This Dumb Industry: Dead or Alive 5 Last Round

By Shamus
on Oct 18, 2016
Filed under:
Column

Back in 2002 or so, my brother Patrick lived with our family for about a year. He brought his Playstation 2 with him. This is how I was introduced to Final Fantasy X. He also got me to try Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore. Most of my memories of that game revolve around a complex series of in-jokes we developed during the many weeks we spent passing the controller back and forth. These jokes are the kind that have you laughing at 2AM until tears are coming down your face, but then the next day you try to explain them to someone else and you have no idea what made them funny in the first place. It’s was a two-person subculture built around a hundred “you just had to be there” kind of moments.

I’m not into fighting games. I’m too old and slow to appreciate the deeper systems. Playing against the CPU is random and boring, and I have no desire to play online. The only reason I have any interest in the game is because Patrick is living several states away and I’m looking for a nostalgia hit.

Question Time

Thank you pointless title screen, for telling me what game I just booted up.

Thank you pointless title screen, for telling me what game I just booted up.

Hey Shamus, what do you think of the fact that the game has been turned into a vending machine for overpriced DLC, and that unlocking “everything” would run you in the neighborhood of $700?

Yeah. That probably sucks. I didn’t mess with any of that.

How’s the high-level play?

No idea. I just sort of mash buttons and laugh at the noises characters make when you boot them off a cliff.

How responsive are the controls when exploiting vulnerability frames during a throw counter?

I have no idea what that means.

What are your thoughts on the over-the-top fanservice?

I am not going near that topic.

How is the online matchmaking with random strangers?

This is your first visit to my site, isn’t it?

What about the roster changes??

I’ll be honest, a lot of these lunatics look the same to me.

You’re not going to properly review this game, are you?

No. I’m going to review the story.

You’re insane.

It’s a living.

Reviewing The Story

Not only are the cutscenes nonsense, they don`t even accomplish the basic goals of storytelling. For example, all of the backstory and exposition is offloaded to dull and overly verbose title cards. (Which also fail to explain things.)

Not only are the cutscenes nonsense, they don`t even accomplish the basic goals of storytelling. For example, all of the backstory and exposition is offloaded to dull and overly verbose title cards. (Which also fail to explain things.)

Yes, I know this is a game where “you’re not supposed to think about the story”. I don’t care if I’m “supposed” to think about something. If I’m not supposed to think about the story, then what AM I supposed to think about when I’m watching the cutscene? Football? I don’t care if the designer “didn’t intend for it to be good”. If something bugs me, I write about it. I wouldn’t have bothered writing about this game at all, except the story is such a strange, inexplicable mass of nonsense.

I don’t mean it has “plotholes”. I’m not complaining they messed up the lore, or some people don’t have clear motivations, or the tone is off, or any of the other things I’m always complaining about in games. I mean the cutscenes do not tell a story. If DOA5 is a story, then a 300 page Markov chain is a novel.

When playing in Arcade Mode, the game has exactly as much story as you need: Zero. When a fight begins, the two combatants shout out some sort of taunt / threat / greeting / catchphrase that tells you about their character and personality. That’s it. If you want to know what sort of misadventure bought a Japanese schoolgirl and a professional wrestler together to do battle in an exploding science lab, you’ll have to come up with your own. And that’s the way it should be.

But in story mode, the game shows cutscenes between fights. You would assume these would explain who these people are, what their goals are, what’s going on in the world, and why everyone is fighting. The cutscenes accomplish zero of these goals. There’s an evil corporation, superscience, a fighting tournament, a ninja clan, a war, and none of them are introduced properly and most of them go nowhere. After the first 50 cutscenes the story finally settles on the science lab stuff. This means the last 20 cutscenes are a little more coherent than what came before, but it still doesn’t really gel into a “story” with a proper structure.

An example of one of the early scenes:

Kick Some Bass

A guy vigorously making thrusting motions while riding a motorcycle named after his daughter. Freud would probably diagnose this as "Get help, dude.".

A guy vigorously making thrusting motions while riding a motorcycle named after his daughter. Freud would probably diagnose this as "Get help, dude.".

BassPronounced like the fish, not the musical instrument., the burly pro wrestler character, is riding along on his motorcycle, cheering in excitement. The name “Tina” is on the tail of the motorcycle. Tina is the name of his daughter, who is also a pro wrestler. In a previous game, he entered the fighting tournament with plans to beat her up to prevent her from entering the fighting tournament. Yes, these two have a deeply strange and disturbing relationship. But that’s not the problem with this scene.

