Dead or Alive 6 Review — Back from Vacation and Stronger than Ever
Dead or Alive 6 is the most enjoyable and accessible title in the fighting series yet, though its story and online modes leave a bit to be desired.
The Dead or Alive series has always been able to carve out its own unique niche in the fighting game space. I’m not normally into 3D fighters, and I prefer 2D, but I was drawn in by Dead or Alive 4’s fun mechanics and have stuck within the mainline series since. That being said, I haven’t been a fan of how the series has progressed since Dead or Alive 5 released. The endless and expensive streams of DLC didn’t interest me and Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 isn’t really my kind of game. That’s why I was very happy when Dead or Alive 6 was finally announced by Koei Tecmo last year.
I was able to try Dead or Alive 6 last E3 and it quickly rose to become one of my most anticipated fighters. I wanted to see where the series’ story and gameplay went now that Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo were just focusing on the current generation of consoles, and I was already impressed by the visuals and sound design. While the story and online modes ended up disappointing me, Dead or Alive 6 still is a satisfying and shockingly accessible 3D fighter that I’ve had a lot of playing, especially in the DOA Quest mode.
When it comes to the roster in general, I was definitely pleased. While having two DLC characters at launch may disappoint some, especially considering they are both flaunted and fought in Dead or Alive 6’s story mode, the 24 playable characters are all flamboyantly flashy and unique in their own right and are surprisingly easy to transition between due to the game’s simple to learn and fun to master fighting mechanics. Newcomers Diego and NiCO actually became some of my favorite characters to use.
For those unaware, Dead or Alive 6 is a 3D fighter that is based around a “triangular” combat system that encourages holds, reversals, and throws much more than most fighters. Baseline fighting is fairly intuitive as always, with most combo inputs making sense for what moves they execute. I already considered the Dead or Alive series to be very accessible, but I was surprised that the level of accessibility was turned up a notch here and it wasn’t at the cost of depth.
Dead or Alive 6 features a surprisingly robust tutorial mode and will helpfully encourage and link players to it after tough losses. Competitive players have no need to fret, Dead or Alive is still just as flashy and fun to master as ever. For newcomers, R1 has been designated as the “Fatal Rush” button. Using this button, players can not only perform character-unique auto combos ala Dragon Ball FighterZ, but also use this to perform cinematic fatal blows and fatal reversals that allows players to get out of sticky situations when fighting players that may be more experienced than them.
Even if you aren’t usually a fan of 3D fighters, Dead or Alive 6 is a very enjoyable game to break into this subgenre with. As for longtime series fans, the fighting experience is just as enjoyable as ever and some of the flashy introductions surrounding Fatal Rush will make Dead or Alive 6 enjoyable to watch in the long term. Outside of standard Versus, players can also test their skills in Arcade, Time Attack, and Survival modes, which all function as they should and are good places to test the ins and outs of characters in.
After vetting through these modes, there are two more robust single-player modes for players to tackle: DOA Quest and Story Mode. DOA Quest is a ton of fun and challenges players to get well acquainted with Dead or Alive 6’s entire roster. At launch, this mode features nearly 100 “Quests” which come down to simple fights with three unique challenges. At first, simply clearing a quest may count, but by the end of things, this mode is asking you to pull off multiple complex moves in long Survival mode style fights with multiple characters.
This mode is intertwined with the tutorials too, referring players to it if the game notices you failed certain challenges centered around complex moves. By fulfilling all the challenges with a quest, players can unlock a wide variety of extras, namely new customization options, or at least the gold to purchase them. Even though Dead or Alive 6’s customization doesn’t have the depth of something like Injustice 2, it will still give players the tools to make their favorite characters unique. DOA Quest was by far my favorite portion of Dead or Alive 6 and is a mode I hope Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja continue to support with new quests throughout 2019.
The game’s Story Mode fairs much less favorably, mainly due to how it is distilled to players. The developers made the decision to split up the story not only into several independent access chapters, but independently accessible scenes. With every chapter, you’ll be able to access some story scenes and unlock others after finishing them. While Hayate, Kasumi, and Ayane’s storyline are the most straightforward of the bunch, the rest of Dead or Alive 6’s story mode is haphazard, to say the least.
The game’s entire roster has anywhere from 1 to over 10 scenes to choose from. Sometimes every scene a character that is connected, sometimes they are not and need a thorough backstory to be fed to the player by other scenes (that aren’t properly placed or marked as such) or pre-scene text. Then, between every scene, fight, and boot back to the menu, there is a loading screen. Generally, the load times in Dead or Alive 6 are quick and not an issue; that being said, the loading quickly gets annoying here.
This structure also hampered how character storylines could be presented. Specifically, newcomer Diego’s story toys with some interesting themes as he has to decide between street fighting to support his mother or falling into the demands of Mila, Zach, and Rig to fight in the titular tournament. While his story’s ending is interesting, it doesn’t tie into the main plot at all and how his story unfolds and unlocks kills any pacing it may have had.
The groundwork for a crazy and fun plot is here, but it isn’t presented well enough to ascend to that level. This was one of the first game plots I’ve laughed a lot at in a while, and that was usually because of how random, out of place, or awkward some scenes felt when I watched them. There’s a fun story to be told here, but unless you are a Dead or Alive lore master or want to experience every fight designed by the developers, this mode will stand as a blemish on an otherwise great fighting game due to how it is delivered.
To also address the elephant in the room: Yes, the sexuality of the characters isn’t as overt in Dead or Alive 6. That being said, I saw this as a barely noticeable non-issue that didn’t have any significant impact on the game’s quality. If this is something that personally bothers you then so be it, but for myself, I found it didn’t hinder the actual gameplay or content within.
Online play is a significant part of any fighting game’s success and what’s needed competitively is here. At launch, Dead or Alive 6’s multiplayer seems to be quite stable; that being said, it only consists of ranked matches and not much else. While the online portion of the game is getting a Lobby Match feature later on in March, it’s a glaring omission at release.
For a game that’s surprisingly satisfactory when it comes to single-player content and has smooth netcode, it’s really unfortunate to see that Team Ninja dropped the ball when it comes to online content at release when it’s something Dead or Alive 6’s peers do so well. While Dead or Alive 6 won’t be at EVO 2019 and has some pretty strong contemporaries in Tekken 7 and SoulCalibur VI, the depth in fighting mechanics and focus on Ranked Mode should still sustain a healthy online community in the months to come.
Dead or Alive 6’s sound design also proves to be a positive, really accentuating many of the fights. The sounds and impacts made with blows make every punch, throw, and fatal rush feel rewarding to pull off. The English dub also defies the spotty story mode and delivers lines well for the most part. Personally, I stuck to the Japanese dub as it is performed slightly better and matches mouth movements in story mode. As for the visuals, character models and stages are impressive and memorable, though there are better looking fighter games on the market.
I was definitely interested in seeing how a new Dead or Alive would fare in a fighting game market that has evolved a lot over the past six and a half years. Fighting games have gotten faster and more accessible than ever, and Dead or Alive 6, fortunately, follows that same trend. Even if the series may have meandered so far this gen, Dead or Alive 6 makes great and accessible strides for the series on current-gen consoles, only being held back by the story’s awkward presentation and a lackluster online experience at launch.