For years, it almost seemed as if Dead or Alive wouldn’t move on from the fifth chapter of the series. Koei Tecmo has continuously been feeding that particular entry with a number of add-on outfits, including some, ahem, suggestive ones for the fans. And then we got Last Round, which expanded the game with two additional characters, as well as additional stages and even more outfits. While the game certainly did the series justice with its wild fighting action, great array of characters and, of course, giving its female roster alluring stuff to wear, some fans were wondering if the series would ever manage to evolve to a sixth chapter. Then, last E3, we finally got our answer as Dead or Alive 6 was announced.
What’s more is the developers at Team Ninja finally decided to shy away from the “cheesecake factor,” as it were. Instead, it’s focusing on the fighting. Not that the game doesn’t have its fair share of silliness and sexiness, but it seems like producer/director Yohei Shimbori and his team wanted to make the game more of a contender in the ring, rather than just something that leaned more towards the sexy side of things. Fans are still going to love it in just a few short weeks when the game hits consoles and PC.
Koei Tecmo was kind enough to invite me down to take a look at a near-final build of the game, to try out some of its new features, as well as take a closer look at its expanded roster, along with a few returning favorites that were more than ready to pack a punch.
First off, if you want the sexy, there’s still more than enough to go around. For instance, Nyotengu has a sweet little Catwoman costume that’s sure to get a few hardcore fighting fans, ahem, purring for more. However, some outfits have also left a little bit to the imagination. For example, Kasumi now wears full leather body costumes to match her ninja style, but it’s definitely something that fits her character to a tee. Likewise, Hitomi has more traditional fighting gear on, rather than something that would suggest she’s all about showing off her cleavage.
They’re outfits that seem to suit the characters better this time around, but there are some that still lean on the outrageous. For instance, the wrestling gear, worn by Tina, and others, is about as fun as you might expect it to be.
Now, that aside, let’s talk about the stages. There’s still a bit of craziness going on with some of these. For instance, one stage actually has an octopus tentacle come out (no porn references, gosh) and slam your opponent around blindly if you manage to hit the wall that brings it out. Likewise, there’s also a strange stage that seems to take place in the past, as you can ram someone into a dinosaur egg and then watch as a pterodactyl comes out, picks up your opponent and throws him or her to the ground. Ridiculous? Totally. But it wouldn’t be Dead or Alive if we didn’t have transitions like these.
Meanwhile, some of the other fighting stages are outstanding. There’s one that takes place in what appears to be a dingier part of town, where you can ram opponents into objects and even the crowd, where they get thrown back at you, enabling your character to get in a few extra hits. It’s a very cool stage, and one that’s sure to be a favorite with fans…that is, if the dinosaur one isn’t their speed. The wrestling ring is spectacular as well. It looks to be a revamp of a stage from a previous entry in the series, complete with electrified ropes and lots of flashing lights. It’s highly enjoyable, especially when you get to show off your high-profile combos in front of a crowd. Nothin’ like putting on a clinic in front of the fans!
Speaking of the game’s visuals, Dead or Alive 6 may be the most detailed entry in the series yet. That’s saying something, because Last Round didn’t look too shabby at all. The game moves at a breezy 60 frames per second and doesn’t lose any bit of its detail. We took a look at all versions across the board and were hard-pressed to tell the difference between them. Granted, the game probably looks best with an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro, but traditional players will like what this game has to offer anyway.
Then there’s the audio, which is about on par with what we’ve seen from the series to date. There weren’t any English voices in the demo we tried out (it’s likely to be an option in the game, as some die-hard Dead or Alivers live for that cheesy dialogue), but the Japanese voices are superb. On top of that, the rock music has once again returned, serving up a dose of cheesy goodness with each fight that you take on. The sound effects literally pack a punch, as the pounding noises from landing devastating hits on your opponent thunder through your stereo speakers like nobody’s business.
Then we get to the controls. And we’re happy to report that, thus far, Dead or Alive 6 truly plays like a dream. The game’s traditional controls are back in action, but there are some new features to keep you involved as well, which we’ll break down as we go on.
First off, the counters still feel as natural as ever, although they’re not quite out-of-hand as they were in previous entries in the series. That’s a good thing, as you can strategically plan these to try to turn a combo in your favor. On top of that, grab moves are still highly effective, as you can launch into a quick throw that can chip off some of your foe’s energy. These are especially useful on those that like to get close to you, as you can block and surprise them with a quick move to get some momentum going back on your side.
