The fighting genre has been dominated for years now by heavy hitters like Street Fighter and Tekken. One thing about the current market is that with the dominance of a couple of big names comes uniformity. Dead or Alive has always broken the typical fighter mold with the counter mechanics that define the core of the game, and Dead or Alive 5 continues this tradition. On top of the counter-heavy foundation, the presentation of the narrative in a single story told from the perspective of many characters also avoids the more traditional approach of the genre, where you'll typically get a tale for each character.
Dead or Alive 5 takes you through the typical fighting game story of the next big thing in the fighting world, the international fighting tournament - also called Dead or Alive 5. The world's best fighters are hounded, harassed, and harangued into attending by the exuberant Zach, the tournament host. Zach works for Helena Douglas, DOATEC's leader, who is working to turn over a new leaf for the once-nefarious organization by dismantling corporate initiatives like Project Alpha, which was responsible for the evil ninja clone, Alpha-152. The story is half erratic, bouncing you between characters with every stage, and half erotic, with the cut scenes featuring disproportionately endowed women in always-revealing attire. The cut scenes are mildly entertaining, and entirely juvenile, with one scene going so far as to be shot from the perspective of a handheld camera accidentally left running in the women's locker room. Yeah, they really did. If you're into ogling or you can get past some over-the-top breast-based physics, the game's story and the antics of its characters will entertain you with weaponized ninja clones, professional wrestlers, and carnies. It's not exactly Shakespeare, but the large majority of the characters are likeable, if a little shallow in terms of development, and each time you're thrown into a different perspective, you can't help but wonder what's going to happen with the character you just left behind.
Despite the misappropriation of cleavage, the story mode is a lot of fun to play, and will give you four good hours of entertainment or more, depending on how focused you are on completing the objectives. Each of the 70 stages is a 1-round fight with a given tutorial objective, like "Hold 3 High Kicks." These objectives serve as your tutorial throughout the story line, where you learn the rock-paper-scissors of throws, holds, and strikes, which make up the core of the game's mechanics. The major downside is that it can be fairly difficult to ascertain what, exactly, is going on at any point in the story, since you're largely being thrown into the perspective of a different character after each fight. The ambiguity of the story aside, Team Ninja did a great job of making a 70-stage tutorial fun enough to see through to the end by instilling enough interest in each character to make you want to see how their particular sub-plot develops.