Bass is riding his motorcycle on what looks like an elevated road(?) on an oil rig(?) when suddenly a helicopter rises into view just ahead and fires a bunch of missiles. There’s an explosion, and Bass falls.

CUT TO: Bass is leaning against his motorcycle with his arms folded, idle. Suddenly he notices there’s a fire.

Hang on! What about the helicopter? Who was flying it? Why were they attacking? Were they trying to destroy the oil rig, or kill Bass? Where did it go? Was that bit supposed to be a dream sequence? No, because Bass was standing up, so he obviously wasn’t sleeping.

Everything is on fire. Bass and his buddy Rig (who runs the oil rig, of course) are running around, shouting at people to “get out of here!”

But… everything is on fire. Are they supposed to LEAVE THE OIL RIG? Are you trying to put out the fire, or escape? And what about the helicopter? Does Rig even know about it?

Remember the #1 fire safety tip: If your rusty metal beams catch fire, pelt the flames with 50-gallon drums.

Remember the #1 fire safety tip: If your rusty metal beams catch fire, pelt the flames with 50-gallon drums.

Bass heaves a fifty gallon drum over his head and tosses it off-screen.

I don’t… what is he doing? Is he trying to put out the fire by pelting it with heavy things? What about the helicopter?

FADE IN: The fire is out. Bass and Rig are walking through the smoke. They decide to go get a drink together.

What? Who put the fire out?

Within the context of the story, what is this scene for? We have no idea why anyone would attack these characters. It didn’t do anything to characterize them. It doesn’t even work as a vignette because the action is incomprehensible. Its not connected to the rest of the story.

Speaking Pidgin in the Language of Cinema

This is probably the most coherent scene in the game. Two guys play martial-arts style keep-away with the last rice ball. It`s not connected to anything else, but it works as a self-contained skit and even ends with something approximating a punchline.

This is probably the most coherent scene in the game. Two guys play martial-arts style keep-away with the last rice ball. It`s not connected to anything else, but it works as a self-contained skit and even ends with something approximating a punchline.

The dialog is a fever dream. People mention concepts without explaining what they are. People ask questions and then someone else replies with a non-sequitur. People have unexplained emotional reactions and blurt out excited things for seemingly no reason. Characters wander into the conversation without being properly introduced.

In a movie, an individual scene usually has a sort of mini-plot. Person A wants information from person B. Someone wants to escape danger. Someone is exploring a place in search of clues. Or maybe there’s just some exposition we need to dump on the audience. But in DOA5, not only is the overall story a plotless soup, but individual scenes don’t even have a plot. We’ll have a scene where we don’t know what anyone’s goals are, or why they’re having this conversation, or where the conversation is taking place.

Consider this chain of scenes:

EXT: New York. Day.

Kasumi is like a Ninja that forgot to wear pants. She’s walking along, minding her own business. Lisa, a rich-looking woman notices her.

Lisa: Kasumi? What are you doing here?

Kasumi: I’m looking for Alpha-152. But then, I’ll bet you already know.

Lisa: (Completely mock innocence.) Whatever do you mean?

(They fight.)

CUT TO:

EXT: New York rooftop. Day.

Kasumi is standing on the roof. She’s leaning against the railing, looking into the distance. Suddenly Ayane – a purple-haired ninja girl – drops in.

Ayane: Finally got you! Prepare yourself, you traitor!

Kasumi: Ayane, I don’t want to fight you, but I must.

(They fight.)

CUT TO:

EXT. Glacier. Day.

Subtitle: ANTARCTICA, A FEW DAYS LATER

Bayman is a huge muscle dude in winter gear. He’s crouching in the snow, staring off into the distance. Kasumi comes from behind cargo container which is inexplicably here in the middle of the frozen wilderness. She’s still running around with no pants on.

Kasumi: Why are you following me?

Bayman: Hm. (Chuckles.) Pretty sneaky, ninja. I’m looking for something.

Kasumi: What would that be?

Bayman smirks.

(They fight.)

I can’t even tell what story is writer is trying to tell, here. These three scenes are supposed to be part of Kasumi’s story, and after this point the story jumps to following a different character. Not only do the individual scenes make no sense, but taken as a whole they’re just non-sequiturs. Kasumi has a goal, but we can’t tell why she’s going to any of these locations, what she’s doing when the scene starts, and by the end we have no idea if she’s made any progress.

Like a Porno

In this scene, a grown woman flirts with a teenage boy, there`s a gag where she gives him a gallon of milk, and the cameraman acts like a sex offender. None of this explains or justifies the ensuing fight.

