Recycling content is nothing new, but it is becoming far more prevalent in the modern videogames industry. Whether it’s rising costs forcing publisher’s hands or simply wishing to spin an extra dime on an easy repackaging is rarely easy to asses, however one things 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 Ultimate is launching 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 ‘ultimate’ tag is probably the most appropriate Koei Tecmo Japan could have given the repackaging as it’s more than a mere bundling of content: this is the ultimate version of an existing videogame. 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.
The online isn’t as significant improvement, however the lobby system is more accommodating and lag is far less of a regular occurrence (not that it was often too great an issue in the original Dead or Alive 5). 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 the 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 stags 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.
Of course, at its core Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is the same innovative one-on-one beat-’em-up that taught the genre to be more than a more technical rendition of that which we all fell in love with nearly three decades ago. Dead or Alive 5 used modern console hardware to promote new design in the well worn template, and this new edition plays 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, and yet there will still be many who resent its existence due to a title.