by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
The Dead or Alive series is known for a few very important things. The first is its identity as an excellent, easy to pick up fighter. With its rock-paper-scissors mechanics, it’s pretty easy to get into, and even in bad situations get out (Break Guard) and make a mighty comeback. It’s also known for having interactive stages, and that’s back in full force here in Dead or Alive 6. But what it’s perhaps best known for is the ridiculous amounts of fan service. This isn’t exclusive to the female characters either. All the male characters are ultra muscular, super handsome, or edgy and mysterious. It’s really got something for everyone. I’m grateful that at least there are no underage jiggling girls in the game, but they, as always, cut it close with 18-year-olds. You can turn off the jiggle physics, but it’s one of the things the franchise is well-known for, so I’m not certain how often that’s going to happen. I’d love to see the numbers on it, out of curiosity though. Even in neutral positions, the vast majority of the female cast jiggle, bounce, and wobble in an ultra-suggestive manner. There are enough panty flashes and hip attacks to keep fans of that style of gameplay happy.
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of what makes Dead or Alive 6 interesting, we need to talk about something important. I’ve gone on record before as not being a fan of Season Passes, especially for fighting games. Dead or Alive is known for a fourth thing – having an outrageous, unreasonable amount of expensive cosmetics. Most of the starting costumes for your fighters are modest (as modest as they can be for being in Dead or Alive), but as you win (and lose) fights, you get pieces of costumes, like the shard mechanics in mobile gacha games. Initially, this could be any character’s costume. This, however, was changed during the time I was reviewing the game. In a forthcoming update, you will only receive costume parts for the character you are using. They are also implementing a launch event where you get 100x the costume pieces in Arcade, Ranked, Survival and Time Attack Modes. I’m glad this is occurring, because the original system felt more like a mobile game.
The first DLC has already been revealed at a pricey $90. What do you get for that incredible price? Two characters, and around 60 costumes! Cosmetics aren’t important, but the fact that it exists at all for such a price is galling. The “Ultimate Content Set” for Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, for context, is 89 dollars on Steam. So while this is not new or exciting, and you can grind these costumes out (eventually, with some exceptions it seems), that is a very steep asking price for a game that’s already 60 dollars. Unless you are an absolute die-hard fan, I would not recommend such an expensive cosmetic bundle. Would I be okay if they were separate, more reasonable prices for specific characters/character groups? That would be one thing. There’s no way I’m going to play everyone – I tend to lean towards a small group of characters that appeal to how I approach the game.
There aren’t that many game modes, but it has the core of what you expect in a fighting game. The “Story” Mode puts you through the current storyline in the Dead or Alive franchise and has you watching many cutscenes and playing as a nice variety of characters. This is one of the two positive ways that the game gets you to branch out and try a wealth of the characters on offer here in Dead or Alive 6. I wonder if the Story Mode will receive updates and more battles to it, but I enjoyed what was in it thus far. DOA Quest is the next way the game helps teach you to try new things, and it features 104 Missions. Each is based around a character. This is very grindy, but each of these battles has a few requirements for in-game currency, and if you complete all three of the challenges, you receive a wealth of parts (200-300 seems to be the average). These are a good way to find a fun character, and also get rewarded for doing so.
The Tutorial is incredibly short, giving you mostly a brief rundown of what the R1 button does as your special/fatal rush button. There is also a secondary Tutorial under Training that is far more robust. Each character also has a “Command Training” session and “Combo Challenge”, which will give a demo of what you’re supposed to do if you can’t figure it out. Command Training is about 100 challenges, which gives you virtually every command input you can do with that character. This is where the really interesting part is for me. Now I can figure out all of the command normal/combos I can do with punch/kick input strings. The Combo Challenge has Close Hits, Basic Moves, Juggles, and Wall Combos, some of which are practical, and some are definitely not.
