It’s fair to say that Dead or Alive has garnered a certain reputation as one of the sillier fighting game series out there. Its bouncy brand of bikini-clad brawling has been with us for more than twenty years now and while it may not have same sway as titans such as Street Fighter or Tekken, Dead or Alive has never been too far away from the spotlight.
Its generously-proportioned heroines may have been easy to overlook at the turn of the millennium when lad mags were at their peak, but now in 2019, sexualised content in video games is quick to draw the attention of critics. At its most exploitative, it has even prompted large companies within the industry to take action, Sony having recently started to censor and ban games due to their mature sexual content.
When it comes to Dead or Alive in particular, there are two camps: those who see it as a game series centred on archaic, sleazy objectification, and those who simply call this fan service. So, what would they think of Tecmo Koei’s latest instalment?
At a glance, Dead or Alive 6 does next to nothing to tone down the sexualisation. Within seconds of diving into the sequel’s disjointed story mode you’ll be gawping at its voluptuous cast of fighters as they get themselves into all kinds of daft, nonsensical scenarios. There’s some light playfulness there with plenty of suggestive poses and cutscenes occasionally lingering at a particular angle.
As an important sidenote, it’s worth mentioning that the game’s lineup of male fighters aren’t afraid to show some flesh, ready to go completely bare-chested or at least don something excruciatingly skintight.
Then there are the costumes. These more or less speak for themselves and those who feel inclined can snap screenshots of their favourite characters in action using DOA6’s improved photo mode. By default, fighters appear to be better dressed for their actual professions such as Hitomi’s karate attire and Ayane’s slightly more traditional ninja garb.
Dead or Alive’s somewhat problematic perception hasn’t been helped by its recent showing at Evo Japan. During the popular fighting game tournament, real life models were used to promote the game, emulating its body physics in a display only matched in awkwardness by what came next: the live broadcast went offline as hosts attempted to show off the game’s camera function, capturing two characters mid-grapple in a somewhat compromising position.
It’s bound to wind up the more progressive gaming communities out there, but Dead or Alive 6 will still find itself a thriving fanbase. Not only that, but many long-time veterans will be overjoyed to see that Team Ninja hasn’t caved to pressure from western critics and media outlets. After all compared to a lot of “fan service” games currently doing the rounds, Dead or Alive is honestly harmless.
Personally, I find myself caught between the two sides, as someone who comes to DOA for some casual fun. While its questionable approach to character design has zero impact on the solid fighting game mechanics, I often ask myself why the appearance of these characters matters so much to Team Ninja and their fans if all it amounts to is something purely cosmetic?
At the same time, it’s easy to see why the developer focuses on this particular part of the game. Punch ‘Dead or Alive 5’ into the PlayStation Store search bar and you’ll find 538 results for game’s last-gen version alone, Koei Tecmo having continued to pump out one costume pack after the next. Browse the game’s Steam page, you can net a copy and all of its DLC for the affordable price of… £997.09!
There’s no data out there to indicate how many users are snapping up these bonus costumes, but as with all forms of microtransactions, it’s probably higher than you think. We can expect Dead or Alive 6 to receive an absolute onslaught of DLC in the coming weeks and months after launch.
In terms of how it plays and looks, this is exactly what you’d want from a sequel. As for its values and the sexualised representation of characters, Dead or Alive really hasn’t changed one bit and depending on your own personal views, that’s either deeply upsetting or an assured delight.