Of course, the combos are the thing. With each character, you can set up some swift multi-hit moves that can easily win you a match. Granted, you won’t really want to spam them, as there are other moves that you can mix up to keep opposing players guessing. For instance, aerial kicks and quick dodges can go a long way, as you can surprise with something unexpected.
However, there’s a new super system at play here, and it’s likely to become a favorite with some of you Dead or Alive diehards. It consists of hitting the right bumper button, which can land a power move once you get within range of your opponent. Why stop at just one, though?
You can actually chain together four of these moves if you’re fast enough. Once you do that, if you’ve got a full energy bar (from successfully landing other moves over the course of the fight), then you can set up a super attack, such as punching someone in the face with the right amount of speed, or landing a final blow that can really knock out a good portion of their energy. This is a real tide-turner over the course of a match, so you’ll want to save it for the right time. or maybe finish off a match the flashiest way possible, if you’ve got those kind of Dead or Alive skills.
This can take a bit of practice, as there were some matches in which we could feel opponents trying to “spam” these moves, but land it the right way and you could deliver a devastating blow that could get you that much closer to winning the match. Definitely give it some practice. As for new blood within the game, the main focus is on NICO, a robo-scientist that’s a huge draw alongside the other players. She’s swift, but also knowledgeable and highly effective when it comes to landing power moves. You’ll definitely want to try her out if you’re not too busy getting used to veterans from the series, such as Christie and Ryo Hayabusa. Yep, he’s back, and his spinning head driver is still glorious.
Then there’s Raidou, a demon-ish sort of figure that can actually put a real hurt on his opponents. He’s colored very differently than other characters, and a lot faster than you might expect him to be. Still, he’s a lot of fun to play, and some fans will be happy to see him in action once more. Guess when they say “dead or alive,” they mean “more likely alive,” huh? Going back to NICO, she actually ties in with one of the more crucial modes that have been added to Dead or Alive 6 in the form of mission mode. Here, you’ll not only learn about basics for the game, but you’ll also be able to unlock a bevy of new gear for your fighters, along with additional missions.
It works on a three-star system, one that works incredibly well for a game such as this. The opening missions start out easily enough, with having to complete things like a lower attack, sidestepping opponents the right way, or chaining together enough hits into a combo. As time goes on and you unlock more missions (with the stars that you attain over the course of the mode), tasks do become tougher, but they’re also more rewarding. You’ll learn about new moves within the game and become better at controlling your favorite characters or possibly a newcomer that you never thought you’d be able to embrace. That makes Dead or Alive 6 much more accessible than other games in the past, save for Aksys Games’ offerings, which come with highly detailed tutorials.
The traditional Arcade mode also makes a return, pitting you against a string of opponents across varied stages. If you want to see what the game is all about real quick, this is the mode for you. It follows the tradition of the mode in other DoA games and provides quick fun if you’re just up for a few rounds of battle.
The Story mode is also here, and though our hands-on didn’t allow us time to see what the backstory of the game was all about, it does sound promising, especially with Raidou back in the picture. Plus, we’re interested in seeing just how involved NICO becomes over the course of the game. Does she serve a higher purpose than Team Ninja seems to be letting on? We’ll just have to wait a few short weeks in order to find out.
There are other modes as well, custom built for taking on online competitors (and some locals, if you prefer that set-up), making Dead or Alive 6 a well-rounded package for those willing to invest. It’s unknown if it’ll have as elaborate a DLC plan as Last Round did, but it sounds like the team is on board for making it all about the competition, and putting a dent in the fighting game market.
Dead or Alive 6 seems to be a game that caters to all kinds of players thus far. It definitely has some sexiness going for it, but Team Ninja is also devoted to the idea of making a fun, hardcore and accessible (yes, a game can be all those at once) game. It’s one that everyone can jump into and have a field day with, and the more you tinker with it, the more you learn and the more devastating you become, for that matter.
We’ll still have to measure a few components before we give the final say in our review, but thus far, Team Ninja has really managed to regenerate interest in this franchise, rather than keeping everything going with another addition to DoA5.
Dead or Alive 6drops on March 1 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
(Thanks to Koei Tecmo for having us down at the event! More Japanese candy, please.)