Why I Just Cannot Seem to Get Into Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate


Dead or Alive is a series I was introduced to during the summer before my high school debut.  I remember buying Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore for Playstation 2 for my best friend's birthday and instantly fell in love with the game, in fact it has my favorite character selection music of ANY game ever (It was even the music for my first Combo Video).  For a long time Dead or Alive was my favorite 3D Fighting Game series.

That magical spark began to fade over the years and I have even started to prefer other 3D Fighting Games such as TEKKEN, Soul Calibur, and Virtua Fighter.  With the release of Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate I figured I could reclaim my love of the series but to no avail.  This editorial is going to explain why I have fallen so out of love with this series.


  The Good Ole' Days  

Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore's original box art laid completely flat.

Way back when I was a big fan of the Dead or Alive series, having first played Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore on the Playstation 2 and then went on to play its successors Dead or Alive 3 and Dead or Alive 4.  At this point I had already played TEKKEN 2 in arcades and I owned a copy of TEKKEN 3 on Playstation, even remembering playing Soul Edge as well.  I heard at that time that Dead or Alive was comparable to Virtua Fighter, but I had not played it at that time so I did not actively make the comparison in my head.  However, I was intrigued by the play which was like nothing I had played before, counters, punches, kicks, being able to knock your opponent's through objects?!  Breast Jiggle physics?!  Amazing!

When I first really started playing this game I was not really competent in fighting games (I did not actually get that way until I played Super Smash Bros. Melee competitively; I then became competitive in more traditional fighters when I bought my arcade stick and picked up BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger and Street Fighter IV).  So, the counters that I could land randomly, as well as the easy combo schemes were something that proved relatively easy to grasp, I loved it.  I also loved the fact that characters were all new and dynamic to me(Ein was my favorite, but I never used him since me and my friends agreed to never use each other's characters; I was regulated to my secondary character Ayante).  I was also not use to women being portrayed so sexily during video games, the outfits and the ability to manipulate your age to increase their "bounciness" interested me greatly since I was a hormone-raging teenager at that time.  The thing I loved most however, was the way the series gave you the ability to knock opponents through and off of things.

Me and my friend were incredibly surprised when we began to fight (Button mashing) and we found that you can be knocked off of and through certain areas of each stage.  You took a chunk of damage and it lead to a really awesome cutscene of the character being injured and then your character following them to continue the fight.  This might seem like a minor thing now, but it went way over-the-top at that time and we purposely fought with the sole intention of putting the pain on our opponent via the interactive environments.  It seemed like the absolutely greatest thing ever, and I recalled playing the game for tens of hours at a time because of this.

All in all, I was marveled by how awesome Dead or Alive was as a total, I even purchased and played Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (Both 1 and 2!).  Though, as years went by and I began to get into other fighters, I started to lose my love for the game I had loved so much, and trying to get back into it ultimately failed.




  My Problems in the Here and Now  


Despite me playing a multitude of fighting games (Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Ultra Street Fighter IV, Killer Instinct, etc.) I had yet to pick up Dead or Alive 5 and did not pay it any mind, even though I planned to get it before it even released.  However, I did come to acquire Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate when my friend Rasean happened to buy the game for me when it went on sale on the Xbox Live Marketplace as a digital download.  I was quite excited at that time because I was exhausted on my current games at that time (Which happened to be mainly UMvC 3) and needed a nice change of pace from all the random things that "Mahvel" seemed to bring with it.

The most important thing to me when choosing I already knew I wanted to play Kokoro because she dressed and looked similar to the Aoi character in Virtua Fighter, not to mention she seemed to be the prettiest girl in the entire game to me AND she fought using Bājíquán (My favorite Chinese Martial Art).  She did not really have too many costumes selections I found appealing (Even the Downloadable Content that was available for purchase), so I chose to remain with her default costume while choosing the ponytail variation of her hairstyle.  After blowing through the entire introductory tutorial (Which is quite comprehensive and very well done, the best to date of any fighting game in my opinion) and Kokoro's individual character trials, it was time to get some real-world combat experience with the online matches mechanic as my medium.

Playing the game online felt to be somewhat give-and-take, I felt as though the game had its depth and mind games due to the nature of the fighting system, but I also felt it to be somewhat random in what you have to deal with.  Like any 3D game, you do not have a heavy burden of execution as you do with 2D games usually (Electric Wind God Fist in TEKKEN and Just Frame Sakura Twister in Soul Calibur V could say otherwise), it is more about timing and remembering block strings, frame data, and the appropriate punishments for specific character match-ups.  Though, the random countering after hits (Thank Kami-sama that they removed the ability to cancel a counter into another counter like in Dead or Alive 4) makes "Critical Burst" sometimes difficult to land unless you mix-up your opponent with early launchers.

Overall, the fighter did peak my interest, but there were three things that really made me dislike the game.  The things that made me unable to really get into this Dead or Alive, as well as the series in general comes from the same thing that made me love it in the first place, The combo system seeming too random to peak my interest and not really liking any character (That includes Kokoro, who I have not really been impressed with after learning to play her).


  No Appealing Character Fighting Styles

Marie Rose.  Cute girl, but I dislike how her fighting style looks.