One of the things that make DoA6 interesting is that you can juggle someone practically across the screen if you’re good at double-tapping/dashing between hits. Knock them up into the air, hit them a few times, dash, hit a pair of times, dash, and continue. I’ve already seen some outrageous combos thanks to people like Maximillian. You can also do pretty stylish combos for free by spamming Punch/Kick/Fatal Rush, but I would avoid spamming in this game. Dead or Alive 6 has plenty of counter options, and you don’t want to be caught slipping. I said earlier that it uses a Rock-Paper-Scissors system, and that’s the most accurate way to explain how the game works. Punches and Kicks can counter each other, Holds can counter Punches/Kicks, Throws can counter Hits. All of these buttons have options for directional input+button also. There are so many potential combos and gameplay options that there are times when Dead or Alive 6 can be a little overwhelming. I will say that throws have a bit of lag on them, so I don’t recommend spamming throw as soon as someone gets up.
That timing must be incredibly precise, or you’re going to just get comboed. Combat is fast-paced, and most stages have some kind of hazard or multi-battleground feature, where you can knock someone away/down/up to a new area to fight in. It’s important to be aware of what stages have what if any of these – it’s very satisfying to include them in your combos. There’s a stage, as an example, that has firecrackers on the ground. You can slam someone down with a combo to force them to land on them, bounce them up and resume battering them. Extra damage from the battleground is never a bad thing.
You don’t really have a lot of “super” or “special” attacks in Dead or Alive 6, yet you have a gauge at the top. That’s for use with your Special (R1) button. That’s where the Fatal Rush/Break Hold/Special Attacks come from. That’s one major positive for Dead or Alive: a lot of the actual fighting is done with combos, countering, and stances. It feels very skill based, and that’s enjoyable for me. Fatal Rush is a powerful four-hit combo that puts your foe in a Fatal Stun state at the end (very easy to follow-up with your special attack, which does use gauge), and dealing damage/being hit builds that gauge for Break Hold/Specials. Break Hold is the only way to stop a Fatal Rush and is done by holding back+R1. It might seem like a jiggly fanservice game, but there’s depth here.
I wanted to wait to write this until I could play online, so I did that this weekend. You set up a character you want to play as, then go to Online – > Ranked, or simply set up your Tutorial Options to accept incoming challenges, and what the Connection Rating you’ll accept is. I do not, under any circumstances, recommend “Any”. Whenever I did that, it was always a 1 bar connection where it felt more like I was swimming in molasses than actually fighting. The first 1 bar fight I had included a 45-second pause where nothing happened. Picking 3/4 bar was much better, and I had no other issues with online battles. Battles are a best of 5, with an option to rematch if you should want to (but they can decline). You gain points/rank for winning and lose points for being defeated. Before jumping into ranked, I recommend spending some time in training mode or playing against friends if you know anyone who is also playing. Ranked is fast and unforgiving, not to mention there are no casual lobbies yet. Those are coming later this month.
Get Ready To Bounce. . . Brawl: 3/5 (Good)
There’s a lot of depth to be had in Dead or Alive 6, more than I initially thought. I’m personally not as big on 3D fighters, but that opinion has changed with the introduction of the latest Tekken, Soulcalibur, and now Dead or Alive titles. Each character has their own style of martial arts or brawling, and though most of the button combinations are the same, the way each character utilizes them is vastly different. Going back and watching my matches were I was absolutely bodied, I learned what I was doing wrong, and what I can do to improve if I continue practicing Dead or Alive 6.
But I have to say, that 90 dollar Season Pass that “may not include all of the forthcoming DLC” really chaps my hide. I can see that being a serious deterrent for people, but the actual gameplay is solid. I think if people want to play the game, but don’t want to keep promoting that sort of costly bundle, simply don’t purchase the DLC. I was glad to see that I could purchase Nyotengu (DOA6 character), and she is a reasonable 4 dollars. It looks like all the other costumes are locked behind the Season Pass, at least at this moment.
I’m glad you can acquire a lot of the costumes by playing by grinding, but I am admittedly worried. DOA5 had well over 1,000 dollars of DLC. That is absolutely outrageous. Personally, I don’t need or want any of the costumes, but it’s the principle of it. Those choices are the only ones holding me back from wildly recommending DOA6, in all sincerity. The actual gameplay is smooth, the netcode seems stable to me – though I have heard some rumblings about bad connections from other players. I only had that from very low internet signals and nothing more. There are definite degrees in difficulty across the character spectrum, and I feel like it has a lot to offer fighting game fans, outside of that horrific bundle of content.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.