2012’s Dead or Alive 5 was seen as a return to DOA2-style form after the somewhat redundant and stagnant third and fourth installments. Sure those were still fun games and graphical showpieces for Microsoft’s consoles (which they were exclusive to at the time) but Tecmo really seemed to put a little extra something into the fifth iteration, perhaps related to the departure of infamous director Tomonobu Itagaki from longtime developer Team Ninja. Maybe the positive critical and commercial attention is why Tecmo keeps releasing incremental 2D Fighter-esque upgrades to the game rather than giving us a full-fledged DOA 6. The latest update, Last Round, brings the series to current gen consoles in beautiful 1080p and 60fps.
What’s new? Well aside from the obvious graphical upgrades and all the characters and modes found in the previous Original, Plus and Ultimate editions of the game there are two all new characters. Honoka is your typical schoolgirl character, using a mix of the other fighter’s moves, similar to SoulCalibur 2’s Necrid. Raidou is technically not new but the cybernetically resurrected boss character from the original DOA, a vengeful ninja and the true father of Ayane. Returning fighters include 4 guest characters from Sega’s Virtua Fighter series (Akira, Pai Chan and siblings Sarah and Jacky Bryant) and previous DLC-only characters, Gothic Lolita Marie Rose, the Morrigan-esque winged demoness Nyotengu and Phase 4 (another Kasumi clone).Tecmo is also highly touting their “Soft Engine”, designed to “better depict the softness of characters’ bodies”. Characters get sweaty and dirty during the course of the match. It’s a convincing effect though it’s hardly noticeable until the characters’ post-match win poses. The game does look great overall though, running at a rock solid 60FPS during our playtime with nary a clip or hiccup in sight, even during the series’ trademark sequences when the entire arena collapses in the middle of a fight.
Gameplay is as solid as ever as well, the familiar counter system returns and feels as good and chunky as ever. Easy to learn and difficult to master, perfect for pick up and play games amongst friends or high level ranked matches. Disappointing though, is the fact that the game’s lengthy story mode is simply ported over from the stock DOA5 with no changes or additions. I was also saddened by the fact that I purchased the disc based version of the game and there is seemingly nothing on it, more a sign of our increasingly digital times than anything else. I brought the game home and popped in the disc hoping to immediately be able to bust some heads and instead had to wait over an hour for all the modes, characters, costumes, stages and music to download. It’s still nice to have the case and booklet for the game, but if I’d have known how the release was being handled I might’ve not wasted my time on a trip to GameStop and just downloaded the game directly from the Xbox Live Marketplace myself. Okay, old man rant over.
Fans of the series shouldn’t pass this one up, especially if you’re like me and skipped the Plus and Ultimate versions. There’s a lot of content here for the $40 price tag, and most of it is new and highly polished. Fight fans could do a lot worse than this in the calm before the storm of Mortal Kombat X’s release in April.