It’s been a long time since the last installment of the game series as famous for its fanservice as its fighting, but at last it’s time to take a look at Dead or Alive 6.
I enjoy Dead or Alive for what it is, and have always found the actual fighting game beneath DOA’s famous fanservice exterior engrossing. DOA 6 does still have those solid mechanics at its heart, so individual games are still fun and engaging.
It also looks amazing. There’s a real sense of grit and impact during the fights, and the little details are incredible. Visually the game is stunning and another leap forward.
But to be honest if the time/resources spent on battle damage and making little cuts appear on the fighters was at the expense of all the steps backwards… I could have done without.
Where’s My Partner?
I’ve always played these games primarily in single player, and with Playstation’s switch to needing PS+ to play online for the PS4, my intension for DOA 6 is exclusively single player. In DOA 4 and 5 survival mode, often the tag version, was far away what I spent the most time playing long term.
So the first major disappointment of DOA 6 is tag mode being completely absent. A lot of the fun of single player was to be had by trying different teams and discovering their tandem moves, how/if they interact, etc. It felt different than the solo modes and made for a nice change of pace. Thus right off the bat nearly half the content I was looking forward to in the game is gone.
Also gone is a new innovation from DOA 5, cliffhanger blows and throws. They weren’t important, but it was something new and entertaining. The main gameplay addition this time is essentially a revised/expanded version of the power blows from DOA 5 and associated elements. The returning characters, which is everyone except two newcomers (and there are of course previous characters missing to “make room” for them), play pretty much exactly the same as in previous games . This consistency is actually mostly desirable, but perhaps more should have been tweaked/added given everything what was taken away.
1 out of 1,000 ?!
Part of the interest in continuing to play DOA is getting rewards for progressing in the form of new (admittedly often ridiculous) costumes, and that small motivation does make trying different characters and repeated plays through things like Arcade Mode more interesting and enjoyable.
Tecmo has also monetized costumes and fanservice in DOA to ridiculous degrees via DLC. The trend of DLC in fighting games hasn’t bothered me as much as other gamers as long as what was provided in the original purchase seemed a reasonable core game for the price, and that nothing was “partially” locked gameplay-wise. In DOA5 I thought the initial package was reasonable enough, and supplemented by buying a few of the costumes here and there that amused me the most. I never felt “forced” to buy extra content, or that I had an incomplete or lacking game without it. I did feel they could have included a bit more and been a tad less aggressive about the pricing and packaging of new costumes, but again, enough was provided with the initial game purchase to be reasonable.
That changed this time around. The problem isn’t so much the number of included costumes, which is similar to past iterations (although there are more simple color swaps, which is cheap), but rather the new unlocking methods.
In past games, clearing Arcade Mode (for example) with a character would generally unlock one of the included costumes for that character. Direct correlation to the character being played, reasonable amount of time/effort/achievement involved, and no extra menus/costs/etc.
Here clearing Arcade Mode gets a single digit number of “pattern parts” (unlocking points). Costumes can’t be unlocked until their pattern part threshold had been collected, and then it also requires use of ANOTHER in game currency (admittedly this one is much easier to come by). Parts cost for costume range from 100 to 1,000, meaning time spent in the parts of the game I personally enjoy and play most is USELESS for unlocking things.
Adding insult to injury, the parts earned are RANDOMLY assigned, so playing a favorite character no longer means any progress is necessarily being made towards more costumes/accessories/etc for them, nor can the player concentrate that pathetic amount of points earned into one place to hope it adds up to something semi-reasonable eventually.
The only single player mode that provides a reasonable amount of points is Quest Mode, preset matches with objectives to fulfill while playing (execute a certain number of a a particular type of move, perform combos, etc). The random point assignments are even more maddening here, as when the computer decides for example to allocate a 400 parts reward to a costume that only needs 100 (which has happened to me several times) those other 300 are lost and wasted. As quests are finite, can’t be replayed, and don’t provide enough points to unlock everything even if allocated perfectly, this is yet another design decision that’s a slap in the face of the player.
