Signs of life
Compared to most fighting games, Dead or Alive 6 has a huge amount of additional content and I would easily recommend it to casual players because of that. However, my review won’t go over much of that. I’ve played the DOA series competitively since 5 and I’ll be analyzing it from that point of view.
In some fighting game series, old titles will stick around because they provide something that the new game cannot. Despite Tekken 7’s popularity, people still play Tekken Tag Tournament 2 for the unique tag system. Street Fighter 3 is still popular because the parry system makes it play very differently than 5.
I believe Dead or Alive 6 is the best of the series so far and I feel no need to return to older games, even though my main character is gone. There are some parts of the game that feel antiquated, but the core gameplay and balance has never been better.
The first change you’ll notice in 6 is the Break Gauge. This is the first time the series has had a traditional “super meter”. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first: I typically stick to 3D fighting games because I don’t find meter management enjoyable in most 2D games.
After playing a few matches, I was used to the meter. There are only two things to do with it, which still puts the focus on core gameplay and not worrying about how much bar you have.
For 50 percent, you can execute a Break Hold. It sort of functions like a “burst” in anime games. If you are in a situation where you can hold, Break Hold will reverse any attack and switch sides to get you away from the corner. I find this is smarter way to use your meter overall.
For 100 percent meter, you can execute a Break Blow which is a traditional super attack. It has startup invincibility, is safe on block, and knocks your opponent across the screen. It’s balanced because it doesn’t do a ton of damage without an advanced technique: you can super someone into an environmental hazard to continue the combo, or cancel the first hit for a guaranteed launch combo.
The other new addition is a third attack button. S attacks are very unsafe on block but give Fatal Stun on hit. In Fatal Stun, you cannot hold normally and must spend 50 percent meter to Break Hold if you want to get out of the combo. For the most part, I haven’t used this button regularly and don’t think it will be a large factor in mid to high level gameplay.
There is also a dedicated sidestep button. Sidesteps are very strong in this game, and they don’t work like Tekken or Soul Calibur at all. Normal sidewalking or “free stepping” by holding up and down is not evasive and is more used for positioning. The sidestep button evades so many things that it almost feels like it has invincibility frames. Still, it’s balanced because hitting a sidestepping opponent is a counterhit and regular throws track well enough to catch them consistently.
Sidestepping feels pretty good in this game and makes the movement more varied than DOA5.
One possible balance issue so far are throws and Offensive Holds. Regular throws are breakable but they come out faster than the fastest standing moves. Combo throws are only breakable after the first part, so you get guaranteed damage if the first part lands.
Characters with a strong throw game like Tina and Bayman are already standing out as high tier because they throw better than everyone else. I don’t think slowing down throw startup or making the break window wider is a solution, but maybe a system change that would allow you to break combo throws/offensive holds from the start would be nice.
Put it this way: imagine if King’s Giant Swing and the first part of any of his command grabs were guaranteed. That would be too strong, right? DOA6 is on the edge of grapple-based characters being too strong compared to the rest of the cast.
I enjoy the core gameplay of Dead or Alive 6, but there are bits around the edges that make it feel unpolished or not as exciting as it should be.
- The soundtrack is mostly forgettable.
- The graphics are not a huge step forward from Dead or Alive 5.
- There are a handful of reused stages from Dead or Alive 5 that aren’t too exciting to play in. With the amount of time passed between 5 and 6 I would have preferred all new stages.
- Online mode is currently Ranked matches only and doesn’t have a lobby feature, nearly a month after launch.
- Training mode shortcuts are very unfriendly to arcade stick players. You have to hold L3 and press a D-pad option to control the computer, which is a lot easier on a pad
- Also for stick users: the menu is very sensitive and can scroll past multiple options if you’re using an arcade stick. Could just be my setup, but I haven’t had this issue in any other fighting game.
The step between Dead or Alive 4 and 5 was massive, and in comparison the step between 5 and 6 feels less impactful. Still, the addition of meter mechanics does a lot to freshen up the neutral game and let you pull off more creative combos. The characters changed enough from the last game to make them exciting to learn again. It’s a great competitive title and I do feel it’s the best Dead or Alive yet. All I could really ask for is those few changes to the throw system and more robust online options right now. Hopefully we won’t have to wait for Dead or Alive 6: Final Bout to get that.