Why Dead or Alive 6 Needs to Shake Things Up

You’d think that after a 5 year lull, an announcement for a new Dead or Alive game would have been enthusiastically received. However, Dead or Alive 6 attracted a mixed reception hot on the heels of its reveal trailer. There’s been outrage about the new, grittier aesthetic. Some people are upset about the Soft Engine’s wasted potential. Others just seem to be confused about why the latest title has departed from DOA5‘s fanservice-heavy formula. That being said, out with the old and in with the new is how the industry works. Games need to change to survive, and here’s a couple of reasons why I think DOA6 is the way it is.

Fanservice Faux Pas

Dead_Or_Alive_6_Kasumi

There’s no doubt that Koei Tecmo have made a killing off the back of DOA5. Well, off the bare-skinned backs of its playable characters, rather. That’s not a problem for the studio; they’ve had years of hawking ridiculously skimpy DLC at ridiculously devoted fans. I’m one of those fans who felt that Kasumi in swimwear was an absolute necessity, so this doesn’t come from a place of judgement.

That being said, a lot of my friends were put off by the fact that DOA5 focused so much on the rosters’ assets. It’s a surface-level criticism that can be put to bed rather easily, but it’s still a concern. In an age where eSports are entering mainstream awareness, publishers are being smart about image. The fighting game circuit has long been dominated by Tekken, Street Fighter and Smash. They’re considered serious titles and are often stacked up against DOA‘s penchant for beach volleyball babes. The franchise has always worn its fanservice badge proudly, but that may not be commercially viable in today’s social environment.

Old Boys’ Club

Fighting games can evoke a certain association with machismo. It’s probably an outdated association, but it exists. The earliest wrestling games involved men beating each other to a pulp, and that identity that persists in mainstream fighters. We see it in games where characters bleed, bruise, and curse until they’re knocked unconscious. DOA always strayed away from that, preferring a bouncier and more light-hearted approach to kicking your teeth in.

Now, DOA6 looks to implement injuries on its fighters, toned-down environments and a darker atmosphere. All the ugliness that comes with hand to hand combat is going to be displayed on your avatar. There’s a conversation there to be had about injuries on women that I’m sure will crop up. Separate to that is the fact that DOA6 now has a lot more in common with its competition.

The series is falling in line with what existing titles have, and it’s sacrificing some of its bombast to do it. Yohei Shimbori told IGN that DOA6 would be a more “cool and mature” take sans sexualization. That might not be a bad thing if it reaps the rewards of a new audience, and I doubt the decision was made lightly. It’s about keeping up with the big boys on the block.

Action Should Be Accessible

 Dead_or_Alive_6_Combo

Each fighting game has its own unique mechanics. Tekken benefits from complex combos and precise execution. Comparatively, DOA has always had a laissez-faire approach to action; it’s always been easier to pick up and play. DOA6 isn’t changing any core mechanics, but it’s made the choice to streamline them for amateurs. In fact, it’s been confirmed that there will be one-button special effects that allow players to execute combos regardless of experience.

The game isn’t being dumbed down, but it’s good to see DOA6 innovate in the accessibility department. There’s nothing worse than being new to a series only to be put off by an impenetrable meta. Koei Tecmo has clearly designed DOA6 with both fans and newcomers alike. Too many established franchises confuse poorly-explained legacy systems with authenticity. The makeover being more than skin-deep is a welcome change. The fact that the developers didn’t rest on their laurels despite the game’s reputation as being “less hardcore” is encouraging.

The jury is still out on whether the changes to DOA6 will stick. Many fans remember the Soft Engine’s triumphant return after Koei Tecmo swore off sexuality. We could potentially see a perky return to form before launch. However, there’s no doubt that the DOA franchise needed to evolve. What changes do you want to see in DOA6? Is DOA5 the peak of what the series has to offer? Let us know in the comments below.