One of the more subdued announcements from E3 2018 was Dead or Alive 6, almost a surprising announcement considering the recent announcement of Dead or Alive 5 competition at this year’s EVO. It seemed like Koei Tecmo was sort of trying to wring a bit more life out of the current game, but now it feels like more of a sendoff as we await the next step. More than that, it seems like the next step is going in quite a different direction.
Dead or Alive 6 is being presented as a serious new fighting game, more so than ever before in the entire franchise. Part of that, a big part of that, is how the game will present the women of its roster. Following a long string of frankly embarrassing controversy, it seems like the Dead or Alive team is either sick of being the creepy uncles of video games, or is striving to make a larger, more mass market splash.
Dead or Alive 6’s director, Yohei Shimbori, said in an interview with IGN that the team wants Dead or Alive to be “more cool and mature.” To that end, the team made the conscious decision to de-sexualize the characters. This means the series’ legendary, or rather infamous, jiggle physics are seriously downplayed, if not gone outright. Beyond that, many of the women so far are wearing much less revealing clothing. But it’s not just about the cheesecake, there’s also a degree of seriousness added as well.
In Dead or Alive 6, characters will also sweat over time, react to particularly hard blows, and even show damage gradually. Previously, when the characters were seen more as models or objects of desire (especially the women), the developers shied away from the idea of battle damage. According to the developers, they figured the audience wouldn’t want to see the women especially get hurt. Now, battle damage is a mechanic that applies to the whole roster, as the vibe here is “they are fighters.” No longer are these characters akin to figurines clacking together.
To speak to mass market appeal, the other big change is a “special button.” It’s not clear if that’s an optional handicap sort of mechanic, or a new part of regular combat for everyone ala auto-combos in Arc Systems Works fighters. Shimbori wants players, even if they can’t stand up to pros, to still have a good time playing the game. In that respect, even if you’re destined to lose, the new mechanic can help you at least land a cool move or two before the end. The idea is to encourage rising players, although we’ll see how that shakes out. Fighting game players always have mixed reactions to things like easier execution or comeback mechanics, so execution is key here.
Earlier in the Koei Tecmo timeline, controversy struck when a social media account implied one of the (poorly selling) Dead or Alive Xtreme titles wasn’t coming west because of social pressure. It was unclear if this was a mistranslation of an official statement, or something else, but it caused the fanbase to nearly riot, bringing back a lot of behavior seen in the Gamergate days. Even retailers like Play Asia got into the mix, more or less inciting harassment over places like Twitter by pointing the frustration at that statement towards individuals on Twitter who had little to do with the decision. But now the company is moving even further away from the image it used to have.
This is a good thing. Dead or Alive has, outside of its serious fanbase, been a bit of a joke for a long time. The volleyball stuff quickly overshadowed the fighters in the greater public perception, and the series was ultimately left behind by its peers as fighting games made their big comeback. Now, in 2018 as Street Fighter and Tekken are bigger than ever, and even more competition in BlazBlue, Soulcalibur, and Dragon Ball FighterZ are making waves, Dead or Alive needs to be… more. This news is Koei Tecmo aiming for exactly that.
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