In this scene, a grown woman flirts with a teenage boy, there`s a gag where she gives him a gallon of milk, and the cameraman acts like a sex offender. None of this explains or justifies the ensuing fight.

I think it’s fair to say the story in a fighting game has the same purpose as the story in a porno: People don’t really care about it, and it only exists to give context to the physical action. And that’s fine. But The story of DOA5 can’t even accomplish this rudimentary task.

In The Big Lebowski, we see a small clip of a porno movie. A television repairman arrives at a woman’s apartment. There’s some stilted flirting, and even though we don’t see more, it’s pretty obvious the scene is going to end with them screwing.

If that scene had been written by the person who wrote DOA5, then it would go like this:

EXT: Public Park. Day.

A woman is sitting on a park bench, looking up at the sky.

WOMAN: (To herself) Is it always like this here?

TELEVISION REPAIRMAN: (Jumps out of the bushes.) I'm here to fix the television!

The woman stares at the nearby fountain. We go close in on her face, which is expressionless.

(Long pause.)

REPAIRMAN: Hey! Are you even listening? I'm here to fix the TV.

WOMAN: (Mutters quietly without looking up.) I don't have a TV.

REPAIRMAN: No! That's impossible!

CUT TO: The two of them screwing in a circus tent.

That’s what this story is like. It’s this strange, disjointed series of camera cuts and dialog lines. You can see it sort of mimics the style of cinema in terms of shot composition and tropes. People linger over their alcoholic drinks, strike dramatic poses, and pause a long time before answering simple questions, but none of it actually makes any cinematic sense. It’s like it was put together by an alien species who doesn’t understand the purpose of movies.

Which, fine. You don’t have to explain what is happening or what the characters are doing. It’s a fighting game, not a movie. But if you didn’t want to write a story, why did you put a story mode in your videogame? If you just wanted people to show up an punch each other, you didn’t need to make over seventy cutscenes, record all this dialog, and build all of these sets. Reading reviews of the game, its obvious the audience doesn’t care about the story at all. It doesn’t feel like anyone particularly wanted to make this story. Why did they spend money making something neither they or the audience cared about?

You might argue the cutscenes are just here as a showcase of technical prowess, like the lavishly produced movies Square Enix puts into the Final Fantasy series, but the truth is that these scenes look awful. They’re in-engine, not pre-rendered. The lighting is often flat, the walk animations look like robotic late-90’s keyframe loops, and everyone has plastic, emotionless faces.

Remember when Team Ninja made a Metroid game and it was a complete disaster?


Link (YouTube)

Everyone assumed Team Ninja was filled with hack writers who shouldn’t be allowed to write anything more complex than a greeting card. But after playing DOA5 I worry that the problem isn’t with skill, but sanity. These people are batshit loco.

 

No Harm Done

This scene has two girls practicing their kung-fu in a circus. Then they`re assaulted by a guy in a clown suit. It`s obviously supposed to be comedic, but since the rest of the story is such a mess of surreal drivel, it feels about as absurd as every other scene.
This scene has two girls practicing their kung-fu in a circus. Then they're assaulted by a guy in a clown suit. It's obviously supposed to be comedic, but since the rest of the story is such a mess of surreal drivel, it feels about as absurd as every other scene.

I want to stress that this terrible non-story doesn’t “ruin” the game. It’s completely harmless. This game didn’t need a story and you’re not forced to watch any of it. You can play multiplayer, versus, or arcade mode and enjoy your button-mashing face-kickery without being subjected to the insanity. All you have to do is not click on story mode and you’ll be safe.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but for me the story seems to transcend its own ineptitude and enter the realm of “so bad its good”. My daughter and I watched a few of the stories, howling with laughter as inexplicable things happened. The story has a certain Ed Wood style charm. The writers were aiming to make disposable trash, and still managed to fall short of the mark. It’s impossible to watch cavalcade of surreal balderdash and not wonder what the writers thought they were saying.

I’m not mad that the story is so terrible. I just want to know why they went to all this trouble.

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Footnotes:

[1] Pronounced like the fish, not the musical instrument.



2020201171 comments. (Seventy-one is the largest supersingular prime!)

From the Archives:

  1. Durican says:

    To be fair to Team Ninja, they were innocent of Other M’s awful, awful story. To be less fair to Team Ninja, the same person who wrote the awful, awful story had to veto TN’s desire to ramp up the “sexy fanservice”.

    • Cybron says:

      I’d take a Metroid with fanservice and a Samus who is a competent human being over what we got any day of the week. Fanservice is irritating, but Other M is straight character assassination.

