Two things that have always been particularly characteristic of Dead or Alive, with the most apparent one are the easy-to-understand counter system that revolves around a single button. It makes it very easy to handle button mashers and at the same time also very easy to handle those who counter a lot by countering back or using throws. This system feels great even in Dead or Alive 6, and although the game system and graphics show signs of ageing, it is still a solid foundation that makes it stick out in a playful way. We also noted that it is now easier to step in and out of the screen to avoid attacks, and together with the counter-attacks, it feels like the defensive possibilities are stronger than they are in most other fighting games.
The other thing that characterises the series is the so-called 'air juggles', which is when you hit your opponent so that he/she leaves the ground, and then you continue to beat and kick on your now airborne and defenceless victim. This feels smoother than ever in Dead or Alive 6, almost to the degree that we can imagine that in more capable hands than ours, it might turn out to be something of a problem.
Even though we really like the ensemble in Dead or Alive and there are some features that stand out, it's hard to shake off the feeling that Team Ninja doesn't really know how to handle this series anymore. The new additions that have been made are basically what competitors have offered for years, and we get the feeling that Dead or Alive 7 will need a thorough renovation. Now it almost feels like we're still playing Dead or Alive 3, but with more super meters and added gimmicks that spice things up but don't change how the game should be played.
Add to that the fact that the Dead or Alive series was the perhaps the most beautiful fighting series of them all, with incredibly detailed characters, animations, arenas and effects. Even in this area, Team Ninja has been left behind and we're not particularly impressed even when playing in a high resolution on a capable PC. And for anyone who chooses English dialogue, it is just mind-blowing how bad the lip-sync is and the female fighters often sound embarrassingly infantile.
One positive note we want to make, however, is the fighters themselves. The design is still first-class and a lot of work has been done on the characters. Now the Swedish fighter Marie Rose has been joined by Finnish researcher Nico, so there is an unusually strong Nordic presence in the lineup. Another newcomer is Diego, a fighter from the streets of New York, who is actually very fun to fight with. Our favourites are still Kasumi and Ryu Hayabusa who are the same, and playing them is like riding a bike, with the latter's Izuna Drop still a move that has the potential to completely change the outcome of a tight match.
But after playing Dead or Alive 6 a whole lot to do this review, we mostly feel like playing some Soul Calibur VI, Tekken 7, or going back to Jump Force. Time has moved on and the fighting genre has evolved, but Dead or Alive hasn't. Dead or Alive 6 feels a little too familiar to us and many of its features have simply become outdated, with nothing truly new introduced in order to mix things up. It's not enough to have a stable foundation, good design, and fun characters when the competition offers all this and more - only better.