Dead or Alive has always been seen as a niche title to fighting game enthusiast (think: Smash Brothers). It is known more for its titillating gimmicks rather than its accessible, yet deep gameplay mechanics. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the second re-release of 2012’s Dead or Alive 5 and promises better graphics (on current gen consoles only), two new characters, two new stages, and of course a plethora of scantily clad costumes. Will these new additions combined with Dead or Alive’s trademarked pugilism with a pretty face be enough to convince fighting game enthusiast who’ve made the jump to current gen consoles, that the series is worthy of their time?
Fighting games often take a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy in regards to gameplay. In that regard, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round plays almost identical to the previous Dead or Alive games. In case you’re unfamiliar with Dead or Alive’s gameplay, it’s best described as a simplified Virtual Fighter (a single punch, kick, and guard button) with an emphasis on countering attacks. Flashy combos are easy to pull off, yet can be reversed into high damaging holds by users who are knowledgeable of the game’s countering system. Dead or Alive has almost the perfect balance of accessibility and tact, a feat that many fighting games struggle to maintain. Last Round’s contribution to Dead or Alive’s formula is 60FPS (only available on current gen consoles), and makes for a more responsive and frenetic experience. Last Round is a testament that all fighting games moving forward should be 60 FPS.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round features 34 fighters to master. Fan favorites like Kasmui and Jan Lee make their return, while new fighters: Honoka and Raidou make their debut. Each fighter has a unique fighting style as well as a bevy of costumes to unlock. Last Round sports a robust number of modes: a comprehensive training mode, an arcade mode, story mode (more on that later), versus mode ( against local multiplayer and the game’s A.I.), survival mode, and time attack mode. Also worth noting, many of these modes can be played via a tag team (two vs. two) options. Completing the package is an online multiplayer mode that allows users to spar against each other across the globe.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round’s story mode is a nonsensical yarn that chronicles the adventures of ninja princess, professional wrestlers, assassins, and clones. The writing is poor. Characters lack any real motivation. The dialogue is clichéd and cheesy – which isn’t helped by the lackluster voice acting. The cut scenes are stale looking and lack any interesting cinematography. As someone who has played the previous incarnations of Dead or Alive 5, it is worth noting that nothing new is added to the story. The story mode presented in Last Round is identical to the one in all the Dead or Alive 5 releases.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round’s presentation and technical prowess are a mix bag. The character models look improved and more realistic, thanks to improved skin textures, but yet retain the anime inspired idiosyncrasies that the series is known for (big expressive eyes and exaggerated body types). Characters being able to sweat and dirty up their clothes in the midst of combat is also a nice touch. The environments on the other hand don’t fare as well as the characters. They still retain the interactive functionality that the Dead or Alive series trademark themselves on, but from a pure graphical standpoint they look barren. The 1080P resolution and better lighting don’t do the levels favors and often expose the low textures, as well as how many of the stages are merely copied and pasted from prior Dead or Alive games. Two new stages debut in Last Round: Crimson and Danger Zone. The stages offer nothing new, and blend in with the other stages .
Baring the previously mentioned voice acting, the sound design in Last Round is quite good. The sounds of combat sound appropriate, poignant punches, swift kicks, etc. However, the true star in Last Round’s sound design is its music. The music is an eclectic mix of songs spanning the entire Dead or Alive series. Best of all, Last Round allows users to select which songs they want to accompany them in battle. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round ships with a few major technical issues. The two most damning being that (1) the game consistently freezes after finishing arcade mode, and (2) the persistent lag during online play. The developer, Team Ninja, seems aware of these foibles, and it is a reasonable inference that they will release a patch to fix these issues in the near future.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a fun, yet flawed experience. The mechanics are accommodating to various skill types and the frame rate of 60 FPS makes an already responsive fast-paced game even more so. Last Round also is overflowing with content, containing just about every kind of mode one could hope for in a fighter. The story mode, however, is a clichés-ridden lackluster mess. The much touted graphical upgrade is limited only to the characters models, and definitely not the environments (which look last gen and copied and pasted from previous Dead or Alive games). Major technical issues mar the experience such as persistent online lag and the game freezing after completing the arcade mode. Despite these foibles, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is still a worthy entry in the franchise and offers an engaging experience for both fighting game enthusiast and casuals alike.