Dead or Alive 5 Last Round (PlayStation 4) Review

By Az Elias 27.03.2015 4

Review for Dead or Alive 5 Last Round on PlayStation 4

Being the company to launch the first 3D fighting title on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sounds a tantalising opportunity, so it's a wonder that Koei Tecmo didn't get Team Ninja to bring Dead or Alive 5 Last Round to the newest set of powerhouse consoles sooner, especially given it is an updated port of last gen's DOA5. With the likes of Bandai Namco's Tekken 7 yet to release, though, KT and Team Ninja have still managed to get a foot in the door early. With a fantastic free-to-play option to enable all owners of PS4 and Xbox One (and indeed PS3) to give DOA5 Last Round a try, the Japanese developer will be hoping to not just capitalise financially, but also increase the fan base of the series, and learn what it needs to do in order to pave the way for a successful DOA6.

After a shaky launch that saw Dead or Alive 5 Last Round being prone to a number of bugs in its first week or so, the latest patch now sees Team Ninja's vibrant and bouncy fighter settle into the acceptable state that it should have been released in. The second major revision of the original Dead or Alive 5 after DOA5 Ultimate, DOA5 Last Round doesn't bring too much in the way of new content outside of two extra characters and stages, plus hundreds of DLC costumes built in and customisable hairstyles, but it does mean the series' accessible and refined fighting system now reaches entire new sections of the market on the latest wave of consoles.

Following the very divisive loli character Marie Rose joining the roster in DOA5 Ultimate (who is now in the game by default, alongside fellow previously-DLC characters Phase 4 and Nyotengu), it does initially look like Team Ninja took a more straightforward route with Last Round's addition of Honoka, a Japanese schoolgirl with practically the same face as Marie, and a fighting style that mimics the rest of the cast's moves. Whether the portion of fans that were happy with young Marie's inclusion into the mature DOA universe were heard loudest, putting Honoka's creation into motion, is unknown, but the case can be made that Team Ninja is trying to bring more variety into the selection of fighters. Marie and Honoka certainly do that, and can be accepted more positively if it means appealing to particular demographics, increasing the interest of the series to others that may have shied away before.

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In truth, Honoka is an amusing character to play as, incorporating lots of styles and stances, including those of Brad Wong and Jann Lee, and despite her high-pitched voice being a cause for annoyance at times, she even rather hilariously imitates the phrases of fighters during certain trademark moves. Unlike many duplicates in fighting games, she is not a clone of any one single fighter, but the nature of her mimic style that she brands "Honoka-Fu" might be viewed as lacking in effort, for she doesn't present an entirely new fighting art that hasn't yet been seen in the series. Nevertheless, the reality is that Honoka is fun to play as, since the combination of so many different moves and styles being chained together are actually pulled off well and still take skill to perform.

Raidou, the final boss defeated by the hands of Kasumi in the original Dead or Alive, makes his first return to the series (story wise) as an undead cyborg devoid of his memories. His heavy weight class and slow movement make him a tough one to get used to, but he has a lot of precise inputs that deal huge damage when pulled off, making him a formidable opponent. Not strictly an original character, and nor is Honoka in terms of combat, really, so there is some disappointment that Last Round doesn't bring more new exciting and energetic 20-something martial artists along the lines of Hitomi and Mila, but either way, the roster is boosted to the series' highest count yet: a whopping 34, including SEGA's returning Virtua Fighter characters.

Screenshot for Dead or Alive 5 Last Round on PlayStation 4

What DOA has always done well is present a balanced cast that has been difficult for the hardcore fan base to settle on an accurate tier list for. That's a great problem for any fighting game to have, and Team Ninja is always listening and updating when it comes to ensuring this remains true as best it can. By consequence, there is huge variety online, and equally means players must brush up on learning how to deal with a lot of characters because of the frequency of different match ups. Even with the ninjas available through the game's free-to-play version, the diversity of opponents keeps online sessions exciting and unpredictable.

The two extra stages exclusive to the current gen version of Last Round are returning favourites The Danger Zone and The Crimson, which made their first appearances in DOA and DOA2, respectively. The blue floor panels of The Danger Zone are packed with explosives, and trigger whenever a fighter is smacked to the floor, causing them to take extra damage and bounce back into the air. These situations can be put to effective use, allowing juggles and combos to continue against unlucky opponents. A favourite amongst those that are good at maximising damage through juggling, the stage can also work in the favour of less skilled fighters, making combat on The Danger Zone always thrilling…although it definitely has its haters. Chinese stage The Crimson brings back its two separate areas on the top of residential rooftops and in the neon-signed, smoky back alley below, featuring its own Cliffhanger to knock opponents into the lower portion of the area.

