Yohei Shimbori talks “Dead or Alive 5”

“Dead or Alive 5” has been announced over half a decade after the previous installment in the fighting game franchise, and is set to come out Sept. 25. I was lucky enough to sit down with Team Ninja leader Yohei Shimbori at E3 2012 to talk about the long-awaited sequel
During the interview, Shimbori was playing a match with a previously unannounced character, Sarah from “Virtua Fighter,” whom wasn’t shown or playable on the E3 show floor against returning “DOA” favorite, Bass, in a circus arena full of traps and fun to give me insight into the game.

Sarah from “Virtua Fighter” gets in on the action.
[Ed. note] The interview will be presented here in a question-then-answer format. The bold text is the question to Shimbori, and the following standard text in quotes is his response. 
Something big that you have revealed in recent trailers is the inclusion of “Virtua Fighter” characters Sarah and Akira, what brought on this addition to the game?
“Well, ‘Dead or Alive 5’ will mark our anniversary with the series so we wanted to do something special. We’ve always been huge fans of ‘Virtua Fighter,’ and it goes without saying that if there was no ‘Virtua Fighter’ there would be no ‘Dead or Alive.’ So, with permission of Sega, we decided to bring Akira and Sarah to ‘DOA 5,'” Shimbori said.

Now with the Sega booth literally right across from the Tecmo booth here at E3, you’d have to stay true to the ‘VF’ fighting styles while adding in the ‘DOA’ flair for the fans’ sake. Was that a major goal for you?
“Yes it was. Our goal from the beginning was to have fans of ‘Virtua Fighter’ come into the game and play as Akira or Sarah and still feel right at home. We wanted them to still have their same moves and skills while giving them some ‘DOA’ traits.”
As he was mentioning this, I noticed that Sarah’s fighting style was in tune with her “Virtua Fighter” move set. She literally acted and attacked as she would if you were playing “Virtua Fighter.” The same thought crossed my mind as I realized later when I got to play as Akira that he was really in tune with his “Virtua Fighter” heritage.
Something I’ve noticed in the trailer is the inclusion of a kind of super move in which during a certain part of a combo the screen goes black and white and pauses for a second or two before sending the opponent flying. What is this?

Kasumi, at left, takes down Akira.
Shimbori was then quiet for a second and focused his attention to pull off the move I had just described. Sarah had launched Bass into the mouth of a giant clown which then launched Bass from his nose in an explosion. He then fell at Sarah’s feet defeated and knocked out. Shimbori put down the controller and turned back to me.
“It’s called a Power Blow. We introduced this move as a way to add more strategy while also showing off the visuals and the stages of the game. Once the Power Blow is launched, the attacker controls where the opponent is to be sent towards. Parts of the environment are highlighted red to signify where to send the victim. Sending them to certain parts of the stage will activate the Danger Zones which include falling off buildings and suffering from explosions.”
He also went on to show me another stage in which Sarah and Bass were on top of a building under construction. He started the match by attacking Bass with a 5-hit combo that resulted in Sarah launching Bass into an energy conduit which exploded and sent Bass over Sarah and onto the floor. She then comboed him into a Power Blow, sending him off the crumbling building. Bass tried to grab the edge to save himself, but Sarah ran and punched him down towards the ground. The battle resumes on the ground level where wreckage lay around them. “Dead or Alive” is mostly about what Shimbori calls fighting entertainment, and cinematic and fast-paced action is the goal that the team is aiming for.
He went on to explain that they’ve gone through various versions of the move. With pre-order of the game and purchase of “Ninja Gaiden 3,” buyers received a “DOA 5” demo, and Team Ninja used feedback from players of the demo to adjust the move so it went from a cheap spam move to a skillful addition to anyone’s arsenal. They used the demo as a kind of beta for the game, tweaking characters’ attacks and damage to fit each one perfectly. He also said that the feedback they received from the demo was great – only a few tweaks were necessary, but they still plan to work it until they are satisfied.
As he finished the match, Sarah posed in a victory stance, and that made me notice something else.
Kasumi’s changed over the years.
Sarah and the rest of the characters in the game look way more detailed and real compared to the glossy dolls of “DOA 4.” Also, Sarah is sweaty and has realistic sweat effects on her body. What brought this on, and how far does it go? Will we see bloodied up Ryu or Kasumi?

“Well, when ‘DOA 4’ came out, we were barely getting used to the power of the new console, and now that we’ve gotten a hold of it we wanted to see how far we can push it to the point of realism by adding detailing and freckles to help with the experience. We also wanted to add immersion to the game and we realized that these fighters just went through a tough battle. Why wouldn’t they be sweaty? As the player fights, the character starts showing how hard he or she has been attacking. Also, clothing will react to sweat as well. Meaning white clothes will become see through. If a character is damaged enough, parts of their clothing will rip off to show damage. As for blood, we felt that fans would be a bit upset seeing their favorite characters bleeding and damaged – especially the women of ‘DOA.'”
Hitomi’s post-battle look.
Do you plan to add more “Virtua Fighter” or returning “Dead or Alive” characters to the roster, or even new, never-before-seen characters to the game?

He laughed. “We’re not ready to announce what else is coming to the game, but we do advise you keep an eye open to any news in the next couple of months.”
I had a feeling he’d say something like that, but a reporter’s got to try! “Dead or Alive 5” is looking great and should be a contender for one of the top fighting games this year. Watch for it when it drops in stores Sept. 25.