Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate was the second in a trio of releases for Dead or Alive 5. Arriving in 2013 – a year after the first outing – it was essentially a repackaging. Bug fixes and new training modes aside, the only real changes to the game where in the Tag Team mode and a new ‘Power Blow’ move. And a couple of new characters, naturally. Regardless, recycling content is nothing new. It is becoming far more prevalent in the modern videogames industry. And Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is one showcase of where it can be worthwhile.
The reasons behind such re-releases is often hard to understand. Whether it’s rising costs forcing publisher’s hands or simply wishing to spin an extra dime. However, one thing that is obvious is that adding the label ‘Game of the Year Edition’ to such a product makes it far easier to swallow for much of the core audience. A lesson that perhaps Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate should have learned.
Dead or Alive 5’s Ultimate Bundle
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate launched with a reduced recommended retail price (RRP) and allows players of the original Dead or Alive 5 to import all of their downloadable content (DLC) and unlocked items from the original title. The aforementioned new gameplay modes, characters, stages and costumes aside, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is actually a noticeable improvement over its predecessor.
That bettering comes in two forms: combat system and online gameplay. The combat system has clearly taken on board the improvements made with the PlayStation Vita’s Dead or Alive 5 Plus, with added frames of animation for every single character. Move sets have been refined to accommodate the slicker visual quality and the balancing act of incorporating new characters, but there’s nothing drastic to worry about: the change from Dead or Alive 5 to Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is obviously far less severe than it was to move on from Dead or Alive 4.
Taking the Fight Online
Online gameplay hasn’t had such a significant overhaul, however the lobby system is more accommodating. The Throwdowns system allows players to accept or reject incoming fights in most core single-player gameplay modes, including the significantly revamped tutorial selection. However, it’s with this last point that a new problem brought to the table with Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is at its most obvious: the loading delays are significantly longer than with the original Dead or Alive 5. This touches on every single aspect of the videogame, from moving between menus to entering a gameplay mode to looking at a newly unlocked costume, and of course connecting to an opponent online.
Of all the new additions Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate offers it’s the two new entrants from Ninja Gaiden that cause the biggest stir. New gameplay modes and stages are all well and good, and while series favourites and another dash of SEGA chagrin is never going to be anything less than welcome both Momiji and Rachel steal the show. Momiji is weaker than you might imagine with her basic attacks hitting wide on the 360º arc countering sideways dodges by default, but her Power Blow offers far less reason to take the risk than any other character. Rachel, however, is very heavy handed and quick to knock players off balance, breaking guards and inferring wall damage bonuses with ease.
Dead or Alive Needs to Comeback
Of course, at its core Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is the same innovative one-on-one beat-’em-up that the original was. From a series that taught the genre to be more than a more technically advanced rendition of Street Fighter II. Dead or Alive 5 used modern console hardware to promote new design in the well worn template, and newer editions played by these same rules. Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate then, is a wonderful re-enactment of one of the best, most progressive beat-‘em-up videogames on modern console hardware dressed up with more new content than you could ever hope to see via DLC. Why Tecmo Koei hasn’t yet seen fit to bring us a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S version is a mystery.