By Greg Newbegin
Dead or Alive 5 was released to major consoles late 2012, and was considered by many to be a welcome addition to the series. Dead or Alive 5 Plus (DOA5P) is simply a PlayStation Vita port with a few additions, for better or worse.
Just like Marvel vs Capcom 3 Ultimate and Mortal Kombat before it, DOA5P comes to the Vita in much the same form as its console brethren. In fact, I would argue it is closer to the console versions than even those wonderful conversions (which in my mind are both SUBLIME) -- as such, it would appear the Vita is well suited to fast-paced fighters, and DOA5P is no slouch in this regard.
From the moment the game is loaded, it exudes quality. Cut scenes are crisp and clear, menus are well designed, music is wonderful. The game itself -- a 3D fighter that differs from those previously mentioned in that there are no magical projectiles (just crazy acrobatic manoeuvres, much like the Tekken series) -- plays extremely well, with moves that are comfortable to pull off and characters that feel responsive. Of course -- and this a limitation of all handheld devices, to be honest -- the button layout can be frustrating, as can the small thumbsticks, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying the combat, even given the slightly frustrating controls. That said, I'm not sure how much more I'll play now that I've finished it.
The game itself follows a relatively recent fighting game tradition that was started with Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe back in 2008 -- a story mode that involves the use of each and every player in turn. This was perfected (in my opinion) in 2011's Mortal Kombat (which has FINALLY arrived on Australian shores) with a relatively compelling storyline and wonderful cutscenes. Where DOA5P differs though, is in the fact that the storyline is bat-shit INSANE. Some threads make sense (and I guess independently, each character thread makes SOME kind of sense), but overall it's just a mish-mash of WTF. Is this a problem? Well, no; in some ways it's endearing. Ultimately though, I still have no idea what the hell was going on.
Beyond that, there's the to-be-expected Vita touch-enabled control options, and as with Marvel vs Capcom 3 before it, steer well clear. Team Ninja have tried to do something a little left of centre (not a surprise for this particular title, let's be honest), and made this particular touch mode first person. You read that right. Facing opponents head-on, players swipe and tap in various ways in order to pull off different attacks, but it doesn't work. In fact, it's by far the worst implementation of touch out of all the Vita games I've played, even given the original perspective. I'm glad it's a separate mode, because I can ignore it entirely.
In addition to the standard game modes (and the terrible touch mode), there is an extremely robust and granular training mode. Here, players are treated to in depth training that starts as basic as basic can be -- simply moving left and right. Moves get more and more complex and, by the end of things, covers every potential move and counter in the game, which is a must for newbies. Seriously, put in the time, and you'll reap rewards.
Online is standard for the most part, but is bolstered by the fact that Team Ninja managed to implement Cross Play, meaning PS3 and Vita players can get their fight on regardless of which version they prefer to play. And, for the most part, it connects without too much issue or lag, which tends to plague online fighters (as they require split-second reactions). At least, it never bothered me -- I am not a strong contender regardless of lag, I'm sad to say (even though I love fighting games, I lack the patience to learn the skills required to get REALLY good).
Overall, Team Ninja has kicked a goal with this one. It looks great (did I mention it runs at 60fps? Because it does), plays wonderfully, and never takes itself too seriously. DOA5P is a sublime addition to my Vita fighting game collection.