In the buildup to DEAD OR ALIVE 6‘s release, Team Ninja director Yohei Shimbori has been open about it being the start of a new direction for the fighting game series meant to appeal to both Japanese and Western audiences. Several changes have been made in terms of presentation, as the game is bloodier than before and character outfits are less revealing by default, aside from the bouncy “softness” option. For the most part, Dead or Alive 6 manages to succeed in its aspirations.
The core gameplay of Dead or Alive hasn’t changed here. The series has always had a rock-paper-scissors type system where strikes beat throws, holds defeat strikes, and throws get the better of holds. That’s all in place here, although there is a heavier focus on presentation. For example, there is some slight slow motion during key moments and characters show significant damage throughout the fight. Nothing has been removed besides the ability to fight in tag battles, which is certainly a small bummer in of itself since tag mode is always a great mode in any fighting game.
The biggest new mechanic is the Fatal Rush that players can trigger by simply pressing the right bumper multiple times in a row. Not only does this make the character hit a combo attack, but they’ll also use their Break Gauge special attack if it’s filled when doing so. The right bumper is also used to unleash a Fatal Reversal move, which is a great way to change the tide of battle. All of these additions add a nice layer of strategy, while also being easy enough for newer players to use.
Dead or Alive 6 Review | A disappointing story
There are only two new characters in Dead or Alive 6, and while that number might be low, they both make up for it by being extremely fun to play as. Diego is a tough New York City-born street fighter that makes his living by taking on opponents in underground bouts throughout the city. His fighting technique is rather predictable as someone that hones his craft in unlicensed mixed martial arts bouts, but it’s also fun to play as. The other character, named NiCO, is a blue-haired scientist that is able to strike opponents with bursts of electricity. Throw in a selection of Pencak Silat (a type of indigenous martial arts) moves and she has another great base. Both characters are a joy to use and help diversify the game’s roster a great deal.
Both characters pop up in Dead or Alive 6‘s story mode, with NiCO taking an extremely large role as a M.I.S.T. scientist that is researching how to bring the dead back to life. However, while the story mode should be a great showcase for fighters new and old alike, it winds up being a mess. The narrative is extremely disjointed as it jumps around from the perspectives of different characters while not connecting them in many meaningful ways and it features some of the worst lip syncing in a major release in a number of years. It looks as if there was no attempt to match the English voices to the mouth movements on-screen and it comes across as a B-level production.
While the main story is finished within 20 short levels or so (some of which are just cutscenes), the greater tale of the game can be seen in side missions that give a glimpse into what every character was up to. This is actually where the Dead or Alive 6 fighting tournament takes place, as it has a backseat role to the main story arc. Some of these small story arcs are fun, such as Brad Wong breaking into an ancient wrecked ship in order to find a bottle of wine, but they are rarely meaningful as most of them are complete throwaways. It’s similar to how Tekken 7 and Street Fighter 5 disappointingly handled their own character-specific stories.
Dead or Alive 6 Review | A fantastic entry point to the series
While the story mode is one massive disappointment from start to finish, Dead or Alive 6‘s tutorial is much more impressive. While the starting tutorial is rather barren, the actual training mode features over 100 different tests that go over both simple and advanced maneuvers. It’s an insightful look at just how much depth is in DOA and even veteran players will learn a thing or two due to the new gameplay additions.
However, the biggest reason to play offline is the new DOA Quest mode, which is a set of nearly 100 missions that have three separate goals to achieve within them. These range from the mundane (winning a bout) to challenging goals that force the player to take on new playstyles (such as having to counter three high attacks with holds). This is essentially a step beyond the excellent tutorial as it forces players to put all the skills that they have learned into action in order to finish the goals. It’s also a great way to earn in-game currency that can then be spent on various items and costumes for the roster of fighters.
Despite still struggling to tell a captivating story, Dead or Alive 6 is an improvement in nearly every area from its predecessor. Not only has it become more beginner friendly due to a great tutorial and the Fatal Rush mechanic, but players have more reasons to hone their skills offline due to the DOA Quest mode. The core rock-paper-scissors system of strikes, holds, and throws are as fun as ever before and are bolstered by an enhanced presentation that allows the combat to truly shine. If only the story mode was on the same level as the rest of the package, then Koei Tecmo would’ve created a fighter that could appeal to far more than its current niche. As it stands, this is a significant step forward even if it doesn’t right all the wrongs of its past.
GameRevolution reviewed Dead or Alive 6 on PS4 with a copy provided by the developer.