- Total Score - 9.1/109.1/10
It’s robust and fun fighting system, a plethora of online functions and excellent mode selection make Dead or Alive 6 shine.
Developer – Team Ninja
Release Date – March 1, 2019
Platforms – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Fighting games have had a great resurgence during this generation. Old franchises have evolved with new entries, new franchises have picked up the torch of older games no longer with us, and the rise of social media has given life to even the most niche of fighters. This time around Team Ninja returns with Dead or Alive 6, the latest entry in the classic franchise.
Dead or Alive is Team Ninja’s fast paced fighting game series that has often been a graphical showcases for consoles in it’s time. Whether its DOA 2 Hardcore on the Dreamcast, DOA 3 being an Xbox launch title or DOA 4 being a stunner early on during the launch period of the Xbox 360.
It’s also well known for its pretty woman and skimpy clothing, but beyond the cleavage it’s also a very solid fighting game. A three button layout not too dissimilar from Virtua Fighter ensures anybody can pick up a controller and play. The hold system is what separates the first timers from the veterans, as every attack in Dead or Alive can be countered.
Dead or Alive 6 continues that tradition and like many other fighters decided to add its own version of supers an meter management. A new two bar special meter will now fill as you engage in battle, and players can spend their meter by using one of two new techniques. A break hold uses only one meter, and is essentially a get out of jail free card. it will counter any attack regardless of direction. If you spend two meters you can launch a break blow, a heavy attack that usually ends in a big blow that will send an opponent flying full screen.
In keeping up with DOA tradition however the new S button used for those techniques has a more depth than that. You can use it for sidestep attacks, and it also features it’s own auto combo of sorts that can be pulled off even in the meter is empty. Break blows can be held, and instead of a full animation you can stun your opponent which can lead to all sorts of custom combo’s and mix-ups.
Overall the new break system feels great and meshes well with Dead or Alive’s triangle style combat system. It adds depth, but doesn’t slow the game down with overly long animations and adds another layer to the mind games during a fight.
Attention must also be paid to the absolutely fantastic training mode. I decided to take a look at what a tutorial in Dead or Alive would be like and was honestly blown away. In the line of the Arc System Work games and the dojo in Killer Instinct it does an absolutely fantastic job of breaking down the entire game. Starting with basic movement, combat, and all of the little tricks to help new players get ahead. It showcases not just button commands, but timings, explains the when and why of a technique then lets you practice it. It will even give you feedback on your timing and by the end of it you will be a much more sound player for going through it.
Command training and combo challenges also return from previous entries, and are always a great way to sample a characters move-list before you hop online. Rounding out the single player offerings are the return of story mode, and a brand new quest mode.
Quest mode is new to Dead or Alive, and is one of the best ways of unlocking costumes. I saw some compare it to mission master mode in Soul Calibur, but in practice it reminded me of the challenge mode in Mortal Kombat 9. When you start the mode newcomer Nico will greet you and then present you with over 150 challenges. Each challenge has three stars and later challenges are gated by how many stars you possess.
Some early challenges are simple enough, often serving as slight tutorials for a specific character or a game mechanic. Sometimes you may need to land a long combo and win within a certain amount of time to earn all three stars for example.
Each challenge is character specific. If you’re stuck with a character you don’t like, the game has a button that will take you right to training mode with that character. It will then give you a command or combo that will help you achieve that objective. Whenever you feel like you’re ready just tap one button and you’re right back in to compete in that challenge. Story mode also works the same way. It’s a fantastic system and allows you to quickly get a feel for a new character before you’re thrown head first into battle without knowing anything about how they play.
Story mode once again tells the tale of DOATEC, super ninjas and a tournament that’s just kind of around it seems. In concept it tells it’s story in a non linear fashion, with the main story told in chapters with multiple gaps that are meant to be filled in by playing individual character stories to complete the whole picture. It’s a nice way to have every character involved without shoehorning them into the main plot. Bass wouldn’t really fit in with a clan of ninja fighting against a bio engineered super boss, so its good that they don’t even try. Instead most of the character stories are one or two chapters of what they are up too during the insanity.
