Less than a year ago, Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja released Dead or Alive 5. It was a long wait between Dead or Alive 4 (released in late 2005) and DOA5, but the wait for a new game won't be nearly as long. In fact, a significantly updated version of DOA5 entitled, Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate will be available in a little over a month. While some people are craving a next generation installment to the series, from what we've seen of Ultimate, it raises the bar considerably.

To start things off, one of the biggest changes is the addition of a Power Launcher. The original DOA5 featured Power Blows, which are still present in Ultimate. However, the new Power Launcher adds an extra level of strategy to the game. Characters can only use one or the other, and they can only be used once per round, when your character's health has dropped below 50 percent. In addition, you won't be able to just toss out a Power Launch or Power Blow. The best way to land one is to connect a Critical Burst in a combo, then transition into one of the Power techniques.

Now, how does a Power Launcher differ from a Power Blow? Well the main difference is that a Power Blow has the ability to knock an opponent into a special danger zone (something like the giant clown in The Show stage). A Power Launch sends the opponent high into the air, allowing you to follow with a juggle that could potentially lead into a stage hazard, such as the electrified walls of the Lab stage.

Which Power technique you choose to use will depend on a number of variables. Some characters will be able to inflict significant damage after a Power Launcher. The damage could be much more than they would get from a special danger zone after a Power Blow. In this case, it would be best to use a Power Launcher. However, if your opponent has low health and it won't take much to finish them off, you may want to go with a Power Blow because you won't have to worry about timing a juggle to follow the Power Launcher. It's easy damage that's hard to mess up.

Other characters will not be able to get much damage from a Power Launcher, so they'll opt to use a Power Blow most of the time. However, if you find yourself trapped in an area with a ceiling, such as the Temple of the Dragon stage, you may want to use a Power Launcher to ensure you break through a wall and head outside to the Sakura stage where there's no ceiling. Some characters gain a big advantage on stages with a ceiling, so it would be in your best interest to remove that advantage. While you can get outside with a Power Blow, a number of facts could prevent you from breaking through the wall, such as distance and your angle to the wall. You have more freedom to combat those variables after a Power Launcher.

Another big change in DOA5 Ultimate that may only be noticeable to competitive players is the additional recovery frames after a low counterhold when used during a stun. In the original DOA5, if you missed a low hold while stunned, you had a recovery period of 17 frames. In DOA5 Ultimate, the recovery period has been extended to 22 frames.

It's not uncommon for many players to abuse the low hold during a stun because it ducks under high attacks while simultaneously countering low attacks. However, with the additional recovery on the low hold, players may have to think twice about using that tactic. If you punish a missed hold with a throw, the throw becomes hi-counter, which means it inflicts more damage than normal. With a greater threat of being punished for using a low hold, hopefully some players will work on their defensive skills so they don't get stunned in the first place.

A lot of the guaranteed damage that was featured in DOA5 is now gone. We have yet to find new ways to get guaranteed damage, especially from grounded hits. From what we can tell, Ultimate will play closer to Dead or Alive 4 than DOA5. DOA4 essentially didn't have a ground game, and with the guaranteed ground damage seemingly gone, it looks as though DOA5 Ultimate is heading in that direction. We'll have more hands on time with DOA5 Ultimate as we approach its September 3rd release date.