Dead or Alive 5 Plus (Vita) Review


Beauty in the palm of your hand.

Dead or Alive 5 was one of my favorite games of last year, and still one of my favorite fighters of this generation. When Team Ninja announced that it was coming to the Vita, I was both excited and skeptical. The thought of taking DoA 5 on the go with me is enough to dust off the Vita, but at the same time, the cramped buttons make me nervous about pulling off combos. I am thrilled to say that DoA 5 Plus is one of the best ports to come to Sony’s handheld, surpassing even NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat last year.

The first thing to note about Dead or Alive 5 Plus is that this is feature-for-feature the same exact game that was released on PS3/360 last year, with plenty of additions of course. This includes the ability to cross-play with PS3 owners, share DLC and even saves across platforms if you already own the console version. This is a huge selling point for me, as I have quite a bit invested in the DLC, and being able to bring over all my costumes and progress is a huge bonus.

This isn’t to say that Plus doesn’t come with its own set of new features; quite the contrary, in fact. This version contains a lot of things I wish Team Ninja would patch into the console versions. For starters, there are new training modes that flesh out the combat system. There is now a tutorial system that takes players through the basics of combat in DoA5. There is also a new combo challenge for each character that teaches all facets their style. This mode really helps impart an understanding of what each combatant is capable of, both for using them, as well as fighting against them.

The new cross-platform play made possible by the Vita works well. Competing against console players felt natural, and the advantages of being on a console didn’t appear until I got into higher-level matches. Fights were seamless, and lag was rarely an issue. If Team Ninja would patch in lobbies, life would be grand. There are also new move descriptions and information, including stagger effects, reach and distance on moves. While the casual fan simply diving in for revealing costumes and great fighting won’t take much notice, these additions are great for figuring out how to really dig into the system.

Music customization is also possible now, and I enjoyed being able to set themes for characters and stages. This ensured that I wouldn’t hear the same tune over and over, and allows for adding some unique music to the mix. For those of us who loved toying around with custom soundtracks back on the original Xbox, this is a cool addition.

The final new addition is the most touted and system-fitting feature. Touch Fighting is a new way to play DoA5 and, if nothing else, it feels novel. Playing in first person while poking the screen just doesn’t feel well right at all. It feels like some twisted fan service that made me feel a little dirty. The idea is interesting, but in execution, I found myself struggling with the moves and the awkward fighting mechanics. The screen can be tilted to the side for a full-body view, but again it just feels weird. This is not a mode I see myself coming back to, and I am not sure why so time was spent developing it.

This mode is, yeah, different.

One of the most impressive things about DoA5 on Vita is just how good it looks. I remember noticing the visual drop in last year’s Mortal Kombat port. Lower polygon models and details lost in the environments definitely stood out. Team Ninja has done an outstanding job of hiding that with DoA5 Plus. The game still runs at an impressive frame rate, and keeps almost every nuance intact. Pointing out the missing details takes a truly keen eye.

Dead or Alive 5 Plus is a perfect example of a port done well. The game just feels designed with Vita in mind, and pulling off combos came as easily to me on the handheld as it did on console. Anyone looking for a portable fighting game would do well to check out Team Ninja’s latest. The content packed into this cart is impressive. The story mode is deep, the fighting is tight and the visuals are gorgeous. The game also packs enough new material to make it worth checking out as a double dip for fans. It serves as a nice complement when I can’t get my fix on the console.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Written by
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.