Team Ninja and Tecmo Koei will release Dead or Alive 5 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles toward the end of this year, but fans will have an opportunity to get a taste of it as soon as next month, with purchases of the special edition version of Ninja Gaiden 3. The publisher stopped off in New York City last week to show off the demo. The hope with DoA5 is that its unique presentation style, which is referred to internally as "fighting entertainment," will draw in players of all types, whether or not they traditionally embrace the fighting game genre.
The combos themselves are relatively simple for newcomers to pull off, with more of an emphasis on proper timing than twirling thumbstick gymnastics. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the game's new Power Blow feature, a charge attack which, when triggered successfully, launches your fighter into an elaborate, unbreakable combo that plays out like a cinematic cutscene. The sequence ends with a brief pause during which players get to choose which direction to send their battered foe sailing in.
The environments provide the queues here. One successfully triggered Power Blow ended with a slow-motion sequence in which a car is twisting along in mid-air, with an X button icon (Xbox 360 controller) prominently displayed on its fender where the license plate should be. Pressing X at that moment brought the combo to an end with the unfortunate fighter sent sailing into and through the airborne automobile, complete with a series of explosions that would make Michael Bay proud.
Another example of this more cinematic approach to the gameplay is seen in the multi-stage level on display in the demo, a construction yard called Scramble. The fight begins at the top of an under-construction building, with the two fighters trading blows amidst dangling I-beams and rail-less ledges. As things heat up, one fighter or the other will eventually be knocked over the side. A QTE-like cutscene ensues in which the dangling fighter can try to reverse some of the damage down as the other attempts to finish the job of knocking his or her opponent to the ground far below.
Visually, DoA5 is a huge step up from its current-gen predecessor, which was an Xbox 360 launch window title. I'm told that Team Ninja consciously moved away from the series' T&A roots with this entry, focusing instead on building fighters with more realistic proportions. Battle damage will show now as fights progress: clothes become more tattered, faces show bruises and bloody gashes and bared skin shines with sweat. It's still cartoonishly over the top, but a realistic veneer blankets everything.
The demo will include the Scramble map and, for Ninja Gaiden 3 special edition purchasers at the end of next month, four fighters in all: Ryu Hayabusa, Hitomi, Ayane and Hayate. Everyone else will still get the same map, but will be limited to two console-exclusive characters: Hayabusa and Hitomi on the Xbox 360 and Ayane and Hayate on the PlayStation 3. There's no date set for Dead or Alive 5 yet, though we know it's coming this year. Ninja Gaiden 3 arrives on March 20; stay tuned for a hands-on preview of that one later this week.