  2. Izicata says:

    If I’m not supposed to think about the story, then what AM I supposed to think about when I’m watching the cutscene?

    You’re obviously supposed to be masturbating, Shamus. That’s why the story is so bad; they’re trying to send the brain in your head into a coma so you start thinking with the brain in your pants.

    • Fists says:

      Was basically my comment, only I was going to be slightly more subtle.

      If I’m not supposed to think about the story, then what AM I supposed to think about when I’m watching the cutscene?

      I’ll give you a hint, there’s two of them in that title card.

    • I have no email but I must post says:

      This isn’t DoA Extreme.

    • Jeff R says:

      For that particular picture, all I’d be doing is wondering how that poor woman’s spine worked.

    • Hermocrates says:

      You’re obviously supposed to be masturbating, Shamus. That’s why the story is so bad

      The funny thing about that is, though, I’ve read porn manga that have MUCH better plots than this, or even most video games. The bullshit plots we put up with for a little shootmans or punchkickmans…

  3. MichaelG says:

    I see that you have a cabbage.

    https://youtu.be/fbAohexT0Ho

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You’re insane.

    It’s a living.

    Ah,so you are going to review the movie after the game.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      The movie at least has a little fun with its own ridiculousness. It falls apart in the 3rd act when the stupid DOATEC plot has to be resolved, but it’s watchable.

      • GloatingSwine says:

        DoA is remarkably one of the least shit videogame movies.

        That is, of course, more of a commentary on the state of videogame movie adaptations than anything else.

        But y’know, it’s dumb fun in largely the same way Mortal Kombat was dumb fun.

    • Lars says:

      The Movie was exactly what I expected of a DOA-Movie.
      Boobies – check
      Kung Fu Fighting Tournament in a world of Firearms – check
      Stupid Story about creating a super soldier (meelee combat only) – check

      That is DOA. On that hand, the movie did nothing wrong. (Except the Helena-“actor” is nothing like the Helena-DOA-character)

  5. Ander says:

    All on home page

  6. Andrew Blank says:

    You know what fighting game had a great story, Soul Calibur 3. I have never seen to much text in a fighting game.

    • Daimbert says:

      It can’t beat Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Arena Multimax.

      I’ve poked around with some of the Blazeblue games, and they seem to have pretty good stories, too.

      • Ringwraith says:

        I bought Persona 4 Arena for the story!
        Good grief is the original’s presentation bad for making you sit through multiple slightly-different versions of the same events for the most part before letting you get to the best story part, or seeing the conclusions to the other stories it had a cliffhanger on.
        Ultimax fixed the presentation of duplication and instead just wasn’t as punchy.

        There’s a part of Arena that’s about 5 hours of solid visual novel writing with no choices or fights and it’s the best part.
        No, really, it’s good! That bit anyway.
        It does have to ask you if you want to save multiple times though.

        Guilty Gear is another Arc System Works series and with the Xrd games they don’t even have fights to do in the story mode, it’s essentially a long animated movie.

        • King Calamity says:

          Yeah, I still can’t decide how I feel about Arc’s solution to the problem of how to tell a story in a fighting game (that is, just shove a visual novel inside). I kind of like it, but at the same time it’s not so far removed from how Destiny tucks its story away in a phone app.

          • Ringwraith says:

            I don’t see how it’s much different from having a multiplayer game having a singleplayer campaign kind of deal.
            The fights themselves get pretty abstracted.

            The first BlazBlue, Calamity Trigger, sidestepped the problem inconsequential fights by having characters dying from losing or giving up after losing most of their health. Meaning fights can drive the story around, (as everyone’s trapped in various time loops so they can do this multiple times).
            Although it also made it a complete mess to navigate, with story branches differing on how particular fights went and other hidden conditions.

            • King Calamity says:

              I did like how that game used fights as points for the story to diverge. What bothers me is the “inconsequential” bit. It seems to me that when you use that method, you end up having to choose between long periods of dialogue with no fighting, or throwing in fights with little to no narrative value to avoid doing that. I imagine it is possible to balance the two, I think I remember the last Mortal Kombat game doing an okay job of it, although it’s been a while since I played it.

      • kdansky says:

        Guilty Gear also kinda works in general though it’s pretty hard to understand because all the games make up one long and convoluted plot, and there are a lot of them. Injustice’s story mode was quite good, they just copy-pasted some of the better comic book arcs and called it a day.

        DOA makes them look superb in comparison.

    • King Calamity says:

      That’s what I love about the old Soulcalibur games, they always put some actual effort into different ways of trying to tell a story in a fighting game (until they started phoning it in in SCIV), and I do think SCIII was the best.

