Dead or Alive 5 Last Round
2013’s Dead or Alive 5 was the only major 3D fighter released then that actually played like what you would think a current-gen fighter to be. Tekken, SoulCalibur, and Virtua Fighter’s latest entries play great – but feel like they’re higher-res versions of games from prior generations. DOA 5 was the most accessible entry in the franchise yet thanks to a careful difficulty curve, and at least on PSN, Last Round makes it the most accessible possible because of its free to play model. As expected, Last Round features everything Ultimate had in addition to the additional content in the Vita incarnation – and as a nice bonus, you can continue your DOA 5 Ultimate save data to prevent re-playing through the story mode.
If you avoided DOA 5’s other releases because 4 was too tough, you’ll want to get back into the series with 5 in some form because it’s far less difficult. Like Dimensions before it, DOA 5 enemies aren’t just set out to destroy you. They’ve taken a more traditional fighting game approach to things as opposed to say a Ninja Gaiden one that is all about challenge. There’s plenty of challenge here, but you’re eased into it. You can choose to play offline in a ton of modes. You’ve got the usual arcade mode, a survival mode, time attack, a training mode, and tag team versions of each. Survival mode is my favorite of the bunch since arcade doesn’t have a story and just takes more time. It forces you to fight smart since your health bar doesn’t quite refill between battles, and pits you against ten foes one after the other.
You’ve got a handful of difficulty options to choose from, and it’s definitely best to work your way up to avoid feeling overwhelmed. You’ll struggle, then you’ll beat eight enemies, then nine, then you absolutely won’t be able to stop until you beat the tenth foe. It’s exhilarating and provides some of the most fun in the game. There’s also a lot of fun to be had just doing versus matches, saving replays, and taking dazzling-looking snapshots from them. Like a photo mode in a racing game, there’s something special about nabbing that perfect shot.
Last Round takes DOA 5’s ridiculous and long storyline and makes it pay-only content. It’s silly but amusing, and something that those looking to focus on the free-to-play version can skip without feeling like they’re missing much of substance. It’s a long tale that encompasses as much of the cast as humanly possible and actually develops the characters to some degree – or at least explains who they are and what their motivations are on a superficial level. For many, it seems to be “you are in shape and within ten feet of me, SO WE MUST FIGHT”, which I’m fine with since there are other, far more wacky things like Zack blasting into a circus tent as a human cannonball to invite two fighters to the tourney.
The story mode is a fine mix of serious and silly, and is impossible to not enjoy. For goodness sake, what other story mode is going to give you cloning and a guy with a Christmas light afro outfit? The acting in it is perfect too – like the story, it’s great B-movie fare that is somewhat self-aware, but not TOO self-aware. Beyond being entertaining to watch, the story mode allows you to unlock titles for yourself, new characters (like a few from the VF series), and teaches you the finer points of the game by giving you optional missions to complete (like countering X amount of times within a fight) in addition to beating your opponent.
So you’ve got tons to do offline, and online lets you do the normal ranked or unranked battles in either one on one or tag team play, and you can also take part in a lobby-based tournament with up to 16 players. There’s some outstanding integration between offline and online play because you can add people you’ve fought online to a list, and then they can challenge you (if you leave the option on) to a battle while you’re offline. It’s basically the same as being in the arcade and having a second player join in, but I can’t recall it being done like this in a home fighting game.
DOA 5’s roster including three VF fighters was a huge-ish deal, while Ultimate added Jacky Bryant to the mix from that series and gives you Momiji and Rachel from the Ninja Gaiden games, as well as Leon and Ein from DOA. The past DOA characters feel natural, and the new crossover characters work well too. No one feels unbalanced, despite Jacky traditionally being used to spam super-fast kicks a lot. He feels like the best new addition due to his faster style meshing perfectly with this franchise’s emphasis on flash and speed. New characters to Last Round include Raidou, the original DOA’s final boss and Honaka – a busty schoolgirl (shocking, I know). They’re fine additions and fit in nicely, but aren’t all that memorable.
