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April 26, 2012

Dead or Alive 5 Prepares for War

So.  DOA5.

You'll forgive me for this quick little diatribe, but I just can't help but discuss this.  Maybe complaining a bit, but I'd prefer to remain optimistic and call it an...observation.

A new trailer came out this morning, and the title of several posts on other websites demanded a click.  "Bayman's back?!  Mommy yes!" I cheered to myself, frantically mashing my left mouse button.  "More grapplin' action!  More ninja-strangling!  More rolling on the ground and grabbing dudes with my legs!  Oh, and Christie's back too, but who cares!  IT'S A BAYMANANZA!"

Note the orange vest.  It's critical for any social arrangement with the suffix "nanza."

So I booted up the video, my optimism mounting.  And to my surprise, it was more than just a showcase of the updated characters.  It was a chance to show off the new level, the "Hotzone."

And...well...it looks very familiar.

I'd like to think that, even though I take shots at Call of Duty every now and then (like any rational gamer), I'm still mostly tolerant of the franchise.  I don't like it per se, but I do respect the fact that it can make so many people happy, and put video games in society's limelight for something besides Prostitute Buster 2000 (better known as Grand Theft Auto).  But when you're showing off a fighting game and the first thing that gamers think of is Call of Duty, I have to raise a yellow flag.

Part of the joy of fighting games is seeing those colorful, active stages. Street Fighter 4 has the Solar Eclipse stage, featuring an African Savannah, observant hippos, and the titular eclipse while you shoot fireballs in the foreground.  Tekken 6 has the Fallen Colony, some funky floating area with a tilted capital building in the background, with clouds and a bit of vegetation boxing you in a two-tiered arena.  From Street Fighter Alpha 3's stormy, grassy arena where you face off with Bison, all the way up to Street Fighter X Tekken's Pandora's Box stage (which must be seen -- and heard -- to be believed), it's traditional for fighting games to have stages as lively as its cast.

Maybe so, New Bayman, but without that vest you'll never enjoy another party.

Which brings us back to DOA5.  It's looking at that stage that I realize that Japanese developers' attempts at westernization -- appealing to their perception of CoD-loving Americans -- are more real than they've ever been before.  The stage is given that CoD-inspired disarray, sacrificing its color in the process.  Bombast typical of the series (of a Michael Bay movie, if you prefer/really want to spew bile) swarms the arena, making sure to include explosions, radio chatter, smoke, gunfire, explosions, collapsing buildings, and explosions.  It's part of Tecmo/Team Ninja's aim of delivering "fighting game entertainment" which I admit I'm curious to see more of; yet, the fact that their idea of entertainment includes emulating one of the most loathed names in the past fifty years makes me want to boot up my Street Fighter Anniversary Collection and head to Dudley's stage.

Is DOA5 codifying the trend?  Is it really helping bring about the end of Japanese-style games as we know it?  If you're a cynic, Bayman's redesign, the shift from stylized characters to realism (faces and breasts alike), this stage, the need to make the game -- a fighting game, dependent on player input and reflexes -- more cinematic and set-piece-heavy, then yes.  If you're an idealist, then the fact that there's still a semblance of style, other colorful stages, and Akira Yuki means there's still hope and lots of it.

He shoulder-checks any argument in his favor.

Is DOA5 going to be awful?    If you're a cynic, then the fact that the game has a bad reputation for being casual-fare button-mashing combined with these (as far as some are concerned) unneeded flourishes, combined with the perceived ineptitude of the company after "ruining" Ninja Gaiden 3, then maybe so.  But if you're anything like me -- the Eternal Optimist -- then you look at this game with apprehension, but also great anticipation.  It's another fighting game, one of the last great bastions of Japanese developers.  It's bound to have its strengths, only improved, and delivering a flavor only DOA can tap.

And with any luck, I'll get to smash ninjas out of the sky with my man Eliot.  If he's in, it'll be an instant buy.


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