As boxed games go, this one is pushing even Street Fighter's famed iterations for the 'least amount of new content per release' award. But nonetheless, it does represent the first time the Dead or Alive series has appeared on PS4 and Xbox One, so it's a relatively big deal. Well. It should be… but the truth is the new-gen difference is virtually non-existent. But that doesn't mean the package is something you should ignore completely.
Before we get onto all the new-gen differences, let's talk about how it plays. Dead or Alive has seen more than ten previous boxed iterations, so this refined version plays a predictably slick game of fisticuffs. Normal bouts are 1v1, though there is a tag mode with occasional devastating team-up moves to enjoy if you fancy some variety. The block/punch/kick/throw control layout is really simple to grasp and there are some sufficiently-impressive combos mapped to 'punch-punch-punch-punch' to allow even the most nuance-free button mashers to have a good time.
The fighting itself is enjoyable and explosive. Smashing through walls/windows/floors and continuing a fight in the next area still pushes the 'fun' button, even if the 15-year-old trick is starting to wear thin. The fight system's reliance on counter-holds makes for an uncertain match, requiring you to change up your tactics frequently, otherwise your opponent will get wise to your hackneyed combos and counter every single one. The damage dealt by these counters isn't massive, and landing real hits yeilds better results, but in terms of humiliating your opponent, there's nothing like a good counter game.
And of course, the action is bolstered by the addition of two new fighters to the roster. The first one is Raidou, the original Dead or Alive's final boss. I notice the official website for the game now glosses over his story, only saying that Ayane has a 'cursed birth'. The reality is Raidou raped her mother. Yep. But after dying in an explosion after defeat at the hands of Kasumi in the first DOA tournament, he was turned into a cyborg by Donovan. And now his memory has been wiped, only leaving evil and violence.
Some arenas feature environmental hazards, but it's the beach stage (formerly DLC but now on the disc) that is the most interesting. For starters, fighting in the water prolongs the time of an off-balance state - must be seaweed under there - and the coconut palms can add insult to injury. Smash an opponent into one and a coconut falls on their head, causing extra damage. Lolzorz.
What that means, of course, is a 'best of' compilation of moves from everyone else, in typical boss fashion. He's slower than the other fighters, but hits hard. And DoA isn't exactly a slow-paced fighter anyway, so you're unlikely to feel that he's too sluggish to use. He's got a mean stomp move that's particularly useful in Survival mode, as hits landed on downed opponents yield bonus items. Raidou gets lots of chocolate and guitars as a result. I don't think he's been a good enough boy, personally.
The second new character is much more likeable. She's an 18-year-old schoolgirl (yep, didn't see that one coming), named Honoka. Surprisingly enough, she also learned her moves from other fighters, which means she doesn't really have a distinct style. Nonetheless, she has some interesting moves, including a rock/paper/scissors taunt that can hit low, medium or high. I like that. Her personality is likeable and she's an easy character to learn if you're a beginner.
All this brings the character roster to a rather impressive 34 – the biggest ever for a DoA game. Indeed, if you're only interested in the new fighters, you can just buy them to add onto your existing copy of Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate on Xbox 360 or PS3. There's also a free 'core' version of Last Round, which can be upgraded with micro-transactions. The piecemeal nature of the code is highlighted when you come to install the game on Xbox One, as the main game installs… then a load of extras including some ten characters. One by one. It takes a while.
The similarity between the new- and old-gen versions is remarkable. During gameplay on new-gen, there are some occasional new spark effects, slightly improved lighting and the game now runs at 1080p 60fps. Even so, you'd be extremely hard-pushed to name the console it's running on if someone showed you the picture alone.
This is especially true of the story scenes. They don't even run at 60fps, instead switching to 30fps. That sounds like something that doesn't matter, but considering Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore on PS2 managed to render Dreamcast's 30fps story scenes at 60fps, it's exactly the sort of thing new-gen should have upgraded. The story itself is unchanged for the new characters, and playing it through again isn't particularly enjoyable, though it does get marginally more interesting as it goes. The dialogue is still awful, the voyeuristic sections cringe-inducing, and plot hard to really get your teeth into. It's essentially elaborating on snatches of dialogue from previous DOA games between bouts, which is hardly lore that everyone can recite by heart.
There is one truly upgraded new-gen aspect: the new 'softness' technology that renders the fighters' bodies simply means slightly jigglier boobs (sigh). I say 'truly upgraded', but I didn't notice any difference until I saw a side-by-side comparison. And said boobs still move independently of everything else, which is rather alarming.
All the pre-release promises of 'I'm a Fighter' suggesting that DoA was finally maturing have since been forgotten in favour of some outrageous DLC costumes – which will carry over from last-gen to new-gen if you're worried your topless-except-for-a-Hawaiian-wreath costumes will be lost if you upgrade.
So there it is. Dead or Alive 5's definitive version (to date), disappointing on new-gen and barely updated on old-gen. It's still a colourful, explosive, fluid fighting game that is easy to play but hard to play well. And there is plenty depth if you study the nuances of its counter-hold system, launchers and combos, even if it doesn't have the tactical play of the likes of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. But when the Xbox One version doesn't look that much better than Dead or Alive Ultimate on the first-generation Xbox, it's hard to recommend the upgrade.