One of the more interesting pieces of news to come out of the past weekend was the official announcement of Dead Or Alive 6, the follow-up to the popular fifth main entry in the infamous fighting game series which spanned three revisions and two generations of home consoles. Dead Or Alive is a series that just keeps on going regardless of the current popularity of the genre so a new game is never a huge shock but this time, there IS some surprising impressions to take home from what we’ve seen so far.
On the surface, there’s a lot that will look familiar to anybody who played the last game: interactive environments, a cinematic feel and fast-paced fighting. The big surprise this time is that the developers are apparently going to be lowering the focus on sexualised female characters, a move that has invited considerable disappointment from some corners of the online gaming community. The trailer shows no sign of the series’ famous (or infamous) exaggerated breast physics and costumes are more conservative. Could this be Team Ninja finally growing up? The following quotes from an interview with IGN certainly point in that direction:
“We wanted to make a more cool and more mature Dead or Alive this time, and to that end we made a conscious decision to make characters less sexualized,”
“The female characters are still attractive, as are the men, but first and foremost they are fighters,”
It makes sense on one level. Dead Or Alive has always had a fantastic fighting system with its punishing reversals and counter-holds separating rookies from practiced players but the games have struggled to be taken seriously with some fighting game tournaments even banning select outfits from being used due to their highly revealing nature. It seems that Tecmo are pushing for their established series to gain some credibility at last but will this alienate a large chunk of the fanbase? Can Dead Or Alive stand up on the basis of its fighting system alone?
I would say “yes”. I’ve always rated the games because despite their button masher-friendly combos, they still feel very different to rivals. Combos and movement in general felt very fluid and organic in DOA5, contrasting with the rigid inputs of Tekken for example. The cinematic style of fights was also quite entertaining and didn’t detract too much from the established rules of how a fighting game works.
But it should also be noted that the very traits that Tecmo seem keen to tone down this time around are what helped Dead Or Alive 5 become so successful and make them some good money in the process. The new female characters became instantly popular and the game featured a ludicrous amount of costume DLC including many fabric-starved designs that still sold well despite the high price tags. Let us also not forget that the spin-off, Dead Or Alive Xtreme 3, was also massively popular and a hot import for us Westerners who didn’t receive an official version of the game. Tecmo weren’t daft though as the Asian release of the game features full English language subtitles/menus. The point of all of this is to remember that the series didn’t suffer and lose sales because it ramped up the sexiness – quite the opposite actually. In this respect, you can say that Tecmo-Koei and Team Ninja are rolling the dice.
Personally, I really enjoy Dead Or Alive‘s silliness and have purchased quite a lot of the DLC. As I have said in other posts, I see gaming as escapism that encompasses everything that DOA does (or should I say “did”?) and while some may turn their noses up at big bouncy breasts, too many impractical bikinis or gratuitously detailed perspiration, I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoy it all. It’s just a bit of fun at the end of the day and I’m fairly positive that spending a lot of time with the games hasn’t turned me into some sort of raging pervert with no respect for real-life women. As a wise person once pointed out on some gaming forum or another many moons again, the characters are designed to look sexy and appealing on purpose – there’s nothing wrong with “falling” for the marketing.
The main concern that this shift in tone invokes in me is the same one that I felt when Capcom felt the need to censor Rainbow Mika and Cammy’s intros in Street Fighter V or when Omega Labyrinth Z was banned for us UK consumers earlier this year: the concern that our medium of entertainment is bowing to political correctness and moving away from sexy females in order to pre-emptively avoid complaints while appealing to a generation of consumers who place female empowerment and equality above simple, harmless escapism. That may seem like an extreme reaction but I won’t apologise for wanting the unrealistic and fantastical in my videogames when I sit down with a controller after a hard day’s work or when I fancy a quick break from real-life tribulations. My concerns are less about what’s happening in DOA6 and more to do with the bigger picture of what we are increasingly being told to accept is “wrong”.
But let’s also be real for a moment. The women of Dead Or Alive are still going to look attractive and booby enough. Yes, the developers want the female characters to look more realistic and warrior-like but I can tell you now that the alterations will not be that drastic. Remember that the same promises were made before DOA5 launched and the likes of Kasumi and co. ended up looking more detailed than before, not necessarily different. Most importantly, if DOA6 builds upon DOA5‘s fighting then the game will be very enjoyable to play and another nice alternative to what is already available.
And as much as I enjoyed DOA5‘s fanservice, there were several features that totally weren’t necessary and undeniably ventured into the realms of “childish” and “ridiculous”. One such inclusion was the ability to shake the controller which made the girls’ breasts bounce all over the place, usually in a totally unrealistic and unattractive way. There were also multiple settings in the options menu for altering the extremity of breast jiggle which seemed like a step too far even in my opinion. Setting this to “natural” was more than enough for me. If anything, it’s these sorts of things that I wouldn’t mind losing.
So there are several questions facing us before DOA6 launches in 2019. Will it still be a good fighting game? (I would bet money on the answer being “yes” for that one). Will Tecmo drive away more of its fans than it expects? Are they just fibbing about toning the whole thing down? Most of all, should DOA forsake its USP just to “grow up”? It’s like Netherealm Studios announcing that they will tone down the violence in the next Mortal Kombat if you think about it, which we all know would never happen. Clearly bloody, graphic death = shrug of the shoulders but boobs = the devil. Something about that ain’t right.
To conclude my thoughts on this announcement, I will say that jumping to rash conclusions and slamming Tecmo at this early stage would be foolish. The game will still be great and the girls will still be attractive so there will at least be an awesome product next year, however much they tone down the things that make the franchise (in)famous. I think the development period of DOA6 is going to be interesting and it will be fascinating to see how far Team Ninja go with this.