While I did just explain that I liked Kokoro because she uses Bājíquán, but it is not nearly as dynamic as I thought it would be; in fact, I seem to have the problem of not seeing any dynamism in anyone's fighting style.  Even Akira, a Bājíquán practitioner from the Virtua Fighter series, does not seem as fun to watch or play in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate as he was in Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown.  Having a character I really want to play is something that allows me to fully get into the game and dedicate myself to learning all the intricacies of its system.  One of my main problems when I played Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 was that I only wanted to play as Dante and Dormammu (The game is 3v3), no one else had a fighting style that genuinely made me love them, so I had many hardships enjoying the game during some points and contemplated dropping it many times because of that; Needless to say, having a character who I really love playing is one of the most important aspects of me deciding whether-or-not I want to invest my time learning a fighting game.

The thing about this game is that I have MANY characters that I think look badass (Example: Rachel, Ein, Hayabusa), cute (Example: Marie Rose, Kokoro, Kasumi) , or cool (Example: Jan Lee, Momoiji, Brad Wong) within their own respects, but this does not translate to their fighting style for me.  Their moves feel uninspired and boring to watch and use, even though the sound effects the game uses should convey them as powerful and damaging (I am really about how blow sounds when landed in games, which is why I prefer the hits in Under Night In-Birth as opposed to BlazBlue: Chronophantasma for example).  A perfect example of this is how I felt when I seen Rachel.  A lot of Rachel's combos are short because she is pretty much designed as a "Power" character, but her throw that "bounds" her opponent does not look physically debilitating and her air throw combo-ender does not have enough impact.  Even the newly announced character Nyo-Tengu (Female Tengu) proved to be exciting to watch in her Reveal Trailer (To the point that this article was going to be named "Nyo-Tengu, My Reason for Getting Back into DOA"), but her Official Combo Trailer brought my fears to the forefront: Her combos were boring to watch.  In fact, the only thing I really cared about was her move similar to Zangief's Atomic Buster, her backdrop grab, and an air grab where she slams you on the floor three consecutive times.  Even then, her appearance and the look of some moves reminds me heavily of Devil Jin from TEKKEN.

My expectations of characters are not well met when it comes to the department of how their fighting styles are displayed, it translates to me not wanting to use any of the characters and that hurts the experience I have when I am playing the game (Or does not help my lack of wanting to play it).  Pretty, cool, and badass characters are worthless if you do not get joy from seeing how that translates to their fighting, I have been severely disappointed this time around.


  The Combo System  



When I was a heavy button masher, I enjoyed the game quite a lot because I could easily pull off combos despite not knowing what I was doing.  However, I know find this to be a big draw back on 3D games, but I find that no amount of button mashing will actually be able to defeat a player who has honed his skills to a threshold which does not allow foolishness to pass.  In Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, despite the fact that you can hold after most hits, there is still a way for players to punish someone who is abusing holds by making use of their "Triangle System".  The Triangle system is where Strikes defeats Throws, Throws defeats Holds, and Holds defeats Strikes.  You are able to counter an opponent who is doing too much of either, or by knowing an opponents string (That they abuse) and appropriately taking the correct option (Holding or Punishing during an unsafe move by starting a combo).

The reason I hate this system is because at lower levels players are very unpredictable and you cannot guess against opponents who have no strategy.  It is frustrating to start a combo and get held on something no logical player would try to Hold, or to expect a Hold while attempting to Grab Counter and instead get hit by an opponent's Strike because they are mashing for the first available opportunity to hit after a stun.  While this could be in your favor if you are a seasoned player because you are able to get off combos without fear of knowledgeable retaliation, it is an absolute nightmare when first starting the game.

The biggest thing I hate about the system is that it feels like no combo is guaranteed and that an opponent can technically guess multiple times if you continue your string, allow me to explain.  Think about things in terms of the newest Killer Instinct for Xbox One, an opponent can attempt to perform a Combo Breaker on any move after an Opener to stop the combo but will get "Locked Out" if they guess wrong, giving you guaranteed damage.  Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, outside of a few moves that causes your opponent to fall down on the ground without being able to hold, will allow an opponent to hold after each successful strike (Though, if you can land a Critical Burst, they also cannot attack if you launch them).  Often I would have to go to a shorter combo or launch to avoid being held and taking damage for seemingly no good reason.  While I am sure there is a balance and sense in all of this, I do not care enough to learn.




  In Conclusion  


Seeing as how I always said that "Dead or Alive is my favorite 3D Fighting Game series", I feel very bad now that I have to revoke that title.  I feel even worse because I live in Dallas and we run an infamous tournament here known as "Dead or Alive in Dallas" at the "A-Kon" anime convention every year, seeing as I always enter their video game tournaments it would have been nice to do it for DOA.  However, since I do not like the character's fighting styles nor the combat system of Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, it is with great disappointment that I will have to decline my participation.

Going into the future, I hope they will release Dead or Alive 6 (If there is one) with better interactive stages, a better combo system, and maybe revamp a lot of the characters moves to be more flashy.  I feel like a lot of people disregard 3D games because they are generally viewed as inferior to 2D games because they are less execution intensive when compared to some of their counterparts, but everyone pays attention when a new Dead or Alive releases (Jiggle physics mostly), I just hope that the next time it does that they deliver a more impressive experience (Especially since the head of Team Ninja left a while ago).

Thank you for taking the time to read why I just cannot seem to get into Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, thank you and happy gaming.

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