  7. Will says:

    If I’m not supposed to think about the story, then what AM I supposed to think about when I’m watching the cutscene?

    I have a guess…

    The cutscenes accomplsih zero of these goals.

    I assume this should be “accomplish”.

  8. Dusk says:

    Hilariously, I’d consider DOA 5 to have the most coherent story out of the whole series, and if you know what “happened” in the previous games, you can more or less follow the bits that continue the previous “plot”.

    Not that you’d get the plot of the previous games by actually playing them – I had no idea what was happening in DOA 2, or 3, and 4 wasn’t much better. The format hasn’t really changed for DOA 5, but previous entries had even fewer cutscenes to thread together, and you had to piece together some specific characters’ Arcade mode playthroughs to find the main plot, while all the other characters had random mini-stories of their own that didn’t connect to the main one at all, and occasionally to each others’ (but they’d still fight the same final bosses in a non-canon capacity, because… Arcade mode?).

    Reading about the “story” of the series on the internet (years later) was the only way I found of working out what allegedly took place…

  9. John says:

    I love fighting games but I’m fairly terrible at them, so I generally prefer slower, more grounded games like Street Fighter to faster, anime-inspired stuff like Guilty Gear. I’m not sure where DOA falls in that spectrum. If it weren’t for the beach volleyball spin-off I would never have heard of the series.

    I mostly play Street Fighter Alpha 2 these days. It’s a PC port from 1998 of an arcade game from (I believe) 1996, but it gets the job done. Because Alpha 2 is an arcade game it has pretty much no story at all. Arcade games are designed to eat your quarters, after all, not show you cut scenes. And that’s for the best, really. When I lose a fight in arcade mode I don’t want to waste my time watching a cut scene before I can resume playing.

    I’m not normally one for online multiplayer with strangers, but I think that if I had a machine and OS that could run Street Fighter 5, I probably would play online. I expect I’d lose a lot, but that’s okay. I want to win–who doesn’t?–but sometimes playing is its own reward. And it’s not as if Street Fighter requires a headset or a microphone in order to play well. There’s no team to talk to and I’m not even sure if you can chat with your opponent. I’ve seen a few streamed online matches and no one ever does.

    • Christopher says:

      You can chat if you want to, but I’ve only encountered it once and it freaked me out. Didn’t even have my own mic hooked up. Still, the guy was a complete gentleman, and after the match he sent me a friend request and gave me pointers in a fighting lobby.

      I prefer to play fighting games casually, but regularly, with a friend on my skill level. But it’s rare that this situation happens. My last time was with my roommate in college, and Shamus seems to have had the same when his brother stayed with them. So when SFV came out I decided to try the online instead, and it’s still fun. It’s got a more tense feel and an air of self-improvement about it, though. You will inevitably be beaten by more skilled people than yourself, so it’s more fun to educate myself a little and see the improvements happening than keep losing for the same reasons. Well, I say improvements. I’ve played since the game came out, and I’ve made it all the way to Super Bronze, which is like three ranks from the bottom and six ranks from the top. There’s also a ton of Ken and Ryus at beginner level, which let me tell you, I’m sick of seeing those characters’ faces.

      • John says:

        I can easily believe that Ken and Ryu are the most popular beginner characters. Whenever I get a new Street Fighter game, I always start with Ken. My understanding is that the rest of the characters in the series are (or at least have been) more or less balanced around those two. (Ken seems pretty different from Ryu in Street Fighter 5, though.) Based on the tournament streams I’ve seen, it’s not quite so bad at high-level play.

        • Christopher says:

          Yeah, the top looks more varied. I’ve heard that certain characters are prominent at the individual tiers, actually. One person told me there are very few Birdies at top level, which checks out, because I’ve only seen a single one at the EVO streams. Another told me I should be prepared for Mika Hell once I got past the Kens and Ryus.

        • Echo Tango says:

          Man, I can’t believe people choose Ken / Ryu to start with. They seem so boring to me. Maybe because it’s competitive mode, and they’re reasonably easy to do well with until you need a higher skill-cap guy? When I first played Street Fighter II on SNES with my brother and cousin, I stuck with the crazy green dude and the cute anime woman. :)

          • John says:

            Ken and Ryu are, to a certain extent, boring karate guys, aka “shoto-clones”. But I think they’re a lot easier to learn than characters like Blanka, Chun-Li, or Guile, whose special moves are all or mostly charge-based. It’s nice to be able to do a fireball or a dragon punch whenever you feel like it, you know?

