Team NINJA is hard at work on DEAD OR ALIVE 6, but details on the story and on what led to the choice of certain characters are often a bit on the light side.
As part of our multi-part interview recorded at the team’s headquarters in Ichigaya, Tokyo, we asked Director and Producer Yohei Shimbori, Art Director and Scenario Writer Yutaka Saito, and Technical Expert Taku Sugawara for more details on what we can expect from the upcoming game.
Since our interview was over two hours long, we had to split all that information into three parts. The first part elaborated on recent reveals and on things that have yet to be revealed (like the mysterious new female character teased by the Japanese collector’s edition). On the other hand, the second part focused on the engine and what it can achieve.
Giuseppe: The Tokyo Game Show trailer seemed to showcase a story with a darker and possibly more serious tone compared to what I’m used to seeing from the series. Could you provide more information on the tone of the storytelling?
Yutaka Saito: The part of the story focusing on the ninja always tends to be a bit darker, and the same goes for Helena Douglas and DOATEC. Then you have Zack and other characters balancing that out on the other side. In DEAD OR ALIVE 5 we looked at the individual characters, showcasing their personal peculiarities. This time we also have some fun characters, for which we’d like to showcase some lighter stories. The Ninja and Helena still tend to be more on the serious side, but it’s a combination. If I had to mention a ratio, the story is roughly 30% serious, and 70% a bit more fun. At least this is my impression at this point.
Yohei Shimbori: Of course we also mix it up: there are characters like Ayane who tend to be extremely serious, but when she starts to interact like Zack or Marie Rose, she changes a little bit. The combination of different characters interacting which each other can also show different sides to them, which is one of the appealing elements of DEAD OR ALIVE.
G: In recent times, other fighting games experimented with leaving the story behind, either dropping it or downsizing it in favor of competitive and online multiplayer. Yet, they often got burned by that. You seem to be putting considerable emphasis on storytelling. How important is the story mode in DEAD OR ALIVE 6?
Yohei Shimbori: To be honest, we didn’t have a massive budget, so we didn’t think we could have too many cutscenes. Initially, we thought that we had to cut the story a bit. Yet, as developers, we really do like these characters. Even though we initially thought about making the story a little bit more lightweight, we ended up creating a really big one for the game. All the characters playable at DOA6‘s release will appear in the story, and even if not all will receive the same amount of spotlight, I think you’ll notice that we put a lot of love into this title, and I believe that really shows in the story.
Yutaka Saito: We have one big main storyline, but we also have many smaller side stories distributed throughout the game. As we were working on it, we ended up increasing the volume. While discussing this among ourselves, we found moments in which certain characters would definitely do something or a character should interact with another to make the game more interesting. As developers, we really had a lot of fun coming up with these situations, but we might have enjoyed ourselves a bit too much, and introduced too many options. Whether or not it’s a good story, we’ll leave it to the fand to decide, but on our side, it was a lot of fun to come up with the story, and I think it’ll probably be evident when people play the game.
G: Before the reveal of Marie Rose and Honoka, many thought they wouldn’t be included at all. They were the last heroines introduced in the franchise, and some believed that they wouldn’t fit into the idea of a serious fighting game as well as other characters. Was their inclusion ever in doubt, and why did you decide to include them?
Yohei Shimbori: It was never in doubt. Marie Rose is part of DOATEC and Honoka has a special power that does involve a bit of a fantasy element. Even if some may see them as a bit silly, they do have their distinct personalities and story. While they received a lot of attention due to Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, we weren’t able to show that story and personalities as much as we wanted in previous games. This time we want to show that they do have a proper role within the DOA world, and that will be apparent within the story. This is something I really wanted to do, to really show their story in this game.
Yutaka Saito: In Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 they drew more attention even compared to Kasumi and Ayane, and I knew that Shimbori really wanted to showcase their story. I had to pay attention to the balance between them and other characters. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but it’s simply to make sure that all other characters were also properly showcased. Finding the right balance is always quite the challenge but I think we managed to include in the story a lot of the things that we wanted.
Yohei Shimbori: I think that people who play Marie Rose and Honoka in DEAD OR ALIVE 6 might grow fond of them even if they weren’t before.
G: Does the story change radically depending on the character one plays or is it always the same?
Yohei Shimbori: It’s not really arcade-style, but’s it’s a bit of a newer approach for DEAD OR ALIVE. You’ll play the main story and as you progress you’ll become familiar with different characters through it. Of course, we know that not everyone enjoys playing at every single character, and everyone has their favorites. There might be side stories that players will be able to skip.
That being said, if you don’t play all the characters, you’ll probably miss on some story elements.
G: So, if I understood correctly, the story will dictate which character I’ll play at any given time as I progress through it?
Yohei Shimbori: That’s correct.
G: Is there any character that you really wanted to include in the game, but you weren’t able to for any reason?
Yohei Shimbori: This is a difficult question. We chose the characters based on the story, so there are some that we couldn’t include in the game but no characters were left out from the narrative.
G: A trend that has been very popular in Japanese fighting games is having guest characters, and you have done that with Dead or Alive 5. I heard that you’ll have none at launch in Dead or Alive 6. Could you explain this decision?
Yohei Shimbori: That is also correct. To be honest, from a business perspective, if we included guest characters that would probably help with sales, but in terms of what we wanted to do with this game, the story, and its world, we really wanted to focus as creators only on the DEAD OR ALIVE world and on the DEAD OR ALIVE 6 characters. There is really no other reason than this.
In terms of what might happen post-launch, it may be nice if something like that could happen. If there are any partners that might be interested in working with us, that’s something we can discuss.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, this is the third part of our exclusive DEAD OR ALIVE 6 coverage, so do check out the first part focused on recent reveals, and the second part with a laser-focus on the engine and what it can achieve.
If you’re interested in learning more, an event dedicated to the game named DEAD OR ALIVE Festival 2018 has also been announced and will happen on November 18th.
DEAD OR ALIVE 6 will release worldwide on February 15th, 2019 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. You can already pre-order it on Amazon.