There was a time when we considered Dead or Alive to be one of our absolute favourites when it came to three-dimensional fighting. We fell in love with Dead or Alive on PlayStation, worshipped Dead or Alive 2 on Dreamcast, had a deep crush on Dead or Alive 3 on Xbox, and we were impressed by the innovative online support in Dead or Alive Ultimate on the same console. After that, the quality, unfortunately, began to decline.
Dead or Alive 4 felt like the third game in HD and Dead or Alive 5 was simply outdated the moment it was released. Despite this, the latter was a great success, not least because it was released in several different iterations (including a free-to-play version) on a total of seven different platforms. Fortunately, when Dead or Alive 6 was announced, Team Ninja showed that they had heard the opinions of a community that felt like the series had stagnated and therefore they loaded up the sixth core game with several new features.
Now that we have tested the game thoroughly, it strikes us that very few of these new features are actually new. They are definitely new to the Dead or Alive series, but despite the fact that Team Ninja has added visible damage to the fighters during ongoing matches as well as the semi-automated combo-attack Fatal Rush - which with a well-timed button press shows spectacular viewing angles and slow-mo - it's difficult to be impressed when competitors like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Tekken have offered similar things for much longer. Also, it is a feature we're not particularly fond of, so as far as we're concerned this could have been left out, especially as the Dead or Alive series already had its own variant of this when opponents were knocked out of the ring, triggering spectacular animations.
Another thing that Team Ninja proudly tells us is that the game now gives you the opportunity to customise each character's appearance. Several profiles can be saved for each one so you can equip everyone with the hairstyles, accessories and clothing you want. But this is also something that other Japanese fighting games have had for years and once again, as far as we're concerned, this should have been left to the infamous Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball series. The Dead or Alive series has always had a dubious reputation because of the puerile portrayal of its female fighters and the focus on their breasts, and the dressing-up and styling of the Barbie-like fighters hardly helps give it a more adult feel.
To address the breasts directly (something we dislike to do at all as we want to talk about gameplay, but Dead or Alive is not like other games in the genre - breasts are really thought of as one of the main selling points), it should still be said that the developers also talked about this in advance and stated explicitly that it will be toned down this time. As a result, Kasumi, Tina and the gang fight in slightly more practical clothes here - although the breasts still have a life of their own. If this has disturbed you in earlier entries, then Dead or Alive 6 will not change your mind on the matter in the slightest.
One of the stated goals of Dead or Alive 6 has been to make the game more beginner friendly. When we heard this we were immediately worried. The Dead or Alive series, together with Soul Calibur and Tekken, has been the most beginner-friendly series of all the serious fighting games. The training mode in this series has always been better than those of the competition, however, and Dead or Alive 6 is no exception. In the single-player game modes, you can even get suggestions about what to practice, and then you will be taken to the training mode with the touch of a button before going back to single-player when you have mastered what you practised.
Single-player mainly consists of two game modes, Story and DoA Quest, where the former is the usual fighting game story that feels totally illogical. Dead or Alive has made this into some kind of artform where everyone wants to spar and fight before they talk and the dialogue is infantile in a way that makes the Game Boy Pokémon titles look like literary works in comparison. It sometimes bordered on unbearable and made us think of early dating simulators, especially when the younger female fighters were involved.
However, DoA Quest is quite neatly laid out and in order to win matches, you have to achieve special goals. It can mean juggling the enemy with a combo that does a lot of damage, beating opponents while moving in and out of the arena, or attacking victims lying down with any of the dedicated attacks for that particular purpose. It quickly becomes challenging and also means that we get a better sense of the system since we're forced to explore different aspects of it in order to win. Soul Calibur has used similar ideas before, but then it's often wrapped in some sort of story. Here it is better executed and this is something we hope more fighting games take note of and employ in the future.