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Dead or Alive was originally intended to be Baby’s First Virtua Fighter. Simple accessable controls that let basically anyone come out with a reasonable feeling set of attacks, but enough crunch to let people get better at it.

      The story is cobblers, always has been. The principal effort in the cutscene direction was “does this look good over an Aerosmith song?”

      • John says:

        Oh, how I wish it were possible to get Virtua Fighter on PC these days. I loved that game.

        Okay, so technically, it is possible, but I have yet to find a reputable online store that will let me buy and download the game. Steam only has the Genesis de-make. If you want real, 3D Virtua Fighter you have to go buy a disc on eBay. I wish more companies would follow SNK’s lead and just sell ROMs for their old fighting games so that you could legally play them in MAME.

    • Incunabulum says:

      If it weren’t for the beach volleyball spin-off I would never have heard of the series.

      I honestly thought this was going to be a review of that volleyball game. I never knew there was anything else.

  10. Christopher says:

    Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but for me the story seems to transcend its own ineptitude and enter the realm of “so bad its good”. My daughter and I watched a few of the stories, howling with laughter as inexplicable things happened.

    Sounds about right! I tried out the DOA5 demo(which I guess is just the game without DLC) and stuff just made no sense at all. I played it with a drinking buddy, and at some point we couldn’t breathe. So I guess they succeeded? It’s not boring to watch, that’s for sure.

    Fighting game stories are so weird. Some guys in the comments obviously think it’s exactly like porn, but it’s much more like porn in the sense that nobody cares about the story all that much, like Shamus said in the article. It’s a nice selling point that does well in reviews, but the people that are gonna play the game for a long time aren’t gonna be seeing it a lot on account of just playing multiplayer. I’ve heard Mortal Kombat’s story is comprehensive. Guilty Gear’s are long cutscenes, I think.

    Skullgirls did visual novel-style talking in-between the fights that made sense and completely dropped them when the opponent made no sense, and had an individual story for each character with lots of neat art, but no canon story. The developers did a poll at some point during their DLC character indiegogo campaign: “Which part of Skullgirls do you care about the most? Story, World, or… oh jeez I forget, probably characters or graphics”. Point is, story was by faaar the least popular, which isn’t too weird. Skullgirls needed programmers and artists and they hired a cool musician, but they don’t have a single writer.

    Street Fighter V spent ages getting their main, 3d animation story out the door(they have really short individual character stories that are still images), and while it’s a comprehensive and fitting story, it’s more fun to finally see Street Fighter have something like that than anything else.

    • Geebs says:

      SF5’s story mode is also pretty much random gibberish, though, with an almost complete absence of gameplay. All they had to do was put in the standard SF2-style best-of-three-match-against-each-other-fighter single player mode, but I guess that was too complicated or something.

      • Christopher says:

        Random gibberish isn’t a fair portrayal. It’s a Saturday morning cartoon story where there’s a villainous group that wants to take over the world, a team of heroes that mostly all know each other and have a vague alliance. To add on to that, there’s also an alliance of mostly heroes/some antiheroes under the sponsorship of another villain who wants the first villainous group gone so they can thrive instead. Finally, one of the heroes was revived for a short time with technology, and that awakened a sort of Death God character who wants to eat the souls of warriors and isn’t pleased about this one escaping. Like yeah, this stuff isn’t smart, but it’s not hard to follow along with either…. or so I say, but I’m a longtime fan who already knows who everyone is. To their credit, they at least had individual character stories that take place before the main story, which I guess makes it the THE AVENGERS of the stories in the game.

        I wish they just had an arcade mode, too.

  11. Echo Tango says:

    If DOA5 is a story, then a 300 page Markov chain is a novel.
    It’s not a Markov chain, but does this movie count? :D

  12. Abnaxis says:

    The way the scenes are “tied” together, it almost seems like the strung a bunch of games convention trailers together and called it “story mode” to justify the production costs of those demos.

    Also, this article makes my feet hurt…WITH DESTINY

    • TMC_Sherpa says:

      I have a print of that strip? issue? page? I’m not sure how you specify a particular day of a webcomic. It’s delightfully stupid in its accuracy.

      That reminds me, I have about six years of sluggy backlog I should catch up on….

  13. xedo says:

    I’d really love to see some in-depth behavior analysis of fighting games demographics ever since I read this article. The data is A) nonscientific and B) a year out of date now, but at the time the author was finding that far more people start the story mode in a fighting game than ever win even a single online match (70% of users initiated story mode in Soulcalibur 5 and DoA 5, but less than 20% won an online match in Street Fighter 4).

