Hello everyone. My name is Vince and I have a confession to make: I consider myself a hardcore fighting game fanatic and I’ve always liked Dead or Alive more than Tekken.
There, I said it! I watch streams of professional fighting game tournaments like a junkie, I travel to Vegas annually for Evo, and I pore over frame data like a history buff parsing the Dead Sea Scrolls. And yet, despite all this, I like the series where they “kick high” more than the one with the 10-hit-long combo strings and a move list that looks like the unabridged version of War and Peace. Given my MO this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but hey, fun works in mysterious ways.
Gen Fu says to Pai, “Eat some floor. It’s high in fiber.”
Now, I would never try to argue that DOA is deeper or more competitively viable than its iron-fisted cousin, but its fluidity, speed, and responsive controls have always made it my 3D fighter of choice. That being said, a lot’s changed in the world of fighting games since the last installment of the series. The genre has enjoyed something of a second golden age over the last few years, and much of it has to do with the thriving competitive scene, which generates a metric ton of excitement and exposure for the games embraced by it. Back when most players were satisfied with simply mashing all the buttons and seeing what happened, Dead or Alive was entertaining enough. But has it evolved sufficiently to give a more discerning fanbase what it’s come to crave – and even expect?
If the near-final version of Dead or Alive 5 I’ve been playing is any indication, I’d say it has. Team Ninja seems to really want players to take its game more seriously than they have in the past, and they’ve made a bevy of key changes and additions to that end. The most important of these are present in the combat system itself, where two new types of moves have changed the overall power balance significantly, and for the better.
Girls are so much nicer to each other than guys are.
The first is the Critical Burst, which on its own seems like pretty much any other punch or kick, except for one unique feature. Those familiar with the series know that even once stunned, an opponent can attempt several counter holds to escape, making it hard for strike-based characters to get solid damage. But if you can land just a couple of solid hits while your opponent is still stunned, hitting them with your Critical Burst puts them in a stun state that cannot be escaped in any way, opening up the door for big juggles and combos. Counter hold mashers, you’ve been put on notice.
The other big addition is the new Power Blow, which you gain access to once you reach 50% life. The move comes out slow since it needs to be charged, but if it lands, you get big damage and the ability to choose what direction your hapless foe flies in. Even if guarded, it staggers your victim, giving you the initiative. You can even cancel out of the charge with a sidestep, leading to potential counterattacks. Best of all, they come out just fast enough to be tacked on after a Critical Burst stun. Combined with the tighter timing required for counter holds, these new features finally make offense feel as threatening as defense, which is a big step forward for the franchise.
‘SMELL MY HANDS!”
As game changing as these mechanics are, the suite of features surrounding the combat has been beefed up nearly as much. Training mode has come a long way, with a fully programmable training dummy and real-time frame data for every move you make as you make it. Throw in the ability to save and upload replays of online and offline matches, hold spectatable training sessions and tournaments online, and track an exhaustive array of personal performance stats and you have a suite of tools that any competitive player would be happy with. It’s impossible to say for sure just yet, but this may be the first Dead or Alive that people remember more for its competitive merits than its visual, uh…assets.