Shoryuken review: Dead or Alive 6 holds excellent, accessible gameplay that keeps true to the series’ identity

By on March 20, 2019 at 2:00 pm
DOA6 Screenshot Ayane and Hitomi Crop

Thankfully, with helpful tutorials, you aren’t alone on the learning curve.

Dead or Alive 6 has had an interesting run on its road to release. From its initial surprise announcement at E3 2018, the misunderstanding revolving around the level of fan-service, its delayed release for additional polish, its continued alterations beyond launch, and a free to play version released within two weeks… it’s definitely been entertaining seeing how the title has shaped up. Now, aside from the online lobbies stated to be added later this month, the title appears to be in its finalized state.

Picking up Dead or Alive 6 is easy, and its initial gameplay is incredibly simple to get the hang of. Once you dive deep into its mechanics, however, you enter a whole new world of gameplay. The game itself is incredibly fun and worth checking out, but the business decisions made surrounding a complicated season pass and content (a playable character no less) currently locked behind a Deluxe Edition makes it complicated to fully experience without shelling out a fairly substantial amount of funds.

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Presentation:

All in all, Dead or Alive 6 is one of the most stylish fighting games out there, with every match offering top-of-the-line visuals on par with what one would expect from a big budget action flick. Dead or Alive 6‘s new engine really makes the characters shine in a new light — and I’m not just talking about the dynamic real-time lighting, used for the first time in the series. Character models are incredibly detailed, with expressive faces and updated designs that really hit the mark, for the most part. Fighters sweat, bruise, and get dirty as fights go on, and certain outfits tear apart when hit by a Break Blow.

The game’s sound design is on point, with every strike, zap, and explosion sounding crisp and dynamic. DOA6’s score is as widely varied as the world that it brings to life. There are epic orchestral themes, hard rock anthems, electronic jams, and playful character songs. Thankfully there’s a game mode to listen to the tracks individually, and you can unlock more as you level up your player and character ranks.

Photo mode really shows you just how visually stunning the title can be. Epic screenshots are yours for the taking thanks to its numerous camera controls and the ability to pause the action to get the perfect image. DOA6’s attention to detail and visual effects really pull through, allowing for a nearly endless supply of wallpapers. It’s easy to get lost taking screenshots thanks to how photogenic this fighter truly is.

Characters have an abundance of costumes to choose between, with each character having at least two or three costumes included in the base game that are available in three different color variations as well. The methods for unlocking these costumes have changed quite a bit since the game’s release, however — but mostly for the better. At first, costume parts were unlocked randomly after online matches, arcade mode, survival, and time attack.

DOA6 Screenshot Christie

The number of parts gained was based on wins and difficulty. At first, you only unlocked a handful of costumes, gaining only about 15 or so parts by completing arcade. This made the grind incredibly taxing. To get a full costume, on the low end, you needed 200 parts. To get a more expensive costume you would need 1000 costume parts. This coupled with being randomly-allocated made things quite difficult for players.

At launch, Team Ninja enabled a launch celebration, boosting the costume part gain by 100x. This made things much more reasonable, but still had the problem of unlocking random costumes for random characters. On March 15, an update pushed through that ensured that costume parts gained were put towards the character being used. This ensures the costumes desired are now easier to unlock. The exact costume the parts are being put toward is still random, but at least you know you aren’t earning totally blind. Before the update, I had issues with earning complete costumes for Nyotengu — a character not even included in the review copy I was provided — which felt like a foul move, but at least it won’t be a problem any longer.

Even with all of these additions making unlocking costumes easier, players still need to purchase them with in-game currency. I wish developers would choose between having to earn the costume or having to purchase the costume. Forcing players to do both seems a tad cruel. Understandably, on the developer’s side, this is done to ensure players keep coming back to the game, but from a player’s perspective, it makes it feel like a grind, and not a reward.

Gameplay:

Dead or Alive 6‘s gameplay is a refinement of the mechanics laid out by its predecessors. At its base, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of. There are three types of general actions that are best when used in reaction to your opponent. The combat Triangle System goes as follows: strikes beat throws, holds beat strikes and throws beat holds. Strikes are split into two primary buttons, punches and kicks. Other than that, there is a button dedicated to blocking, although blocking can also be activated by hold back, and a button used just for throws.

