In the lead up to the release of Dead or Alive 6, there was a lot of talk about this entry trying to become “serious”. Devs talked about toning down the sexier aspects of the characters and focusing on the fighting. I’m not sure if I should be surprised to learn that this was all mostly talk. Sure, the gameplay is as fun as ever, but it’s still a game where mashing will get you to victory against all but the toughest foes. As for the ladies of DOA, their immense proportions are still here for all to see. While most of the default costumes show less skin, there are plenty of options for those who haven’t yet discovered the magic of the Internet. In all aspects, this is still the Dead or Alive you remember, for good and for ill.
You see, Fame Douglas started a fighting tournament, but then he died. Helena has inherited DOATEC, vowing to continue where the famous one left off. Meanwhile, a blue-haired newcomer works for MIST, an evil organization bent on evil science things. Who better to stop these evil science things than ninjas and a buff military man in sunglasses? Also, there’s a drunken man fighting a demon over some wine. Several scenes take place on a pirate ship stationed next to a giant octopus. If you throw fighters into red barrels, they explode. It’s that kind of fighting game, with that kind of plot.
That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy that type of plot. It’s complete dime store nonsense and it knows it, which is refreshing in a landscape where even Tekken can achieve some gravitas. Few other stories outside of soap operas would have up to four characters discover their hidden parentage in the same plot, but that’s what Dead or Alive 6 is doing. Unfortunately, Team Ninja makes it harder than it has to be to follow what’s going on.
Story missions appear in a huge chart divided up by character rather than chronology. Missions unlock for seemingly no rhyme or reason, and you can play them out of order if you like. While it’s nice to have the option, I’d much prefer some guidance. Especially since it seems like some scenes follow up directly with other character’s storylines. There are also a few side stories mixed in with the main plot, so you just have to guess at the relevance of each scene. Generally, most players will probably come to the conclusion that none of it is relevant and read the wiki later.
Dead or Alive 6 isn’t reaching the heights of NetherRealm’s story efforts, but that’s just fine. The core fighting at the heart of the experience still shines brightly. The roster of Dead or Alive stays pretty consistent from game to game, with only a few additions for each new endeavor. If you’ve had a favorite character in the past, they’ll still move and strike as you remember. Rounds are fast and lethal, with a heavy focus on countering incoming blows and striking back with a fury. New to 6 is the Break Blow, which acts as a super move. You can string it together with an automatic combo or unleash it to catch your opponent off-guard. Either way, it fits right in with what came before and serves as a great addition.
You can also still knock your opponents around stages, but the quick bouts make that less of a factor than I’d like. You can pull them off if you try, but it’s much more efficient to just get off a few combos and claim victory. Since there aren’t a huge number of stages, the fact that transitions are now more of a showoff move hurts all the more. At least there are some nice interactive touches here and there. You can shove opponents into a crowd and they’ll push your foe right back towards you. There are also your standard electrified ring ropes and explosive danger zones, all ready to cause harm.
When you’re not trying to piece together the disparate story bits, you can fight through an arcade ladder or hit up survival mode. These act as you’d expect, although the arcade mode is really nothing special and doesn’t provide any unlockables to lure you in. In fact, the normal costumes and goodies you’d expect at the end of the arcade ladder are instead unlockable through DOA Quest. This glorified challenge mode really fills in the single-player content. With every match being different, it lets you get a handle on the entire roster.
The problem is that it’s the only way to unlock costumes, and that can be a real grind. If you get three stars in a challenge, you get a certain number of “costume points” for a specific costume. Often, this costume isn’t related to the challenge you were playing at all, it’s just a random outfit. It’s often also not enough points to unlock the full costume. You might unlock half an outfit on the sixth challenge and then not see the rest of it until the mid-seventies. On top of everything, once you get all the points together, that’s not the end. You have to then purchase the costume with a second currency in another submenu before you can use it. This overly convoluted system feels designed solely to push players towards purchasing DLC costumes. It’s not a great look.
Once you get through that grind and get the sexy outfit you’ve been pining after, you can take the fight online. In my limited experience with the final version, I had a few smooth good matches. I also experienced several laggy bouts that are more reminiscent of the Online Beta. Your experience may vary, but I imagine that an increased player count will improve your chances at success dramatically. You can rematch opponents if you like, but its otherwise a pretty barebones online experience. There is a lobby system coming later this month that wasn’t ready for launch. Hopefully, that will make for a better overall offering.
Dead or Alive‘s presentation is another of its features that feels out of time in the best way. Wailing guitars play in every menu, the announcer mispronounces just enough words to charm you, and the English voice acting is absolutely awful. Poor Jann Lee speaks with all the emotion of Microsoft Sam, and every actor feels rushed trying to fit their lines into the Japanese animations. Thankfully, you can switch on the Japanese voices as soon as you boot up the game. You may want to avoid the disaster entirely, and I wouldn’t blame you. Still, I’d say give it a listen if you get bored with the story. The over the top nature of certain line reads kind of makes the whole cheesy thing work.
That’s really what it’s all about. There’s a fun and frantic fighting game somewhere in Dead or Alive 6, but the overwhelmingly over the top presentation buries it deep. If you’re already down with that type of arcade action (or you’re one of the patrons of Zack Island), you’ll have a good time here. For everyone else, I’d still say this one is worth a look. It’s almost a nostalgia piece at this point, but old games can still be fun. The updates here are smart enough to let DOA hang with the big boys if you’ll let it. Fame Douglas would be proud, may he rest in peace.
More About This Game
Another solid entry in a stalwart arcade franchise, Dead or Alive 6 doesn't stray too far from what's worked in the past. Whether you're in for fast combos or buxom beauties, Team Ninja have your back.
- Blazing Fast Fights
- Tons of Single Player Content
- Old-School Presentation
- Hilarious English Voice Acting
- Convoluted Costume Unlocks
- Sidelined Stage Transitions
- Disorienting Story Flowchart
- Hilarious English Voice Acting