At E3 2018, the people behind Dead or Alive 6 declared the game had toned down the female sexualisation the series is infamous for.
Producer and game director Yohei Shimbori told Eurogamer at the event this was done for two reasons: the first relates to the “global trend” for sexualisation to be toned down, “so everyone can play without being embarrassed”. The second was to “avoid the silliness”, which is in keeping with the “intense fighting entertainment” goal.
Showing the game to press at this point, characters who in previous versions would wear skimpy costumes instead had more realistic fighting outfits. Take Kasumi, for example. Her default Dead or Alive 6 costume is designed with the “fighter” in mind.
Here’s Kasumi’s default costume in Dead or Alive 5:
And here’s Kasumi’s default costume in Dead or Alive 6:
But, at a recent hands-on preview opportunity with a near-final build of Dead or Alive 6, I found female sexualisation very much up-front and centre, with the franchise’s outlandish boob physics easy to see.
When I asked about this apparent change in tack since E3, Shimbori insisted there had been no bait and switch. “There was no change at all,” he said, speaking through a translator.
“The thing is, DOA was developed with a new game engine, and the new game engine was developed together with the game. So, it was just that the physics weren’t ready last year at E3. At Gamescom we gave a sneak peak that there would be some physics to the media. At Paris Game Show we showed there would be some movement. Now, we’ve reached a different level of realistic movement. This was just a development issue, not an issue of we want to go in another direction. The direction was clear from the beginning, but it just took more time to develop this in a new game engine.”
What appears to be the case is Dead or Alive 6 is keen to make a better first impression than its predecessors, but all the hyper-sexualisation long-term fans want is there, ready and waiting, if they’re willing to work for it.
Default costumes cover up the characters, but you can unlock costumes that show a lot more skin. And breast physics are tied to the costumes. If the character is wearing a costume that covers them up, the breast physics are reduced. If the character is wearing next to nothing, the breast physics are ramped up.
Here’s the default costume of 18-year-old student Honoka:
And here’s her alternative costume, which must be unlocked. When she wears this costume, her breasts bounce around as if balloons tied on strings.
So, for all the talk of “global trends” and “avoiding the silliness”, Dead or Alive 6 gives the fans what they clearly want.
“The first costumes you get when you start playing are the ones with the less physics and the most coverage of skin,” Shimbori said.
“When you start the game, the others need to be unlocked. You go to the quest mode, you earn coins and then you have to unlock the other costumes. You can just play with the starter costumes and not unlock the more sexy ones, and you will definitely have a less sexist experience.
“If you take Tina, we have also costumes that cover more at the beginning. She’s a model and a wrestler, but still you can cover her up a little more if you want.
“This costume, for example, you have to unlock it,” Shimbori said, pointing to Honoka’s alternate costume. “If you don’t unlock it, you will stick with the schoolgirl uniform for Honoka, which will cover a lot.”
Shimbori told me Koei Tecmo understood Dead or Alive 6 had to make existing fans happy by providing the heavily sexualised female characters and breast physics they’re used to, or they’d simply leave the series behind.
“The thing is, this is part of the legacy of DOA. If you lose this, the core fans would move away,” he said. “So you can’t really move it.”
Somewhat ironically, the Dead of Alive community isn’t particularly happy with Koei Tecmo or Dead Alive 6 right now because it believes the game has been toned down for the western audience. Fans are currently raging because they believe Tina’s breasts are smaller in Dead or Alive 6 than they were in the last game.
Shimbori said those who feel too embarrassed to play Dead or Alive 6 should turn the breast physics off in the settings and stick to the default costumes. But he does not consider this mode to offer realistic graphics.
“If you’re really embarrassed by it, you can switch it off,” he said, “and then you basically have 1990s Lara Croft. For me, as someone who built the game and wanted to make it realistic, this is not realistic. This is just stiff. It doesn’t look quite right to me. But, if you have concerns about this, there is always the option of switching it off.”
I got the sense, interviewing Shimbori about Dead or Alive 6, that he’s frustrated at the current debate around the upcoming game.
“I blame it on DOA Extreme,” he said.
“But the fact is, we are trying to build a good fighting game with a challenging system. We put a lot of effort into tutorials and the quest mode to make it accessible for beginners. We are honouring the long-term fans and making sure they also get what they expect. We would really appreciate it if the media would focus more on the topic of we are building a good game here and not only focusing on this juggle talk.”