Everyone seemingly has their quips about the PS Vita’s small library of quality games — except the fighting game community. We’ve been spoiled with quality fighters since day one. Yes, most have been ports, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that most are quite good. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, Street Fighter X Tekken, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat, and PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale are all very solid to excellent fighters — but none are 3D fighters. Enter Tecmo Koei’s Dead or Alive 5 Plus. It easily ranks in the upper echelon of graphically impressive Vita games. Not only that, it retains everything gamers love about the console version and puts it into a nice portable package.
In the last year and a half, I’ve played over seven fighting games; reviewing said genre had become tedious. I’d fight a few dozen CPU versus matches, and then jump into the online suite for matches against humans — always playing with different characters. I took a different approach with DOA5 Plus. I was happy to participate in its tutorial as I’d been away from the series since DOA3. Unusually, I decided to stick with one character after completing it thanks to Combo Challenge. This mode is meticulous enough that you can actually memorize combos you perform and the situations in which to use them. I’ve found that focusing on mastery is a great way to learn a fighter. You also obtain an understanding of the game’s mechanics.
Dead or Alive takes a rock, papers, scissors approach in that strikes beat out grapples, grapples topple counters, and counters dismantle sloppy strikes. It might sound simple, but it takes time and practice to hone your skills and timing. If you decide to counter and your opponent goes in for a grab, expect to take bonus damage. The same goes for strikes; attempt a grab and a combo will crush an opponent with open arms. If you’re a newcomer concerned about eating punches, practice your counter timing. It’s a powerful tool against combo happy opponents that will open up offensive opportunities.
I never imagined that a handheld game would look or play so well. Dead or Alive 5 Plus is beautiful. Character models are all top notch, minus very small details like ultra definition in muscles. You’ll notice characters begin to sweat as fights wear out; they also get dirty depending on the environment. The action all moves at a crisp 60fps so you never experience slowdown during fights. The environments barely suffer any graphical discrepancies when compared to the console version and all look wonderful, even while they’re being destroyed. Some animations in the background do run slower than the fighters (30fps), but it rarely detracts from the action.
If you’re familiar with the series you already know that multi-tiered stages are a series staple. However, this time some of the environments pose hazards to fighters. If you slam an opponent into a electrical fence they’ll bounce off. Or if you kick an opponent through a railing off the roof, you’ll gain access to another part of the stage. It’s all part of Tecmo Koei’s fighting entertainment spin that some call a gimmick, but works really well with the fast paced fighting in DOA 5 Plus.
Thanks to DOA5 Plus‘ smooth online mode (which supports cross-play with the PS3 version), you’re given the opportunity to utilize the skills that you took the time to hone. You’ll find that no matter the platform you’re matched against the game rarely lags. It also helps that there are a plentiful number of opponents, so you’ll always find matches. Watch out for Hayabusa players though, as the character is a bit overpowered with speedy but powerful attacks.
Serious fighters won’t even touch (no pun intended) Touch Battle. In this mode you randomly tap the screen to pummel your opponent from a first person perspective. You can also play holding the Vita up vertically. I feel like this mode should be re-titled Ogle Mode, as players will probably spend more time studying the games questionable body physics. Serious fighters will probably spend very little time with this mode.
That said, DOA5 Plus‘ only major weak point is its story mode. There’s absolutely no substance. You play as various characters in the lead-up to the Dead or Alive tournament (and in some cases you compete in the tournament). Keeping track of what’s happening becomes difficult — not that it matters since it’s all rather dull. Instead, take it as a learning experience that forces you to use each character. I’ll admit it did give me the opportunity to figure out which characters I enjoyed most, but it didn’t offer much more.
As a fighting game player and fan, I’m glad to see so many great fighters on the powerful handheld. Dead or Alive 5 Plus is a great addition to anyone’s library. With its balanced gameplay and depth, Dead or Alive 5 is easily the best in the series. And now it’s portable.
You can buy Dead or Alive 5 Plus at Amazon.com for $39.99.