Allow me to be perfectly honest. I’m the type that enjoys playing fighting games for the stories the developers have weaved together. Those familiar with me know that I am not a competitive gamer by any stretch of the imagination, partly due to the fact that I’m terrible when it comes to playing online. Playing offline within my circle of friends, no one is really better than anyone else. Jumping into the territory of online play is a whole different world. It’s for this reason that Dead or Alive ranks near the top in my personal list of favorite fighting franchises. It’s up there with Mortal Kombat, Smash Brothers, and Injustice. Less of a weight on the competition side, more in favor of the fun factor. So when Team Ninja confirmed they were working on Dead or Alive 6, needless to say, I was hyped. After playing through it, I still am hyped, but maybe not as much as I would like to have been.
Title: Dead or Alive 6
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Game Provided By Koei Tecmo for the Purpose of This Review
Dead or Alive 6 has a lot going in its favor. Quite a bit better than 2012’s DOA5, the gameplay is fast and sometimes frantic while maintaining an impressive sense of fluidity. Without question, the easiest entry in the series to just pick up and play, even if you aren’t very good at fighting games. This is largely in part due to the crew at Team Ninja wanting this to be a great entry point for newcomers, so a lot of mechanics were designed around that need for accessibility.
A new way to pull off a super impressive combo, known as Fatal Rush, is to simply tap the right shoulder button 4 times. Other combos still exist like in previous games, but the Fatal Rush is there to help out in a pinch or for beginners to really be able to learn the ropes. If the Break Gauge is full when you perform the Fatal Rush combo, it’ll end in a super Critical Blow move which was introduced back in Dead or Alive 5. In all, it works really well and made for some exciting moments in close matches.
The roster features an impressive list of 24 characters, with fan favorites such as Ryu Hayabusa, Kasumi, Helena, and Tina all returning. Newcomers Diego, a street fighter from New York City, and NiCO, a scientist and silat martial artist from Finland, are joining the cast and are super fun to play as. My personal favorites still consist of Leifang, Marie Rose, Jann Lee, Hayate, and Christie, as I find that I do the best when using one of those four characters in a match! Two additional characters are available through a pre-order bonus, and they are Nyotengu and Phase 4. Every character on the roster is unique with their own personal fighting style and way of movement. I spent hours with each individual character, and every time I would switch, I had to re-learn just a little bit of what I had previously taught myself with the last.
The story picks up right where DOA5 concluded, and involves the new DOATEC and Helena Douglas up against a sinister plot from M.I.S.T and the evil genius, NiCO. It’s a lot darker and grittier than previous games in the franchise. This can be seen in the way story events are presented through cutscenes, and the actual narrative underneath it all. The 6th Dead or Alive Tournament is taking place once again, and you’ll be able to see snippets of what each character was doing slightly before and during the tournament itself. One thing that must be said is that I feel Dead or Alive as a franchise is moving backward in terms of the story content, while moving forward with accessibility and the gameplay mechanics. Let me explain.
Dead or Alive used to tell individual stories for every character, complete with excellent endings that felt as if they meant something. Dead or Alive 5, and now DOA6, have lumped the story mode into one overarching plot, complete with a grid system that must be followed as individual sub-sections unlock over time. Good luck trying to follow the series of events happening in the order in which they actually do, as you’ll be unlocking sections of Chapter 3, and even the Prologue, as late as Chapter 5. Sounds confusing, right? That’s because it is.
Seriously. If you haven’t played Dead or Alive 4, which I consider to be the pinnacle of the franchise to date, go back and do so, at least for the story content. If you don’t want to, look up the ending for Helena’s story. There hasn’t been anything better than that yet, and there still isn’t with Dead or Alive 6. While I appreciate what the team is trying to do in tying everything together, I’d love to see the next entry move forward with individual stories once again for every character, as that made it easier to get to know what was going on with them inside and out, instead of having to try and piece things together in the overall. Some characters only get one scene in the entire story in DOA6! It was very unfortunate to see the model adopted in the previous game being used here as well.
After finishing the story mode, which should take about 6 hours or so to complete, there’s another single player mode to tackle known as DOA Quest. This is a mode that consists of a ton of individual quests, each with three unique things that must be done during each match. Successfully completing a challenge during the match will unlock a star, and these stars are used to open new quests. You can also earn currency to spend on customizing the characters and wardrobe points used for unlocking new costumes altogether. While there is a Tutorial Mode which can teach the ropes, DOA Quest also does a fantastic job at it, and will even offer to show tutorials for certain things if you find yourself struggling to complete a challenge. Plan to spend countless hours in DOA Quest to see everything.
Speaking of customization, it’s back and can be found under DOA Central. Everything about the individual characters themselves, from the costumes they are wearing, to the way they wear their hair, to the glasses they have on and the title that accompanies them can be mixed up in the Wardrobe. It’s important to note that the over-emphasis on the jiggling mechanics that has plagued the franchise in the past is now just that.. a thing of the past. While there are still some skimpy outfits and plenty of panty-shots, the exaggeration of the bouncing and jiggling has been drastically reduced. That isn’t to say it’s gone completely, just reduced. I do think this is a blessing in disguise for the game, as a lot of people wrote it off for that reason alone. Moving to a more natural feel is definitely the right way to go.
Stages are quite varied, each offering up different levels of Danger Zones which inflict heavy damage to fighters if knocked into them. One of my favorites while checking out all the different stages was the Chinese Festival. Getting knocked into the spectators will cause them to throw you back at your opponent, much like the wall of a mosh-pit at a rock concert. Getting knocked up into the air and landing on firecrackers will also cause some serious damage and explosions to start going off. Stages are somewhat destructible as well if you knock your opponent in to certain areas just right.
Online play is what Dead or Alive 6 will live and die by, and thankfully jumping in to matches and competing against anyone and everyone is a breeze. The competitive nature is certainly there for those seeking the thrill, it just isn’t something that gets me excited. One thing Koei Tecmo mentioned to us during the review period is that the Lobby Match feature will be debuting in the game later in March. This will make it even easier to set up matches and make connections. For now, Ranked Matches still exist and is how you’ll be jumping into the battle online.
I wish I could say this was the definitive Dead or Alive experience. I really do. That honor still belongs to Dead or Alive 4. There’s an insane amount of fun to be had in DOA6, and it truly is a great game for pure fighting mechanics and unique characters. The story mode really just left me scratching my head though, as it honestly felt to me as if it just ended with a lot of gaps still needing to be filled. If we can get back to the individual side of character stories in Dead or Alive 7, while staying true to the new mechanics and systems introduced in this latest entry, then I’ll be a happy camper. But for now, I still have a lot of enjoyment to get out of Dead or Alive 6, and I’m thankful to see the positive changes Team Ninja has made.
8.5 / 10