In actual practice the layout of the story and how it flows is a mess, with a confusing layout that is a clear step down from the previous entry and Soul Calibur’s story mode. Cut scenes are often abrupt, and if you don’t engage in all of the character chapters to fill in the blanks it can lead to some hilariously bad story moments. Overall it does tell a story, even if its decidedly C movie territory. I actually prefer the CG endings of part four. I miss the random Aerosmith fueled ninja opera of Helena’s true ending and would prefer to see that version of wacky story vs this style.
The same could be said about the rest of the game unfortunately. Dead or Alive 6 is a great game to actually get in and play, and the new mechanics really add a layer on top of an already well balanced fighting engine. The game is also colorful, a thing sorely missing for most of DOA 5’s visuals.
The problem resides in everything outside of the core combat, and the single player options have taken several steps backwards. Tag battles are gone, and nothing has stepped up to fill that void. While it was never pitched as a tag battle game it has been a mainstay since the second game. Now I’m not against shedding legacy modes but at least give us something new and exciting to play around with, instead they replaced it with nothing. It’s going to be missed as it was a great mode to hop in an play with friends.
Arcade mode returns as well, but its a very minimum effort affair. Pick a fighter and fight through a difficulty setting and after 8 fights you get a score an that’s it. No character specific endings, CG, art, nothing, and the new costume unlocking system doesn’t give players a reason to play this mode either. Time Attack follows a similar fate.
Survival comes back, but despite having two arena stages only one of them is selectable. It also feels overly easy, usually taking up to 20 opponents to get tough, even on the harder settings.
The base roster is also a bit of a letdown. Newcomers Nico and Diego are welcome additions who fit in with the rest of the cast but the sheer number of missing characters from Last Round stings. Now I totally understand I’m comparing the launch of a new game compared to multiple years worth of expansions, new versions and DLC but it doesn’t help make up for the lost fighters. From the excellent Virtua Fighter characters, Momiji, Rachel and others.
Graphically the game is uneven. While it’s a big step up from five, the stages are still pretty forgettable and nowhere as impressive as the large, expansive stages of the earlier entries. Some levels and lighting conditions can really pop while the same two fighters on a different stage can look like they came right from the last game.
Fans of the classic games will be pleased however by the inclusion of classic music. Almost all of the songs from every Dead or Alive game are present and you unlock them and opt to replace various stage and menu music with old classics.
Compounding the lack of returning modes is the new costume unlock method they have implemented. In previous games you could simply pick your favorite character, hop into arcade mode and get to work. When you would start getting to the flashier costumes, you would have to do things like beat it on legendary difficulty, or clear time attack within certain parameters. It could get tough. but you always unlocked a costume for the specific character you wanted. **Editors Note** As of 3/4/19 significant changes have been made to the costume unlock system. Now parts are unlocked in much higher numbers and for the specific character used. The score has been adjusted accordingly.
Instead doing any activity in this game will reward you with costume parts for a random character. Get enough costume parts and then you can spend gold you’re earning from matches to buy the costume you unlocked. It’s an very clumsy system that is purely RNG and feels specifically designed for a mobile game or to try and sell players on $90 dollar season pass content. After fifteen hours of dedicated playtime I’ve yet to unlock a single costume for three of my favorite characters. Overall it’s a massive step down from previous games, and as somebody who doesn’t even care about unlocking costumes for all of the characters this method is poorly designed and implemented even worse.
The ranked matches work well enough, and despite the PC and Xbox versions not allowing players to set search parameters for some odd reason it plays fine. It doesn’t feature rollback netcode, but the twenty or so matches I’ve had across all three platforms never gave me a problem outside of one isolated encounter.
Dead or Alive 6 steps into the new generation with a refined combat system that is a blast to play.