***NOTE: Since I’ve started playing the other single player modes have suddenly started awarding a reasonable number of pattern parts, on par with what Quest Mode provides (although still randomly assigned). A closer look indicates this is because they have decided to run a “Release Celebration” in which the earned amounts are multiplied by up to 100. Short term it fixes one big complaint. Since it’s a temporary thing, this smacks of wanting to quiet valid criticisms while the game is new, then revert to form. ***
Open the Wallet
So now if a player specifically wants costumes for their favorite characters, the ONLY sure way to proceed is purchased content (or playing hundreds of hours and crossing one’s fingers). Costumes are generally bundled by theme with one for each of several included characters, so even when PAYING EXTRA it’s impossible to concentrate on exactly what one wants. The first season pass for DOA 6 DLC was made available on release day, and costs 1.5 times the cost of the game for two characters and three months worth of costume DLC (62 costumes, which may not even include all costumes released in those 3 months). Reminder, that’s just the BEGINNING of their DLC plans.
On last complaint about the DLC approach for this game. I mentioned above that beyond feeling a game is incomplete / feeling like the publishers are trying to force a purchase of extra content, I have any issue with “partially locked” content. I don’t mean locked content being on the game disc. I understand why some have an issue with this, but as I said as long as what I got seems reasonable for the price I’m fine. What I mean is content that is included in parts of the game but then needs to be paid for to be used in others. Of course DOA 6 chose to do this. Two characters are playable in the previously mentioned Quest Mode (and as the quests are preset playing those characters is required to fully complete this mode), but are locked in the rest of the game unless purchased (or unlocked with a pre-order bonus code).
A Story Worth Telling?
DOA 6’s Story Mode continues from the fallout of the events in DOA 5. I don’t know if it’s the translation or the original writing, but the dialog is extremely stiff and awkward. I do like the setup of parallel “episodes” in each chapter, but this potentially interesting structure is let down by breakneck, uneven pacing and ridiculous choices on what to show and what to skip. They clearly tried to keep each piece as short as possible while jumping around to feature every character exactly as little as they could get away with, and it makes all the interactions feel unnatural.
The tournament itself, built up to in many of the early segments, is a complete afterthought when it happens, with key pieces skipped (I have extensive feelings and theories about this, but will refrain from discussion due to spoilers). I will say one of the few matches actually shown/played is treated so inconsequentially they don’t even bother to mention which round it occurred in, and its participants (including the winner who presumably advanced) aren’t seen again.
I could keep going (and the absence of an important character in the entire second half of the story is another rant altogether), but the point has been made I think. Some of the plot threads are interesting and I really would have liked to see this come together better as I do like the mythos, but the story mode overall is pretty lacking this time around.
Going back to the above bonus unlocking issues, no pattern points are earned for story mode. But from what I understand it has to be completed for certain costumes to become available for points to affect, so another layer of complication for the top of the pile.
One last side note before I wrap up: There was even more of a … debate… about DOA’s fanservice this time around. Without getting into it too much, early on Tecmo seemed to be courting a more serious image with the added violence effects, and what some called a move towards “modest” costumes (although I’m not sure skin tight ninja outfits, etc are really all that modest per se, but more skin is covered in several of the new starting costumes for both women and men than previously). Thing is, the racy, skin bearing costumes are still in the game. They’re just not the ones unlocked to start. The computer is free to use any costumes, and of course online opponents may use anything they have unlocked or purchased, so such costumes will be seen while playing regardless. So anyone wanting a less fanservice heavy DOA isn’t going to find it, and anyone for whom the fanservice is the main draw is back to the purchase/unlocking issues I discussed above. If anything Tecmo created a bit of a false air of “changing the image” of DOA while just shuffling things a bit so they make more money off what a large portion of their established fanbase expects from the series.
Did I enjoy playing this?
Yes, for a time. As mentioned above the mechanics are intact and individual games are still quite enjoyable.
I know the majority of this review was critical, but keep in mind this is all from the point of view of a longtime player of the series and involved discussion of several outside factors. If spending money, tag mode, unlockables, etc do not matter to a player and their only concern is “are the mechanics good and the fighting itself fun?” the answer is yes.
Is there anything here to keep me coming back like the previous games did?
No. Emphatically no. I don’t personally play online, am not going to spend tons on DLC, and while I appreciate the excellent graphics they’re not the end all and be all for me. The things that made DOA games impossible to put down for me personally have largely been gutted.
Did/will I get my money’s worth out of it over continuing to play DOA 5 Final Round?
Debatable, leaning no.
It’s technically proficient, beautiful, and has sections heavily tailored to teaching the game, so is an easy recommendation for new players interested in DOAs brand of fighting. But it feels like an infinitesimal step in everything but graphics that it advances and a huge step back in what it offers the player in variety. More of a DOA 5 Part 2 than an actual sequel in my mind, and frustrating even in those terms.