing those unfamiliar with the series to pick it up and have a lot of fun. Your attacks are divided into three categories: strikes, throws and holds. Understanding these moves, as well as what each is strong against, are the fundamentals of Dead or Alive, and seem relatively unchanged from previous installments. There is also a heavy reliance on the balance between these moves and the counter system, which is a key component to the action. For those who love the series, you’ll still find plenty of reason to keep coming back to this entry, as it is as fun as it ever was.

On the other hand, if you’re a newcomer who doesn’t want to concern themselves with these mechanics, there is still plenty to love about this game. The actual combat is weighty, with each blow and counter making just the right impact. It’s satisfying when you’re able to pull off even the most basic of combos. Dead or Alive also has a ton of environmental hazards, which are a series staple, and thanks to the flashy visuals, you’ll have a lot of fun just watching ridiculous things happen during some of these moments. And with 24 characters to choose from, including two from Sega’s Virtua Fighter series, you’ll easily be able to find a character (or several) to match your play style.


The Vita transition

The game makes an excellent transition to the Vita with gameplay that feels almost exactly like it did on the consoles. While it may take some adjusting if you’re used to playing with a traditional controller, the Vita’s d-pad is perfect for fighting games and the game’s mechanics feel right at home on a portable.

While the mechanics are as fun as ever, the game is very light on actual content. You have the basics, including a short arcade mode, time trials and a survival mode, but you won’t find yourself spending a lot of time with any of them. This is a shame, as there is plenty of room for other modes to keep people busy, but the lack of them is what holds this game back from competing directly with some of the best the genre has to offer.

The Vita version is still lacking in features, but it adds “Touch Fight” mode, pitting you against A.I. opponents in a first-person view and forcing you to fight with entirely new, touch-based mechanics. You use taps and swipes to perform attacks and combos, but the touch screen doesn’t often pick up on your finger movements enough to allow for the kind of precision you would typically need in a fighting match. This mode is barely functional and has no reason to exist other than the fact that the Vita has a touch screen, but it might provide you with five minutes of silly fun if you are desperate for new things to do.

The meat of the single-player content is in the story mode, which will completely baffle anyone who hasn’t been following the strangely-complex plot of Dead or Alive. It’s lengthy, so there is plenty to do, and it gives you a chance to play as most of the main cast, but you’ll most likely find yourself skipping most of the cutscenes. Not only does the story mode present the insane plot of Dead or Alive 5, it also features what are akin to challenges that teach you the basics of the fighting mechanics. This is problematic, because you rarely get a chance to actually understand what you’re attempting to learn.

Thankfully, the Vita version improves on the console version’s paltry training mode offerings with “Training Plus,” allowing you to learn all of the basics the game’s story mode teaches you with all of the helpful options that a training mode traditionally provides. This is a huge step in the right direction and makes an already fairly newcomer friendly game into one that allows them to train up properly and fight with the best the Dead or Alive series has to offer.

The online is solid and offers plenty of reason for players to come back for more, even on the Vita. The online seems just as functionally sound as the main game and offers the same number of settings to make sure you are set up with players of the same skill level. This allows you to ease into the online experience without worrying about encountering veteran players.

Dead or Alive 5 Plus is easily one of the best examples of a console fighting game done right on a portable system. It’s still lacking in extra modes and the one new Vita-exclusive addition feels unnecessary, but the expanded training options and the natural transition of the game mechanics from console to handheld make this a fighting game worth owning. Even if you’re new to the series, you’ll find plenty to love about Dead or Alive 5, especially if you’re looking for a fighting game to play on the go.

Pros: The core mechanics are still fantastic, solid online, excellent expanded training mode, the game feels just as good as it did on consoles
Cons: Lacking in modes and options, Touch Fight mode is nonsensical and pointless

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.