Dead or Alive franchise somehow managed to survive for more than 20 years in the harsh fighting game landscape. Not only that, it actually managed to retain the same level of quality for all that time, which is something that even the greatest fighting game series cannot brag with. Some malicious comments would say the main reason for the popularity of Dead or Alive is the jiggle boob physics and heavy reliance on fanservice, but it wouldn’t be completely true. Beyond all those scantily clad women and bouncing mammaries lies a true fighting gem. The further proof for that is the collaboration with Virtua Fighter for the previous iteration of the game. And for this sequel, Koei Tecmo decided to step harder on the serious pedal.
Graphically, Dead or Alive 6 doesn’t differ greatly from the previous iteration. The character design remains the same, which is good but because it was really great, a mixture of realistic and animesque characters with a very attractive physical look. However, if you look closely into the characters you will notice that there are certain improvements in the quality of textures, facial features, lightning, and the display of damage. Everything looks smoother and tightened up by a notch.
However, the most prominent feature of this game is the evolved battle system. As you probably already know, Dead or Alive games have three types of battle maneuvers: strikes, throws, and holds. The triangle system these games are implementing means that strikes beat throws, throws beat holds, and holds beat strikes. This opens the door for very interesting tactical and technical game plans, which makes the player want to learn all three in order to battle efficiently.
This already established system is enriched with some new features. First of all, there is a Fatal Rush, which was an up-to-four combination move you can do by pressing the newly introduced Special button (R1 on PS4, RB on Xbox One). Fatal Rush looks really great, but the sequence is always the same so it shouldn’t be used too often because of the holds. On the other hand, this mechanic allows you to practice timing and distance without the need to learn complicated combo commands.
Another introduction is Break Gauge, which was the first super bar ever in this series. You can fill the bar by either giving and taking damage or blocking. Once the Break Gauge is full, there are two special moves you can perform against your opponent. First is Break Blow, a single powerful, destructive attack that will deal considerable damage and bounce your opponent back to the ropes. The other one is Break Hold, which doesn’t do much damage, but it can counter every attack, no matter the height (low, medium, or high). The first attack is used by pressing forward and Special at the same time, while the special hold is used by the combination of back and special.
Some would say these new features make the game too simple, and that introduction of the special gauge is stepping into the arcade territory. We respectfully disagree with those critics, because we think that the introduction of special abilities only adds another layer of strategy, especially considering those easy combos remove can be countered easily. The horse reactions would be in place if we were talking about Virtua Fighter games, which are hardcore simulations, but Dead or Alive games are much zanier and over the top in comparison.
The intention behind this sequel was to make Dead or Alive cooler are more mature in visual presentation, so you won’t be seeing half-naked women fighting each other on the beach, and the famous bouncing of certain areas is reduced to a normal measure. Costumes are much more appropriate to a fighting game, and female fighters seem more like real human beings than RealDolls. The facial animations are now more realistic, and your favorite character won’t be so attractive at all times, especially while blocking a fist or foot with the face. Speaking about characters, most of them are recurring with several newcomers. First of all, there’s NiCO, the lightning technomancer, and probably cyborg, who fights by using electrical attacks and teleportation. The second newcomer is Diego, a Mexican street brawler, who reminds a lot of Miguel from Tekken series.
It is great to see this fighting franchise back in a bit more serious manner. Let’s hope that upcoming DLC content won’t ruin this with a couple of hundreds of swimsuits and fetish fuel costumes and that this game will continue its long road into non-gimmick fighting games.