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REVIEW - Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (PS3)

In a rather common move during this last generation of gaming, fighting titles have been re-released several times because of updates and patches to their core gameplay mechanics. Sometimes they’re good, and sometimes they aren’t. Still, a big part of the public sees the move as a mere attempt to earn more money for the publisher and developer. Dead or Alive 5 is no exception now that with the Ultimate version (for PS3 and Xbox 360), developer Team NINJA and Tecmo-Koei have released the game three times in a single year.

Still, while the vast majority of the public might see the move as a steal on Team NINJA’s part, I can assure that the amount of new and updated content in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate makes it an extremely superior game in every aspect when compared to its vanilla version. Ultimate includes five new characters (soon-to-be six), six new stages, new modes, a vastly superior online netcode (vanilla was pretty much impossible to play online) and many other extras that make it the best version of the game available right now for both the casual and competitive players.

Normally, these re-releases don’t get better graphics, like with Street Fighter 4, Blazblue or Marvel vs. Capcom 3. But Team NINJA managed to include some upgrades to the visuals that are more than welcome in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate like wind and snow effects in some stages, better texture for the clothes when they’re wet or get dirty and an overall better lightning everywhere that makes shadows look more clean. In general, DOA5 Ultimate is an upgraded version when it comes to graphics.

In the sound department, I personally think there’s a great improvement over vanilla, which is an expansion in the available soundtrack. Personally, I didn’t like the original soundtrack in DOA5 so it was common for me to turn it completely off in my PS3 or change it for something else in the Xbox 360 version. But in DOA5 Ultimate, Team NINJA added an option to play with the music from DOA2, 3 and 4 that were honestly superior to the fifth game when it comes to music. Besides, you can use the songs you want specifically for a stage or present fighter and even the menus themselves. Now, the available music selection in the game is big and very good.

Just like in the visuals and sound, the gameplay in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate got a major upgrade. It’s going to be hard for the casual public to notice any change, but as a competitive player with a lot of years with experience in the franchise, I can assure that Ultimate is definitely a different game from vanilla. Many new mechanics were added to the game such as Power Launchers, moves that raise the opponent up to the air and leave them defenseless to huge damaging combos. The typical bounds present in Virtua Fighter (DOA’s big brother), where a character falls slowly to the ground open to get a few more hits before reaching the floor, also debut in DOA for the first time and they change how the offensive game is played drastically for every single available fighter.

There was also a massive change in the properties and frame data of certain moves and mechanics present in the previous version. The change is so big that it’s possible that everything you learned in the first Dead or Alive 5, will either no longer works in Ultimate or has a different effect. Personally speaking, I’ve had to re-learn a lot of tools for the characters I like, such as Helena, Tina, Ryu Hayabusa, Gen Fu, Leifang and even Rig to adapt to the new system used in DOA5 Ultimate. The change is so big that I’m willing to say some characters look the same but play completely different now (Helena anyone?).

Five new characters were added to Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. Military fighter Leon and karate-user Ein who were present since Dead or Alive 2 but didn’t make it to the first version of DOA5 for lack of development time. Rachel, the hot diva from the modern Ninja Gaiden games makes her debut in DOA, inheriting the moveset from the Master Chief (invited character present in DOA4, an Xbox 360 exclusive title from 2005). Momiji, another of the Ninja Gaiden girls also debuts in DOA5 Ultimate with an aikido fighting style gamers have been asking for in the last years and finally, a fourth Virtua Fighter guest character, Jeet Kune Do user Jacky Bryant who, just like Akira, Sarah and Pai, fits perfectly in the Dead or Alive system and is more than welcome to the game.

Besides the five new extra fighters, six stages were included. It’s worth mentioning that stages in this franchise are vastly interactive, giving the possibility to slam opponents through walls, floors and ceilings. A lot of breakable objects are scattered around the stages and you can even throw your opponent from one floor to the next, taking the fight to another different stage in a single round. Unlike other games, the stages in DOA are not only a pretty background, knowing how to play them is vital if you want to learn and win the fights so your position is a key factor at all times. I’d even dare to say that stages are quite possibly the most iconic thing in DOA… besides the busty girls of course. The new stages include a desert full of ruins and other objects, a castle with several floors, a forest with dozens of trees and some mountains with waterfalls. As usual with the series, the new stages are highly interactive and fights on the will never feel the same. I’m sure they’ll prove to be excellent for both casual and competitive play.

New game modes arrived in Ultimate, such as Team Battle that returns to allow players to choose several characters at once and use them one after another easily. Tag Battle is now available in ranked online matches, something the community was asking for since the beginning and the online play was upgraded drastically, using a better netcode that allows for fluid and solid matches over the internet. It’s not as good as Persona 4 Arena or Soul Calibur V, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

In conclusion, I can honestly say that Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is a fantastic fighting game that makes its vanilla version look incomplete and rushed. New characters, stages, modes and mechanics make for a complete package that at 40$, feels like a bargain. Better yet is the fact that on PS3, a Core Fighters version is available for free, allowing anyone to play with the four original ninjas: Kasumi, Ayane, Hayabusa and Hayate. Fortunately, the support for the game is not over there, Team NINJA will keep updating the game with patches and content like stages and a new character called Marie Rose.


-          Great amount of extra content.
-          Leon and Ein return, just like the community asked.
-          Vastly improved online play.
-          Graphics are slightly better than vanilla.
-          New included mechanics change the meta-game for the better.
-          Constant support from Team NINJA.


-          Way too many DLC costumes.
-          Online play allows for people to cancel ranked matches.

Graphics and Visuals….……9
Music and Sound Effects…...9
Replay Value………...…….10

Overall Score………………..9.3/10

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