I had a chance to play a little bit of Dead or Alive 5: Last Round mainly focusing on the new characters, Raidou and Honoka. Raidou, who was thought to be dead, returns for Dead or Alive 5: Last Round has a mean front kick that’s quite useful for knocking players off the roof in Crimson. Compared to Honoka, a new fighter who is of high school age, Raidou absolutely towers over her. In the fight I played with Tom Lee, Creative Director at Team Ninja, Raidou felt like he had an edge simply because he has so much reach. Raidou also appeared to be quicker, which Lee confirmed. "He’s quicker for his size," Lee said. "His movements are swift and that’s to encourage fast play and to keep the movements more cinematic, less rigid."
I asked Lee why Team Ninja brought Raidou back. "Raidou was brought back because he is a fan favorite. Team Ninja definitely wants to see more villains in the line up. I personally love seeing more characters like this it brings balance to the cutesy girls [in Dead or Alive]," Lee replied.
Honoka looks like she fits right in with Dead or Alive’s other female fighters. She fits in so well she borrows their moves. Honoka has attacks from Hitomi, Tina, and Kokoro. When fighting against Raidou, I had to sidestep his stomping attack before I could get close enough to unleash a combo. Honoka’s strikes don’t hit as hard as Raidou nor do they have as much range, but she is faster once you can close distance. Lee explained Team Ninja looks at stats and player feedback when creating new Dead or Alive fighters. Team Ninja’s data says in the Western market people have been playing wrestler type characters like Rig while in Japan they favor the female characters. "There are many guys on our team. I would like to see more characters like Raidou, for instance. But at the end of the day I think the numbers support the Honoka type of character," Lee said when talking about creating Honoka. "Maybe its a cultural difference, but sometimes in the East it’s dictated by aesthetics first and then the story is developed through character design. Rather than saying, the sister of so-and-so just got messed up by him, so let’s create a revenge story. Lots of times we review character designs and she seems like a 15 year old school girl, she’s coming home from school, let’s create a story about that."
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round has some changes that might surprise fans that played all of the DOA5 releases so far. "Interactive touch points have been switched up and added. Hot Zones have changed for some stages. There may be an addition to existing hot spots and it won’t be in all of the stages. Without telling you exactly where they are, we want fans who have been with us for the last two years to enjoy finding new things," Lee said. "The skin system smoothes out the skin textures more especially on current gen systems. There is some polish to the environments too with improved particle textures in stages you’ve seen before. Crimson in particular is one that showcases everything. It’s that showcase stage of DOA5 with all of the elements the game is known for and the graphic level is at its peak for current gen systems."
While it might feel broken for competitive players, one of the reasons why Danger Zone, a stage from the original Dead or Alive with explosive traps, was added was to appeal to casual players. "I think we learned is one of the things we wanted to do better is we’ve focused on giving competitive players. Making sure it’s balanced not just for players in the East, but players in the West. That was one of our biggest focuses in the last couple of years," Lee answered when I asked how Dead or Alive 5 evolved from from 2012 to now. "With Last Round, one of the things we wanted to do is not lose focus of our casual audience as well. When it comes to game balance and even the presentation of the stages we wanted to reel back and make the experience enjoyable for casual fans."
"We want to maintain that DOA has an easy point of entry for beginners. We want it to be an intuitive sort of experience instead of learning the move list for 30 different characters or whatnot. They can come in the beginning and button mash their way through, not only having success but looking good while you’re doing it. We want people to have a great time whether they understand a character or not. In mastering it, they will learn in trial and error," Lee elaborated.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round has plenty of costumes and glasses on disc. Team Ninja plans to add more content as DLC "But it won’t be limited to costumes," Lee said. "We’re discussing other kinds of content too. It’s still in discussion mode. Without committing and don’t hold my word to it, but don’t be surprised if there are new stages and characters. It is the last version, but we want to extend the experience as long as possible. It’ll be a while before the next thing is."