All right let’s get one thing straight. The demo of Dead or Alive 5 that you get with your copy of Ninja Gaiden 3 is in alpha state from back in January. There have been recent videos showing off returning/new characters like Kasumi and special guest Akira from the Virtua Fighter series. I will not be talking about any noticeable gameplay differences between the recent videos and the Alpha Demo. Also I want to point out that I am really excited about the direction DOA5 is heading under new Team Ninja director Hayashi. He is putting a strong emphasis on what he is coining “fighting entertainment” and while that phrase may frighten many of the hardcore fans of the franchise it may actually be a good thing. So without further delay, here are my initial thoughts about the Dead or Alive 5 demo.
1.) First and foremost the graphics of DOA5 are stunning beyond belief. Definitely a step up from Dead or Alive 4 and even puts the graphics in VF5, Tekken 6 and Soul Calibur 5 to shame. The environments are amazingly detailed and the characters (more on the characters later on) look stunning, heavily detailed and more realistic. The arena environments are insanely gorgeous and I can’t help but let my eyes wander and explore the stages looking at every little detail there is. Everything from the hazard cones to the flaming cars in the second half of the stage are nice little perks to the game.
2.) DOA5‘s gameplay for me feels sped up and more intense than previous iterations. Characters move and sidestep quickly around the arena with ease. Every character’s attacks feels faster and appears to hit harder as well, despite what the new data reader tells you. When you knock your opponent into a stage changing hazard zone, everything feels intense as momentum could easily shift depending on what happens next. The ledge hanging offers a new exciting dynamic to the game that creates a new 50/50 scenario that can either continue the attacker’s momentum or if “guessed right”(a term used a lot to describe DOA4 competition) allows the defender to actually escape with minimal damage. There’s also the addition of power blows in DOA5 that allow you to do massive damage to an opponent and at the same time add a unique cinematic approach to the combat when successfully pulled off.
3.) The danger zones in DOA5 look reminiscent to those in DOA2 Ultimate and DOA3 but with new additions. What I wasn’t crazy about in DOA4 was the randomness of the moving danger zones like the flying Pteranodon with its messed up hitbox or the cars and cheetah with their erratic timing so it’s hard to time when to dodge them. The danger zones in the DOA5 demo have some pretty devastating consequences if you are flung into them. On the upper level of the construction stage, the power box will explode and send the player skyward which can allow you, if timed right, the opportunity to get a juggle in. The danger zones, after being triggered, also have the ability to alter the stage design. For instance, when hitting the power box it starts a chain reaction where a crane knocks over walls and weakens the structure. This usually can lead to new danger zones and even the new ledge hanging scenario.
4.) The sidestepping gameplay has me really excited the most. In DOA4, the sidestepping game was literally non-existent and irritated me almost to no end. Almost every attack in DOA4 would track your every move thus preventing you from even gaining any form of advantage. In the DOA5 Demo, the new sidestepping system is similar to the system back in DOA3 and has influence from VF5 with its new offensive step. The offensive step is done by either pressing up or down and hitting all 3 action buttons. What this does is a quick step to the side that also crouches and avoids most high attacks. The offensive step can also be followed up with an attack that can momentarily stun your opponent which gives you a chance to do some really damaging combos.
5.) The wall game has changed and feels like a cross between DOA3 and VF5 wall game. No longer do you, the attacking player, have to worry about your opponent just sitting against the wall being given a potential reward for just either getting up or performing a wakeup kick. When knocked into a wall in DOA5, your opponent just simply bounces off and falls to the ground. When bouncing off the wall you are given the possibility of performing a small juggle akin to VF5 or you can simply let them fall and hit them by pressing down and punch. However, seeing as there are no characters in this game that can perform a ground throw, I have no idea how effective or beneficial letting them just fall off the wall will have in this game.
6.) From what I’ve heard the music is going in a good direction for the game. The music for the construction stage was intense, upbeat, and fit the mood of the combat very nicely. The menu music was a pleasant surprise as well because I wasn’t being serenaded by Aerosmith. Itagaki, the previous director of the DOA series, was a big fan of Aerosmith but to me their music never really fit in the series. With Hayashi in the lead role I have a feeling the music will have a more intense feeling to fit the “fighting entertainment” theme he is going with.
7.) The new Ledge hanging scenario is quite a mixed bag in my opinion. On one hand, you have quite possibly the most dynamic feature of the game which can continue momentum for the attacking player, who will be rewarded for catching his opponent off guard. On the other hand, the defensive player is given the chance to guess either between his opponent either throwing or attacking, and will escape with only minor damage should he guess right. I feel that this should be a pure reward system just for the attacking player personally and hope Team Ninja manage to do a more generous trade-off if the defending player manages to guess right. As it stands, if the attacking players has his attack broken up they then fall to the ground and receive damage as well. This is a potential game changing mechanic right here and hopefully Team Ninja will pay extra close attention to how they go forward with this.
8.) The power blows are an interesting and exciting new addition to the series. By holding down all 3 buttons your character either performs a devastating attack or guard crush a blocking opponent. Guard crushing them allows you to perform a possible follow-up attack if they don’t recover fast enough. But if you manage to land a fully charged power blow it will jump into a full cinematic event ending with a short matrix like bullet time, that allows you to actually aim where the final blow will send your opponent. You will also notice in the bullet time effect that certain areas in the stage environment will glow orange or red determining their danger zone damage potential. The ability to aim where the final blow will send your opponent is also a brilliant move for positioning by helping you continue your momentum. But there are some things that should be noted about power blows. A.) In order to be effective, the power blows have to be fully charged. This can take a full 2 seconds thus leaving you wide open to throws or attacks. B.) Power blows can be offensive stepped. If your opponent does this it can easily give them a huge opening that will allow them to punish you hard.
9.) A staple of the DOA franchise is the counter system or rather the hold system. There are two types of holds, offensive holds and counters. In DOA4, counter holds did an absurd amount of damage for non-grapple based characters. Don’t believe me? Go to Youtube and look at videos of Ryu Hayabusa doing Izuna drop counter holds that do nearly half-life damage. I am happy to say that, for the time being, counter hold damage has been significantly reduced to reasonable levels. Now if you wanted to do more damage you would have to attempt an advance hold which can do quite a bit more but still reasonable damage. In fact, the Izuna counter holds for Ryu Hayabusa has been made into advance counter holds and no longer do the insane amount of damage as it has before. Now so far in my play through I haven’t seen any offensive holds. Maybe they haven’t been implemented yet? Or maybe they are there but don’t have the significant impact as they’ve had in previous games. Who knows, hopefully this will be addressed soon?
10.) Now remember when I mentioned the realistic character models earlier? Well I’m not kidding, but they are realistic in a sense that they no longer look like anime dolls with huge wide eyes, unrealistic proportions, etc. The two women available in the game, Hitomi and Ayane, you’ll notice right away that certain assets have been toned down. Now I have been hearing outcry from fans and fanboys of the series but to be honest it’s for the best. Hayashi wants DOA5 to be taken seriously and the realistic female models with normal and more natural features are a good start. In addition to those features, you now have improved clothing textures and details, improved hair that sways back and forth in the wind, and player models get dirty gradually during the fight. I like these implementations a lot as it forces the gamer to take the game more seriously and to stop viewing the game as fan service.