Once you get the hang of the triangle system, there’s a plethora of other mechanics to take account of. There are close hits — which work how they sound, dealing more damage while in close proximity of the opponent — and critical hits, which lead to critical stuns that briefly stagger the opponent, although they can still hold in retaliation. On top of these additional combat mechanics, there are two variations to the hold system. 3-way-holds break holds up into high, mid, and low parries, while the more adept 4-way-hold system ups the ante by requiring players to press an alternate input for mid punches as opposed to mid kicks.

DOA6 Screenshot Kasumi

New to the DOA franchise is the Break Gauge system, which introduces super moves and combat meter for the first time. A full meter allows players to activate their “Break Blow” by either pressing the special button (R1/RB) and forward or comboing into it with the title’s auto-combo mechanic, the “Fatal Rush”. This devastating attack does major damage and can damage opponents’ costumes. The Break Blow can “break” through an oncoming attack, and is the perfect way to make a comeback.

The Break Blow can be avoided, however, and it can even be held, most effectively through the Break Hold mechanic, which uses half of the meter. The Break Hold can hold any attack, whether it be high, mid, or low. Players can also utilize a side attack by pressing up or down in conjunction with the special button and hitting the special button one more time to attack.

With all of these different counter moves, nothing feels overpowered or broken. The combat has been polished to a beautiful sheen and the new additions brought by the Break Gauge system are certainly welcome to players of all temperaments.

There is a lot going on in Dead or Alive 6, which creates a truly one-of-a-kind experience. On top of all of these mechanics, there are bound to be some I might have missed, which just goes to show just how many factors are at play in Dead or Alive 6, which will make or break players depending on their desired level of competitive play.

DOA 6 Screenshot Tina and Bass

Offline:

The two featured game modes are Story Mode and Quest Mode. Dead or Alive 6‘s story mode is a lot of things… but mainly it’s a bit jumbled, and to be up front, I’ve only played DOA4 and DOA5 before this. The story is spread out among a convoluted web of scattered missions separated by the main story and individual story fights. It would have been better if players could simply select a character to play as and just continue along their path automatically, instead of being brought back to the mission select menu after a 15-30 second cutscene and a typically longer loading screen.

That being said, it isn’t without its charm. Character interactions are often cute, cool, and quirky in the most anime way. Ninjas fight wrestlers, who fight military men, who fight pop idols, who fight robot ninjas. Some dialogue can come across a tad hurried and awkward though, and the animations aren’t nearly as strong in story mode as they are in-game, which is an odd problem to have. Its fun to play but I can’t imagine many players diving into each and every story thread to its completion.

Quest Mode is a neat little addition that presents the player with three challenges and grants players costume parts as rewards. While one of the main objectives is simply to win the match, the other two quests are usually quite varied and push players to try out new tactics and moves. Quest Mode also sets the playable character as well, which gives players more opportunity to try out new characters and see what makes them tick, with character-specific quest conditions like Tina’s command throws and combo throws. Quest Mode does start to feel a little redundant once you complete 30 or so missions. It starts to feel like more of the same, and odds are you won’t unlock the costume parts you want.

DOA6 Screenshot Ayane (3)

The tutorial is incredibly detailed and offers an in-depth look at the game’s mechanics. Each tutorial teaches you one step at a time, and then brings everything together to a final test at the end of each lesson. There are even character-specific tutorials and combo challenges that help get the most out of your character. I do wish that certain attacks were shown first in the tutorial so you have an idea of what the execution is supposed to look like, but that’s something that can be easily added in an update, or looked up online.

Arcade mode is traditional fare, with players going against 8 CPU opponents with varying difficulty. Hopefully, the difficulty gets tweaked a little, because even at the hardest settings, its a tad easy. Time attack is a lot like arcade mode but is focused on a faster completion time as opposed to a higher score. There is also a survival mode which puts players in a deathmatch with one fight after another. There is a bit of a frame drop during this mode after a new fighter tags in, which might be why DOA6 is without a tag team mode, something that’s been a staple in the series since DOA2.

