Tecmo has finally, after a 5 year wait, officially announced Dead or Alive 5, for both the 360 and ps3, which isn't that big a surprise now that Itagaki is gone. At tgs they showed this gameplay teaser:
And this render:
Now, I'm the first to admit that the Dead or Alive games are not great fighting games. But they are very fun fighting games, and sometimes that's what really matters.
There are 3 thoughts that I have when seeing the gameplay and the render. First, the ninjas represent everything I dislike about Dead or Alive 4 (with Hardcore and Ultimate still being my favourite in the series). Second, the increased stage interaction represent one of the things I most enjoy about Dead or Alive in general -- that it is there for spectacle and fun above everything else. Third, the image of a sweating Hitomi, or whoever that's supposed to be, shows that Team Ninja is still doing what they do, even if they'll probably be tying Dead or Alive 5 in heavily with Ninja Gaiden 3.
The carnage of the stage shows a natural evolution for Dead or Alive's signature open, interactive environments. Timed events add a new element of forethought and positioning. Unfortunately, I'm sure Team Ninja will continue to neglect the game's most interesting mode and keep the best stages for 1v1 fights only. Always a shame, because Dead or Alive's tag mode puts every other tag mode to shame, and showing it off while footage of TTT2 and SFxT is making the rounds would only reinforce that. Maybe they want to avoid comparisons, but when everyone else is shamelessly and relentlessly ripping off their best ideas, I'd be rubbing that in as many faces as I could.
With Itagaki gone, this is like the little bits of Ninja Gaiden 3 shown so far. A partial reboot of either an actual reboot, or in this case, a shameless love-letter (for Dead or Alive, this letter would be addressed to Sega and Virtua Fighter, both of which Itagaki was a noted and outspoken fan). Already there is the influence of other outside forces with what looks like a super move of sorts, full-on with dramatic pauses and camera angles. I have no doubts that Dead or Alive 5 will be a new direction for the series, even more than 4 was. Will the new creative leads continue Itagaki's fruitless attempts at "balance," or go all-in on creative, bombastic gameplay and presentation? I hesitate to use even Dead or Alive Dimensions as a basis for comparison, both because it's an obvious legacy cash-in, and because I haven't played it.
Finally, this announcement, for me, represents an actual return to an era of fighting games, something that any number of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombats could never manage. With a new Soulcalibur, a new Dead or Alive, and a firm console release date for Final Showdown (as well as the 17 different Tekken games that I don't care about), 3d fighters have a presence again, which is what I mostly care about when it comes to fighting games (and even if Dead or Alive's actual 3d elements are dubious). I'd even be willing to give Street Fighter 4 the credit, because I don't really care anymore. I've finally gotten what I wanted, and that's good enough.