Last year, we returned to the sometimes strange but always beautiful Dead or Alive series; not in a leisurely beach title but in the series hallmark fighting genre. What we got was a deep, technical fighter that wasn't too technical and remained accessible to old and new fans alike.
This year, Tecmo Koei has seen fit to port the title over to Sony's newest handheld powerhouse, adding a few modes specific to the features of the system. What we got was largely unchanged from the original, but still packed with plenty of surprises.
Dead or Alive 5 Plus (PSVita)
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Released: March 19, 2013
The Vita port of Dead or Alive 5 remains mostly unchanged from the game I reviewed last year. The story itself is the same, detailing the return of DOATEC as a company now run by Helena, and all the weird interlocking storylines from the characters are here as it culminates in the fifth Dead or Alive fighting tournament.
That said, the story mode has been tweaked a bit, removing the level-by-level goals and placing them in a separate tutorial mode. The new version of the tutorial section adds not just these goals, but also a new combo challenge mode, to help familiarize players with the best strategies on how each character fights. Also, story mode is the only place you'll see the tag-team matches, as they have been removed from all other modes entirely.
However, all the other modes are exactly the same as the home console versions. Arcade, survival, and time attack all perform exceptionally well, and after the initial slow connection time, the multiplayer modes are all wonderfully lag-free and surprisingly responsive in both ad hoc and online. There's even a day-one patch to include cross-save so you can carry over your story-mode progress or, more importantly for some, your DLC costumes. Cross-play is included as well, so you can battle online against friends who may only have the PS3 version.
The graphics here on the Vita version also hold up very well when compared to its big brother. The danger zones in each level remain the same and fully detailed, as do the dirt and water remaining on your fighter as they roll around on the ground getting grimy while they fight.
While DoA5 Plus' cast can get a bit on the pixelated side the closer you look with the included spectator mode and camera function -- you know, for taking action shots of how much ass you kick and not for getting the occasional side-boob shot -- it's minimal at best and doesn't detract from how gorgeous the character models look and react. In fact, most would be hard pressed to notice much of a marked difference between the handheld version and the console, something that could not be as easily said about the Vita port of another fighter, last year's Mortal Kombat.
Gameplay also remains largely unchanged, with the exception of Plus' only Vita-function-specific mode "Touch." Here, the camera is placed into a first-person perspective and you flick, tap, and pinch the screen in order to attack, throw, and juggle your opponent. While it's an interesting novelty, sadly I can't imagine folks playing this mode for more than a round or two, as the first-person perspective is a bit jarring, and judging how close you are to your foe after a throw may have you swinging at the air before a hit connects.
When it comes right down to it, one of last year's best fighting games on home consoles has become one of this year's best handheld fighters. Play control is never hampered by the more cramped constraints of the small button layout, graphics aren't sacrificed on the smaller screen, and just about everything from the feature-rich home version is included here, with a few noticeable exceptions.
While not all the extra modes are fantastic, there's something to be said for extra content at all in a port, and the cross-save and cross-play functionality is a welcome addition to any Vita game.