DOA Central provides players methods for unlocking additional content, like costumes, music, and encyclopedia entries, and the theater for watching saved fights or pitting two CPU opponents against one another for Photo Mode. Every character has a pair of glasses that can be unlocked from the get-go and can be used on any fighter. Some characters have different hairstyles as well, which can create a dynamic change like Christie’s long hair variant.

What would really make the character customization shine is an additional photo mode like the one featured in SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, which allows you to put characters in different poses with different expressions that could easily create scenarios that are cool, cute, and hilarious. This would make the pictures independent from battles, and allow for more creativity. Alas, what we’ve got is still pretty good, but I could see it coming in a future update.

DOA6 Screenshot Ryu and Hayate

Online:

Currently, there is only one online mode, which is ranked 1v1 matches. On its own, it’s pretty straightforward, players connect with one another and fight to improve their ranking on a global scale. What’s nice about the online matchmaking is that players can see whether or not their opponent has a wired connection or a wireless connection before approving the match.

While its good to see how strong the connection is in general, knowing the connection type brings further confidence that the match will play more smoothly. Typically, online matches were relatively lag free, granted the connection was strong. There were numerous matches, however, that indicated a weaker connection with my opponent that played better than supposedly strong ones, so it was a little hit-or-miss when it came to the reliability of the info icon.

It also seems like the amount of time to rematch an opponent is too short. Often times I’d like to save an epic match had with an opponent to use in Photo Mode but after saving the fight, my rematch is automatically declined, even though my opponent wished to fight again. This could be circumvented by using the PS4 or XB1’s native video recording software, but the matches couldn’t be used in Photo Mode.

Eventually, near the end of March, Team Ninja is adding lobby matches. This means players will be able to compete with their friends online or with a group of dedicated strangers and have consistent match-ups. Ranked match limits online matches to two wins per connection, to prevent boosting, so it will be a welcome addition to the bare-bones online matches offered currently.

DOA6 Screenshot Ayane and Honoka (2)

Conclusion:

Dead or Alive 6 has incredible gameplay that’s easy to get into, and is incredibly rewarding to those who invest the time to learn the many mechanics available. The characters are visually stunning and every attack is perfectly choreographed to look as cool as possible. It’s a title that deserves recognition for its accomplishments in style and substance, while keeping true to what made the franchise stand out in the first place. DOA6 is your one-shop-stop for over-the-top action, characters, and music.

Its single-player offerings, while welcome, feel taxing after a few hours, especially when grinding for costume parts, and its online component is lacking, while promises have been made to flesh it out. It’s definitely appreciated that so many costumes come included with the title at no additional cost, and that it has been made easier to acquire these costumes with the frequent updates. That in itself should be applauded in today’s day and age of high-costing cosmetics. At the same time, a $93 season pass, while cost-effective when broken down, doesn’t show the best face to its players.

The title is definitely worth checking out at full price, but now with Dead or Alive 6: Core Fighters, you can play the game for free! While its pricing structure isn’t the greatest, it will give a good idea of whether or not DOA6 is the next fighter for you. After playing around for a bit and determining you’re a DOA fan, I’d then recommend to either save up for the Deluxe Edition in order to not miss out on Phase 4, or to purchase the individual fighter you’re interested in picking up if you just want to play competitively.

Hopefully, the Deluxe Edition DLC will be available separate from the all-in-one bundle available on digital storefronts, so physical owners aren’t left in the dust or having to spend an additional $80 to get the additional character and costumes.

Dead or Alive 6 is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and is set to receive at least two additional characters in a collaboration with The King of Fighters XIV. The first DLC character, Mai Shiranui, is returning from her inclusion in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round in June. The second fighter, who at this point remains a mystery, is also set to release sometime that month. Additional content, both free and paid, will also be coming to DOA6, which can be viewed in the roadmap below.

Dead or Alive 6 Content Roadmap

Source: Dead or Alive


Koei Tecmo provided Shoryuken with a review copy of the base version of Dead or Alive 6 on PlayStation 4.


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Shoryuken.com Associate Editor. Austyn James Roney began his gaming journey with Super Smash Bros. on the N64 but learned the ways of the fighting game genre with Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Loves all fighters, regardless of dimension or playstyle.