    I think its true that the high level players don’t care about that stuff, but the people that more casually engage with fighting games are drawn in by single-player content And you need a broad audience interested in the game to support the esports/pro scene.

    • John says:

      People play fighting games at home now rather than in arcades, so it makes sense that fighting game developers would put more effort into single-player content than they used to. When I play Street Fighter I can usually “beat the game”–by which I mean finish arcade mode with a single character–in less than a half hour, and I’m not very good at all. That’s pretty short for a AAA single-player game. Now that isn’t all of Street Fighter’s single-player content by any means, but how many people take the time to learn multiple characters? How many people take the time to play the game again at more challenging difficulty levels? If I were a fighting game developer, I think I would be drawn to the idea of story mode as a low-cost way to create the impression of value for money.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Well, not in arcades when you’re not in Japan anyway.
        Most Japanese fighting games still spend quite a lot of time in arcades before getting a console release.

        • John says:

          Arcades may have hung on longer in Japan than elsewhere, but I think that even in Japan things are changing. To the best of my knowledge, there is no arcade version of Street Fighter 5 because Capcom wanted to do small but frequent updates and that just isn’t compatible with an arcade release.

          • Ringwraith says:

            However, Street Fighter V was also a complete mess.
            It was definitely released a year too early, and the its launch state was significantly more lacking than any arcade, or even demo release.
            So it’s an oddity because it had no arcade release, but it was also messed up incredibly badly.

            Also most arcade fighting games have internet and use patches nowadays, so it’s not as difficult as it once was to update them. In fact, we’re still in a position where the arcade versions can get balance patches earlier than consoles, and never are the last platform to get them.

          • Cybron says:

            The reason there is no arcade version is because the game is Sony funded. Sony let them put out a PC port because the PC is unpopular in Japan. Arcades, in the other hand, are still well and alive. Guilty Gear still thrives in arcades, for example. So people would have played in arcades rather than buying it on PS4.

            • Ringwraith says:

              But it also had no Arcade mode, no combo challenges, or an internet infrastructure that was actually working. The tutorial’s also only half-there too.
              Which would have been a shocking state to release it to arcades as a ‘full’ game, even if they could.

    • King Calamity says:

      I love fighting games, and play most of them, and beyond the fact that people are more fun to play against than AI opponents, I have zero interest in competitive play. It always drives me crazy when I hear people say the stories in fighting games don’t matter, because for me the number one draw has always been the characters, and I always want to know more about them. People complain about how none of Destiny’s story is in the game? That’s my life.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Still no proper reason why you cannot access Destiny’s ‘story’ in-game, with a codex or something. There’s too many hoops you have to jump through just to see it at all.

  14. Garrett Carroll says:

    The description of the cuts cent involving Bass. Oh boy, I haven’t laughed so hard at something in ages. Never played the game either, but this sounds like those awful arcade games you play where you end up on an oil rig with no explananation.

  15. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    What bugs me about fighting game stories is that they’re always too coy with the “canon” ending. Like, in DOA, supposedly there’s a canon victor of the tournament who “really” fights the big boss at the end, but they almost never let you know that IN the game, it’s always the later sequel that’s like “oh… uh Hayate won last time.” Same thing with Soul Caliber, it’s actually rather important from sequel to sequel who got the sword in question, but the game itself doesn’t definitely let you know, they backfill that information in the next one. They also never reference who wins these fighting tournies in the character banter. Like “I won’t let you win again!” type stuff. It’s dumb.

    • John says:

      Eh. Canon, schmanon.

      What bugs me about fighting-game stories is when they pretend that the final boss is some kind of unstoppable monster when multiplayer makes it evident that he really, really isn’t. (M. Bison, I’m looking at you here.)

  16. Ninety-Three says:

    What if the game is bugged? The script makes sense, but some glitch eats half the cutscene, leaving a bunch of disjointed nonsense. The developers never noticed because none of their playtesters cared about the story.

    Yeah, it’s a crazy theory, but is it really less crazy than the idea that this happened on purpose?

  17. The Defenestrator says:

    I’ve heard that in Guilty Gear Xrd they made a story mode that was basically just a visual novel completely separate from the rest of the game.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Yup, no fights, it’s all just one long cutscene which has save points.
      Bookmarks in your visual novel!

      Although it does take place after Sol’s Arcade mode apparently in SIGN. No idea about Revelator’s.

      I honestly prefer not having fights if they don’t want them, as it means they don’t have to bring up contrived reasons to have a gameplay fight, and often have no-one seriously hurt from it.

