Team Ninja faces a daunting challenge when they release Dead or Alive 5: Last Round in February (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360). Unlike their obstacles with the Ninja Gaiden series, it isn’t fighting post-Itagaki blues. It’s also not about the franchise being a prime exhibit in the sexuality debate.

It’s about being relevant in a genre that has hit a saturation point.

The modern fighting game genre is a tough arena to crack into. Players have a ridiculous amount of titles to choose from compared to ten years ago. This is problematic when the nature of the genre’s gameplay requires these two key things: a serious time investment on the part of the player in order to learn the game and a competitive base of participants that is going to pay off that commitment.

If the majority of the fighting game audience haven’t emerged from the comfort of their preferred competitive games to adopt previous versions of Dead or Alive 5, what about Last Round is going to convince them in 2015?

While I got the chance to bang around an early build of Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, I had an opportunity to grill key members of Team Ninja. Producer Yosuke Hayashi, director Yohei Shimbori, and creative director Tom Lee. In part one of this two-part interview, we discuss what Team Ninja’s intent with this release is, their viewpoint on the modern sexuality culture clash, and what they’re looking forward to after Dead or Alive 5: Last Round.

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From left to right: Tom Lee, Yohei Shimbori, and Yosuke Hayashi of Team Ninja

Above: From left to right: Tom Lee, Yohei Shimbori, and Yosuke Hayashi of Team Ninja

Image Credit: Team Ninja

GamesBeat: What is Team Ninja’s intent with this release?

Tom Lee: Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the final and most complete edition of Dead or Alive 5. It allows fans and new users to experience Dead or Alive 5 on the latest current-gen systems in glorious 1080p at 60 frames per second.

As the final edition, it’s loaded with all of the exciting content released up to this point as well as two new characters and two new stages.

Simply speaking, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a celebration of Dead or Alive 5 and we want to share this experience as one last swan song for our fans before we look ahead to the future.

GamesBeat: The $25 price for this upgrade gave me a bit of sticker shock. Upgrading Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition to Ultra is $15. Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown was also a $15. Are there other things in the works, other than two stages and two characters, that customers should look out for?

Yosuke Hayashi: We plan on supporting Dead or Alive 5: Last Round long-term. This includes adjustments to game balance and maybe even adding additional modes. That long-term support for the game is what we were considering when we set the upgrade price at $25. You can of course buy the extra characters for just $4, but for just an extra $15, you can get the full game on PS4 or Xbox One.

We want players to be able to choose what is best for them from within a variety of options. But we are sure that whatever option players choose, they will definitely get their money’s worth and more.

EVO championships

Above: EVO playing that Mahvel

Image Credit: EVO

GamesBeat: In a previous conversation,Tom Lee mentioned that Dead or Alive 5 is gaining traction in the competitive community and is being featured in some majors in the U.S. What do you feel needs to happen to give the game the push it needs to hit the next level? Especially being featured at something huge like EVO?

Lee: I think consistency is the key for making progress in the competitive scene. We have been active in supporting our fighters out in the grassroots tournaments as well as majors throughout the year. And we certainly plan to continue our involvement and support for the Dead or Alive fighters in these offline tourneys moving forward.

We’ve built solid relationships with many of the tournament organizers and FGC (Fighting Game Community) notables across the country in the past two years and they are committed in supporting Dead or Alive as a part of their main staple of featured titles moving forward. We’re confident that our tournament numbers will continue to grow as they have been since the launch of Dead or Alive 5 back in 2012. We would like to engage with our fighters & veterans in the competitive community by featuring their player profiles, player tips, tutorial videos, etc.

I think by allowing our best fighters to show off the game and keeping the focus on “fighting” it will have an organic effect in advocating Dead or Alive as a serious fighting game within the greater FGC.