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It's always good to have more stages from older games updated for DOA5, because the original selection in the vanilla version was sadly a downfall, especially for a fighting series so often praised for its unique and vibrant interactive level designs. The stages added over the last couple of years through Ultimate and now Last Round counter the occurrence of dull industrial themes, but even then, there are points to be made about low quality textures and the complete lack of shapeshifting in the sands of Zack Island and Desert Wasteland. Great effort has gone into making the fighters look realistic and beautiful, and whilst they are the best designs in the series yet (doing away with the anime style was a brilliant decision), something has been taken away from the detail in the stages. The selection has improved dramatically over time with each subsequent DOA5 instalment, so it is hoped Team Ninja continues the trend and adds one or two more stages to Last Round; perhaps Snow from DOA3, with actual shapeshifting snow properties.

Dead or Alive might just be the most accessible and newbie-friendly 3D fighting series on the market, and its system has been refined and tweaked each iteration, with DOA5 having incorporated a few mechanics that add further depth to the combat. The series staple 'triangle system' remains intact, where strikes beat throws, throws beat holds (counters), and holds beat strikes. Single inputs for punching, kicking, throwing and holding are all that is needed, and combined directional inputs determine high, mid and low attacks. In-depth tutorials are part and parcel of many fighters today, but Last Round has really taken it to great new heights, with dozens of individual tasks to learn the mechanics, plus Command Training and Combo Challenges for every character, letting players practice their strings, juggles and combos, and learn how each character works.

Screenshot for Dead or Alive 5 Last Round on PlayStation 4

Getting into the nitty gritty of the core combat itself, whilst DOA5 welcomes newcomers in with open arms, there is so much that is going on underneath the surface that casual onlookers would likely be oblivious to. Fights are faster than ever, but can play out in a tactful manner, with button mashers getting creamed if they don't learn to mix it up and effectively utilise holding, spacing, stuns, punishments and other further strategies that give birth to a complex system.

Critical Burst is one of the newest additions to the combat (series wise), introduced in the vanilla version, putting the opponent in a severe stunned state that is unable to hold incoming strikes. On low health, characters can perform special attacks: Power Blows and Power Launchers - single-use moves that deal massive damage or launch an opponent high into the air to get a juggle going. Where DOA5 Ultimate presented the Power Launcher, Last Round doesn't bring any major new mechanics to the table, although some important changes have been made for characters across the board (for example, Kasumi's teleport is now much easier to perform).


 
The same game modes as in the previous version appear in Last Round: Story, Versus, Arcade, Time Attack, Survival, Team Fight, the extensive Training features, and, of course, Online mode - all of which (barring Story and Team Fight modes) feature both solo and tag gameplay. Sadly, the story remains identical to the original release of DOA5, meaning Honoka and Raidou join Ultimate's newcomers (Momiji, Rachel, Leon, Jacky, etc.) as having absolutely no presence in that mode, which is disappointing. With the vast number of additions to the roster since vanilla DOA5, there are a lot of characters to now work into the chronicle of the series, but this will no doubt only be put into motion for DOA6.

Although the Kasumi clone plot and Ayane's constant pursuit of her half-sister has grown tired, the focus on the ninjas is a pretty good one as far as fighting game storylines go. It has all the makings of an action spin-off in the Ninja Gaiden vein, but the trade-off of this dedicated story mode has resulted in individual character scenes and endings in the Arcade mode becoming non-existent. Hopefully Team Ninja can find a way for both to be implemented into DOA6, taking inspiration from the more serious endings of DOA3, and not the atrocious ones of DOA4.

Screenshot for Dead or Alive 5 Last Round on PlayStation 4

Online netcode has thankfully improved over Ultimate, but there is no question that lag is still an issue. Likely working off of the same code for the previous DOA5 games, the updates in Last Round are very noticeable when compared to last gen, but it seems drastic enhancements won't come to fruition until DOA6, where new netcode can be built from scratch. It is a much better experience on PlayStation 4, but it is still not consistently brilliant, pushing players to try and get hooked up through a wired connection instead of wireless.