The stages themselves have been a selling point since the second game, and what that game began with danger zones and multiple tiers is continued on nicely here. Every stage doesn’t just have a distinct look, but requires you to play slightly differently. The wrestling ring area for example has ropes you can spring off of if you’re light enough, while the rig stage is surrounded by fire and giant things that can explode. The military warzone has MISSILES BEING LAUNCHED AT YOU if you land in the wrong spot, so avoid doing that, while the raft stage might just be the most exciting since it starts off serene, and can then quickly escalate into you and your opponent zooming down a river with a broken part of the raft serving as something you can be thrown past and resulting in one of many possible giant falls in the game.
The DOA games have always been heralded for looking great, and this one is no exception. The newly-redesigned character models mostly look human now instead of like action figures. With that change comes a more realistic flow for clothing, and little touches like dirt building on the characters as a fight wears on. It’s a little thing, but really impressive to see in action and of course, the backgrounds themselves are still gorgeous with a ton of stuff going on. They’re all intricately-detailed too, and seeing stuff like each individual pipe fall down in one stage and then leading to more craziness goes on remains impressive every time you see it.
Last Round brings some flourishes that weren’t found before, like shinier parts of outfits and a lot more explosion effects when you slam into certain objects. With that said, this still looks like a last-gen fighter at its core, but like how well Dead or Alive 1, 2, and 3 looked on the 360, this holds up really nicely now because they did such a great job before.
Move animations are outstanding and the fluidity of counters is the best in the business. From the slick animation of things like Hiroshi Tanahashi’s Slingblade for Lisa to the more impactful offense like Bass’s punches or Mila’s slams into walls, everything seems exactly as it should. Transition animations are great, and seeing Mila go from a powerslam to an armbar, or tackle into a mount with some ground and pound never ceases to amaze me. Brad Wong’s offense is probably the most impressive to look at because there’s so much going on with every part of his body and yet the animations are unbelievably smooth. They didn’t even try and cut corners when you do stuff like kick him into a handstand – he falls (or flies) as he should…unless you use something super powerful and then he flies many, many feet in the air.
DOA 5 Last Round is largely the same as the original release. The music is fine, but doesn’t really stick with you much afterwards. I love the sound effect work here though. The sound of flames going off in the background of one stage really adds to the intensity and pretty much every stage benefits from little atmospheric touches like that. They go a long way to truly make each stage stand out from the others and not just feel like you could be fighting in any area and it wouldn’t really matter because the only thing that really separates them is how the areas look, with nothing really affecting the game to a greater degree than that.
Overall, Dead or Alive 5 Last Round offers up the best roster in the series yet, but laggy online play in yet another version makes it slightly disappointing as well. If you’ve got any of the three prior versions of DOA 5, this isn’t a must-have. The original game is my favorite fighting game this generation – and that’s with me not being the biggest fan of it before. I enjoyed the series, but never quite liked it as much as I thought I would because I love 3D fighters. It was the game that sold me on the greatness of the franchise.
Last Round’s pricing model is a bit weird. The Core Fighters version is free on PS4, but costs $5 on Xbox One, yet it has a free trial version. This basically means that if you’re a multi-system owner, you’re going to go with the PS4 version since you get more for free and aren’t charged money for something that is free elsewhere. Controller-wise, the Dual Shock 4 works far better than I expected it to since the Dual Shock 3 was less than ideal for Dead or Alive 5/Ultimate. The Xbox One pad works like a charm as well, and you don’t need to worry about your controller holding you back on either platform.
Last Round is the absolute best version of Dead or Alive 5 to own, with a caveat. The odd pricing model hurts it, as does the overabundance of DLC, but at its core, has the smoothest gameplay of anything out there now and delivers the goods online more often than not. It also raises the bar for graphics in fighters and has some great animation too. The story mode’s a blast to play through and provides the right mix of drama and B-movie wackiness to make it fun to get through despite its epic length. If you’ve ever loved the series before, make this a part of your collection ASAP, and if you’ve been turned off by it before, at least try the free-to-play game out to see if you like the gameplay mechanics. If it clicks with you, then consider getting the $40 version that includes every character and gameplay mode.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
This review is based on a digital copy of Dead or Alive 5 Last Round for the PlayStation 4 provided by Koei Tecmo.