Thoughts on one of my favourite fighting games ... and no it's not my favourite due to the T&A, get your mind out of the gutter.
To say that Dead or Alive has been a somewhat divisive series would probably not be far off the mark; it's far from a bad fighting game, but it's generally only really known for "two things" if you get my drift (I promise this will be the only joke of this nature in the post, by the way).
So with the latest instalment of the series getting more details dropped lately and with a demo soon forthcoming, I'm going to talk a little about Dead or Alive 5 off of what's been seen so far. In this case it's not only the game, but rather who is -- and isn't -- working on it as well that's important.
This isn't technically the first new game from the series after Tomonobu Itagaki left -- or was kicked out, or something, to be honest his falling out with Tecmo could probably span a post or two in and of itself -- that honour belongs to Dead or Alive Dimensions for the 3DS. Dead or Alive 5 will stand as the first iteration of the game in the game series without Itagaki at the helm, something which in and of itself is noteworthy considering that the man was about as integral to the series as the characters he created. Outspoken and never one to shy away from the media, Itgaki has always emphasized the sex and violence of video games with Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden respectively. I'm not much of a fan of Ninja Gaiden myself, but I have been a supporter of the Dead or Alive series ever since I first played the Playstation 2 port of Dead or Alive 2.
Believe it or not, I actually really enjoy the fighting component of the Dead or Alive series; I like the somewhat faster attack/counter/throw dynamic that the game has used ever since its first iteration. It makes the combat more fluid and gives a sense of danger even if the battle appears one-sided: a couple of counters or throws and all of sudden things are too close to really call. Of course the thing is that when you tell someone you're a fan of Dead or Alive, if they know what you're talking about the automatic assumption is generally that you're a fan of the fanservice and nothing more. Its way too easy to dismiss the entire series as cheesecake because that's what a majority of the selling point was based on: "Look at these girls! Holy shit!" I remember the utter crap like the "She kicks high" advertisement that made me want to put my head through a wall, the unrepentant spin-off Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball and the sequels it spawned.
Now, it'd be hypocritical of me to single out Dead or Alive when basically every single fighting game has roughly similar character designs, but games like Tekken and Street Fighter and Soul Calibur are more recognized for their actual gameplay than the female designs; in fact Soul Calibur seemed to run into trouble when the fourth instalment of the series made a number of blunders, overwrought fanservice among them. Soul Calibur 5 may not have completely fixed things, but it seems to be a step back in the right direction. So if a game can fall into on overly fanservice laden mindset and then climb back out, is there any hope for a game that was pretty much built on fanservice as foundation?
Well the new leader of Team Ninja, Yosuke Hayashi, has gone on the record as saying that, "We want to show something that's more high class, that adult males of our generation could look at a woman [character] and be impressed with her as a woman, not just as a pin-up". Whether or not he'll actually stay true to that is still anyone's guess. I'd wager to guess that any fighting franchise -- this one particularly so -- can't be completely separated from the element of fanservice without becoming something that might be fairly unrecognizable from its parent. That in and of itself is no excuse, but it's also something way too big to be tackled here at this moment. What I can say is that if Hayashi is aiming to tone things down to reasonable levels and actually make Dead or Alive a series known for its fighting aesthetic as much as (or more than) it's ladies, then I only have this to say: it's about damn time.
Looks good so far. The big slow motion attacks notwithstanding (I think they might be too disruptive of the flow). But hey, I hope I'm wrong. Sure, the fanservice is still there, but hopefully now it's just at the level you see in the video and doesn't go about it, rather than the previous instalments which tended to hit you over the head with a hammer (the hammer was made of breasts).