      • Daimbert says:

        Persona 4 Arena Multimax split the difference: you have the fights, but you can let the computer fight for you. Which I have to admit I did because unlike the first game, even on Easy I actually had to fight and could lose, and I was really interested in the story.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Which is good, seeing as the the AI is usually deliberately easier than the selected difficulty setting in story mode anyway, it’s not meant to be much of a challenge if you don’t want it to be.
          The AI is very vulnerable in the one-round story fights to doing an Instant Kill from the outset though. Thus, that’s an option, for the more ‘conventional’ ones at least; ones that aren’t counters (Elizabeth) or grabs (SLabrys) or mid-air (Aigis).

  18. Spammy says:

    While I was initially excited about DOA5 coming to PC, I’ve sort of cooled on it. For one, the game spent months without online multiplayer, for reasons I couldn’t understand. Then there’s the DLC and all.

    But I mean, I played the hell out of DOA Dimensions on my 3DS, and loved the hell out of it for reasons apart from fanservice. I like how Dead or Alive plays and how it looks when you’re playing it. The strike-block-grab triangle made something there that not only felt like an choreographed fight, it looked like a choreographed fight. I played it for a month and I was still being surprised at finding new animations for obscure counters.

    Now I’m talking myself into the game. I spent months filling my spare time by taking out my 3DS and playing against random hard bots.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    It’s completely harmless.

    Not quite.Like you said,people spent time and resources to make it,so some harm was done.If no one is supposed to care about it,then dont put it in.And its not like there arent fighting games that have entertaining and coherent stories already.

  20. Paul Spooner says:

    First time I’ve laughed out loud at an article in months. Good work!
    Maybe the writers were going for the surreal dadist angle?

    Joking aside, what probably happened was the art and animation team got ahead of schedule, so they were put to work doing “cinematics” without any guidance and made stuff up as they went along… which would make sense, except that there is voice acting! Yeah, okay, I’m stumped again.

    Small typo: “style of cinema is terms” should be “in terms”

  21. Lachlan the Mad says:

    The talk of porn stories reminds me of this Mitchell & Webb sketch:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoD6R7N1Iz4

    “I basically start with a piece of paper that has ‘they have sex’ written on it about fifteen times, and then I just have to fill in the gaps”.

  22. Fred B-C says:

    The porn script alone nearly made me do a spit take. Good job.

  23. Cybron says:

    “I just want to know why they went to all this trouble.”
    Because if they don’t reviewers and consumers will trash them for it. Even if the story mode is a heaping pile of nonsense, it’s a box they have to check or people won’t buy the game. Look at the Steam reviews of SFV and see how much people trashed it for launching without a story mode. There were tons of things awful about SFV at launch but story mode is the one thing that everyone could notice and complain about.

  24. Phantos says:

    If there’s one story mode from a fighting game that I actually enjoyed(regardless of whether or not it works), it would be from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

    If only for the fact that it has a ton of characters to keep track of, and there’s no spoken dialogue. All body language, facial expressions and music. It’s silly and unnecessary, but I feel like it works more often than it doesn’t. It also felt like it was actually a priority for the people involved, instead of just an obligation.

    In fact, I was actually kind of turned off from buying the new Smash Bros. because it didn’t have a story mode.

    • Christopher says:

      Same here. Brawl’s story mode could maybe be a little long at times, compared to the offerings in Melee. I didn’t think it was that great of a platformer/beat ’em up, but it was wonderful and fanservicey in a “let’s see all these characters interact” kind of way. Then Smash 4 has just nothing to replace it except a dull board game. I guess they felt they didn’t get enough back for the effort they put in, because that story mode has some serious unique stages and cutscenes.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU2CzynZqmI

      • Ringwraith says:

        Actually, it didn’t have any because people uploaded the cutscenes to the internet where many people watched them ‘instead’ of playing the game.
        No, really, that’s the actual given reason.

        All the cutscene work was in the character reveal trailers instead.

        • swenson says:

          That’s such a silly excuse. If someone only wants a game to see the cutscenes, they almost certainly wouldn’t buy the game in other circumstances, so there’d be no (or very very little) lost income.

  25. RCN says:

    This is hilarious.

    Though I feel you’d have more fun analyzing the story of Mortal Kombat.

    It is, without doubt, the most intricate, coherent and smart story of any fighting game ever made.

    Which is to say, it is slightly dumber and pointless than the plot of a Jackass movie. But it IS a story and can be followed, so there’s actually something to make fun of and analyse.

    Well… you just need to know the really, really dense lore beforehand though.

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