It is absolutely worth mentioning the free-to-play version of Last Round, which has gone under the radar of so many people since its inception with Ultimate, although now looks to be gaining a bit more attention thanks to some better placed sign-posting in the PlayStation Store. Unlike Bandai Namco's extremely frustrating system of limiting how much time users can play the free versions of SoulCalibur: Lost Swords and Tekken Revolution, forcing them to pay to play more, the model in place for DOA5 Last Round: Core Fighters (as the free version is known) is the best free-to-play service in the business, with no time constraints whatsoever.

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Almost the entire full game is playable for free, with Kasumi, Ayane, Hayabusa and Hayate permanently unlocked, and at least two more characters on a rotation-based timed unlock (changing every couple of weeks), allowing users to try out each character in the long run. Additional characters can be purchased for a few quid each, making perfect sense for those players that main just a selection of fighters to download the free version and then buy their favourite characters, saving cash from not buying the full edition. Story mode and music packs for DOA2 and DOA3 are only available as DLC in the free game, but with just how much content is on offer in Core Fighters, including all other non-story game modes and no time restrictions, Koei Tecmo has got the perfect mind set when it comes to how to do free-to-play without alienating fans and draining every last penny out of their pockets in order to actually play the game.

DLC costumes are still as prominent as ever, but it is important to remember that these are completely optional. For anyone that wishes to support the developer by chucking some money their way and purchasing character get-ups, that is up to individuals to do so. A recent collaboration with Marvelous to create destructible Senran Kagura costumes for the girls will be hard to resist for many. Money has got to be made somehow with such a generous F2P version on offer, and some credit must be given for just how long Team Ninja continues to support its game through the simplest and most harmless of extra content.

Screenshot for Dead or Alive 5 Last Round on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

There is so much to be pleased about in Dead or Alive 5 Last Round for hardcore fans, those that had stopped playing and are returning to the series again now, and complete newcomers that have yet to dive into the franchise. This is one of the most competitive Dead or Alive games thus far, striking a respectable balance across its large roster of characters, with fast gameplay and plenty of underlying mechanics. Last Round deserves to put Dead or Alive in a bigger spotlight for what it does right in the combat and competitive department, but it loses marks for not enough extra content over Ultimate, and for the way below par effort that went into the graphical side of the game. Of course, the visuals have no bearing on the gameplay, but more is expected of a PS4 title, port or not. At the very least, for those unsure, download the free DOA5LR: Core Fighters and give this cracking 3D fighter the chance it deserves.

Developer

Team Ninja

Publisher

Koei Tecmo

Genre

Fighting

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I'm looking forward to the PC release in a few days. Shame it got delayed, will have further delayed online, and is based on the PS3 release despite the original delay being to 'ensure the best quality version is released for PC'.

On the bright side, its half the NZ price and included a pile of DLC costumes. Smilie

Haven't played DoA 5 yet, but really do like the series - one of the best fighters out there, one of the very few with fluid combos - SF is just so "kick. stop. kick. stop. HADOOOKEN!"

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

DeltaBladeX said:
I'm looking forward to the PC release in a few days. Shame it got delayed, will have further delayed online, and is based on the PS3 release despite the original delay being to 'ensure the best quality version is released for PC'.

On the bright side, its half the NZ price and included a pile of DLC costumes. Smilie

I don't know what KT's deal is with PC. They've handled the PC situation poorly. At least there will no doubt be mods.

jb said:
Haven't played DoA 5 yet, but really do like the series - one of the best fighters out there, one of the very few with fluid combos - SF is just so "kick. stop. kick. stop. HADOOOKEN!"
Absolutely. I would have rated this higher, because it easily deserves as such, but after coming from DOA5 and then 5U, LR just doesn't bring much new to the table, so I felt 7 was right. From the hardcore point of view, there are things to improve. Anyone that hasn't played DOA5 yet will find so much content in here and would overlook the gripes someone like myself has. It's a severely underrated fighter in the FGC, and if people just took the time to get off their high horses and look past the skin, they'd see that.

Went a bit nuts writing this one. Could have done a bit more, like the stigma surrounding the series and whether the devs should go back to the plan during DOA5 beta of being more seriously focused on fighting and dropping a lot of the sex, but it would have gone more into rambling territory that may have felt out of place in this review.

Azuardo said:
I don't know what KT's deal is with PC. They've handled the PC situation poorly. At least there will no doubt be mods.

And to think, they decided Yaiba being done by a third party porting team wasn't good enough (having the game on both PC and PS3, I haven't seen any problems with the port work myself from what I played). They aren't exactly making a case for their own work.

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