on 13 September 2013
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is a sequel of sorts to last years Dead or Alive 5, developed by Team Ninja (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive) and published by TecmoKoei (Dynasty Warriors, Atelier etc). Lets be honest here, DoA5 has been out for less than a year (which admit-ably calls into question how ethical this 're-packaging' really is for some folk, not me however although that's a fair stance in my books) so there have been plenty or reviews and resources on the core game so I'll focus my review on changes & additions and what not.
So Whats New?:
5 new characters, 5 new stages (6 if you include Zack's island which came to the original post-release), new training modes, various new game-play modes, new music and um... well... bouncier chests (seriously theres now an option to set how much 'jiggle' breasts have ranging from 'off' to 'OMG' - the later being absolutely ridiculous, whether that's a brilliantly silly addition or highly offensive will depend on you as an individual of-course but c'mon, it IS DoA) Most of the new content is quite substantial, all 5 new stages either are quite vast and well drawn or have some very nice interactive elements, the 5 new fighters add some welcome diversity to the roster especially the two Ninja Gaiden lady's Momiji and Rachael. Oh and if you bought DLC for DoA5 it'll work with ultimate and some of you're stats & unlocked titles can carry over, theres also some new costumes and some upcoming DLC - which will be, wait for it, more bikinis... like we don't have enough of those - no mankinis on the horizon I'm afraid for those wondering.
One of the big new features is a character combo mode within training, which tries to teach you impressive combos for each character, which sounds good but the instructions are noon-existent and its up to you to figure out, usually its very doable... well not necessarily with the dualshocks unreliable triggers and the game apparent inability to read diagonal directions... yeah I'm going to blame the game for that, totally NOTHING to do with my rubbish hand-eye coordination! Theres now also quite a big emphasis on tag modes, including survival tag which is pretty good, speaking of survival random health/score items now drop when you K.O a foe to make you're life that bit easier. Finally theres a tag team mode where you can pit a team off up to 7 fighters against seven foes, its especially fun to pick a character you despise and have 7 of you're favorite (Hitomi in my case) beat down on them... take that Helena! oh oh and Brad! . . . and Alpha, Jann Lee too... trust me if you haven't already you'll learn to have a grudge against a sizable portion of the roster sooner or later.
Its all the same, there are ZERO changes to the story mode despite 5 new characters and stages, there are also no trophies tied to story mode so it very much feels like Team Ninja realized the not-so-great feedback to the story and decided it should sit at the back - personally I quite liked this mode in the original but obviously there was zero incentive to play so I didn't really. The new characters therefor have zero personality unless you've seen them in one of their other games so if you're new to DoA you may struggle to invest in them, although I'm afraid to say for those in that basket this release seems to cater exclusively to those who bought DoA5 and multiple other Team Ninja games.
By and large the fighting is all the same, with some new & removed moves here and there and a new launcher attack, like a power blow but with vertical movement although neither the AI nor folks online seem to use it much so I presume its pretty useless, looks good though. The new stages however offer much more substantial additions including one with a massive statue that you can interact with by slamming folks into and my new favorite a desert with hilly terrain and various crumbling pillars - which I thought I'd dislike as its from Ninja Gaiden 3, a game I merely 'liked... sort off'. Other new stages include high cliffs which you can fall down to an infinite number of other cliff tops, an autumn forest with uneven terrain and trees littered about and big wide stage on a military ship.
DoA5 was a pretty game with some low-res textures to somewhat blemish it, Ultimate seems to actually look slightly better - switching between the two games both textures and lighting have improved, characters now actually have knees and elbows now - I know right?. However its the new stages that steal the show, they clearly have much higher resolution textures and are more expansive and detailed by-and-large (the Tokyo stage not withstanding as the stature is very low-res, just ported straight from Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2) with the desert stage having truly outstanding lighting and the forest & cliffs having some mighty impressive texture work and a sense of scale in the laters case. All menus etc have the same style and visuals as before and the frame rate seems to keep up just as well, I was quite impressed with the visuals I have to say - I didn't expect any real improvements.
As good as before... naw who'm I kidding, its much better, DoA5 had a 'good' soundtrack I felt but having various tunes from previous games helps improve things immensely (especially DoA2's) and being able to change character and stage music is a blessing - mostly for you poor old folk who suffered through the originals survival mode and got pretty fed up of the background music, you can make sure you never EVER hear it EVER again (not that I was ever that good mind). The voice acting is still solid, in both Japanese and English, I personally prefer the Japanese dub as its more believable with the female characters, the opposite is true with the blokes - although I have to say FAR more effort seems to go into the females in this game, I wonder why? The sound effects and background noise are still very good and heavy, everything you do feels like it has a lot of heft mostly thanks to the brutal sound effects and on a minor pointer the audio quality while talking to you're mates over the network is very crisp and clear.
This is where I feel this game is sorely let down, if you played DoA5 theres not a whole lot new you can do, but it is half the price - if you're new to DoA this is a decent place to start but be warned, the folk online on average seem considerably more skilled than DoA5. All of the trophies bar 3 fairly tough ones can be easily earned in 3 hours, no joke, add to that my total play time of 6 hours and I've seen everything just about and unlocked half the new costumes and you may even consider the low price point as not enough to justify purchase. However with a game like this its what you make of it that'll determine you're play-time, got some mates to play online with? - theres dozens of hours, sticking to single player? - 5 hours and you're done or if its your first time with any DoA5 the story may double that.
So thats DoA5 Ultimate in a (fairly long) nut shell, I'd recommend this game to just about anyone interest but it is one of those 'perhaps wait for it to drop to the early teens in price' kind off situations for those unsure/cautious. Also I hope I provided enough information for you to help make up you're mind but if I've been too brief theres some solid reviews on the original games page worth checking out, I also did one a year back on the collectors edition which should cover most of what I may have missed as I focused on the new additions/changes. So thanks for reading and maybe I'll see you online...
UPDATE: After playing this game a for a decent bit online trying out various options and going off other users online it seems the net-code in this game is (unbelievably) worse than in the original, Team Ninja are trying to resolve the issue but ranked matches that aren't tag mode are near enough broken at this point, I haven't had issues with invites but apparently other folks have so please bare this in mind.