Now with 100% less T-rex fighting. Decide for yourself if that's a good or bad thing.
So, you might have remembered a couple of weeks ago I mentioned picking up Dead or Alive 5. I should probably review it soon (in a nutshell it's a fine addition to the series, but as always with fighting games you'll only get as much out of it as you're willing to put into the online play). One thing that really struck me as different though was the way that the story was presented overall.
Now, don't get me wrong, the story in Dead or Alive 5 is pretty ridiculous, as most fighting game stories tend to be. I'm not really here to talk about that, at least not at the moment. No, instead I want to talk about the way it was given to us.
I admit that I don't play fighting games a lot, so if this isn't all that new then please forgive me, but for me this was a first. Rather than having each character go through an individual story mode wherein they are eventually the victor, Dead or Alive 5 has a story mode that gives us little snippets of each character as they progress. You can't choose what character you're going to be, rather you fight with who the game gives you until their matches are finished, and then you go on to the next, rinse and repeat.
To me this is way of telling a story that has a couple of benefits. Firstly, it helps to solidify actual canon. Ridiculous as fighting game stories may be, there are people who are interested to know what happened where. The problem with this is that when each character has a unique story line you wind up with a massive amount of contradictions; not everyone can win the tournament, get the Soul Edge, defeat Shao Khan, or whatever. So often it takes a while before the official word of god comes down and says "character X was the character with the story mode that is canon for this game". Again, you don't have to care about this stuff, but for those that do it's confusing as all hell.
Not so with Dead or Alive 5. I can tell you who won the tournament, I can tell you most of the characters that participated in the finals. I can tell you what happened after the tournament concluded, how everyone took the events, and where the story is probably going to go from here. I couldn't do that if every single character had their own complete individual story from start to finish.
Another advantage to this type of presentation is that it makes for a decent way to familiarize the player with all the different characters present in the universe. This could apply to any fighting game, not just Dead or Alive, but it works well for the series nonetheless. You get to suss out the motivations of some of the people, and also get to see how each of them handles. Arguably there's training for that too, but some people detest such modes, so this would be a good way to introduce them to characters that perhaps go out of their comfort zones but that they might end up liking anyways.
There are possible downsides to this method, of course. If you're not careful then each of the characters featured gets so little screen-time that they barely matter (most of the non-ninja characters in Dead or Alive seem to suffer from this in this story mode), and you can make it easy to guess who the "winner" will be unless you know enough to give characters multiple stretches of gameplay time (another thing that this story mode doesn't really do for the most part, which is why it's rather easy to guess who's going to win the tournament). Still, I like this approach, and with some work I think it could become one of the better ways to iterate a fighting game story for those that want to learn a bit about the universe of the game.