Both are storied series with nostalgic prestige. Both run at 60 frames per second in 4K, and the graphical presentation is stellar on both sides. And while they appear equally safe in terms of gameplay changes, closer inspection reveals some differences which may tip the scales for you.
We’ve played both, and have a feel for the new systems. Dead or Alive 6 has more in the way of ideas brought to the table, while Soul Calibur VI is sure to steal some hearts with the inclusion of Geralt of Rivia.
So will Soulcalibur VI be DOA? Is Dead or Alive 6 of a high enough… calibur? Let’s weigh them up with a closer look.
Dead or Alive 6‘s New Systems
While it’s been in the game before, the close hit mechanic is being used in more of the moveset. This does more damage if you’re very close to your opponent and connect with the attack.
Fatal Rush is a four-hit combo that anyone can pull off by pressing the special button, though it has different timings for each character. Defenders will have to learn these timings if they want to counter.
That same special button, if pressed along with up or down, will sidestep the character into the background or foreground while attacking. This Z-axis movement is great for avoiding attacks while punishing your opponent.
Again, that’s a move that’s been in the series before, and you might be noticing a pattern here. In fact, Jann Lee‘s animation is the same for it. But the controls have been streamlined across characters. That input will always do an evasive punish, no matter who you pick.
Dead or Alive games love their environmental hazards, and there’s a new one: the crowd. Being knocked into cheering spectators will see them grabbing and throwing you back into the fight.
This actually takes longer than a wall bounce, giving the attacker a chance to recover and offering more combo opportunities. In the alleyway level we played, bits of crowd were separated by barrels, fences, crates, and other hazards. A section of crowd might be anywhere from two to five people wide.
Larger groups might be possible to target, but the smaller groups were impossible to “aim” for, even when we stood still for our pro gamer guide to try. That means a lot of this is reaction-based — you’ll have a split second to register whether you’re continuing a combo, or simply slamming them again after a wall bounce.
Super Counters in Dead or Alive 6
A new “Break Meter” is being introduced, which will fuel super attacks and their counters. Any activity builds the meter, but successful attacks build it faster.
Super attacks have been implemented cleverly into the triangle system. There’s a super counter to compliment the super attack, which is arguably more interesting than the attack itself.
This “Break Hold” is the only move able to counter a super attack. It also counters any attack — low, mid, or high. The only catch is it uses up all of your meter. Whiff the counter, and you waste your meter.
This will force some interesting meter management decisions from players. After eating 80% of a combo, you might decide to just eat the rest and use your meter to do more damage. Or low health players might be forced into using Break Hold. Let the mind games begin.
Soulcalibur VI‘s New Systems
In terms of new gameplay ideas, Soulcalibur VI compares quite closely to Dead or Alive 6. There are less innovations, but characters use each system in different ways.
We’ve covered Soulcalibur VI‘s new Reversal Edge system in detail. Activating this attack triggers a slow-motion microcosm of its complicated rock/paper/scissors system, minus any range or timing considerations.
Bandai Namco wants this to be a flashy, spectator-friendly sequence where just a single input from each player decides the outcome. With limited playtime, our experience is this feature slows the game’s momentum to prioritize cinematography over competitiveness.
It could possibly be leveraged in niche situations, but will likely be ignored by experienced players, and at worst is one of those luck-based situations like FIFA penalties where both players hide their inputs.
Soul Charge is back from Soulcalibur III, but is changed. You’ll now use some meter to change into a more powerful form for a while. The effects of this will be character-specific. In the above video, producer Motohiro Okubo hints that Geralt will be able to use unlimited spells without consuming meter.
These look amazing. Our favorite, Kilik, looks particularly terrifying in demon mode. But he’s also one of few characters whose health bar gradually depletes once this is triggered, suggesting his moves are powerful enough to justify the penalty.
Much has been made of the ability to destroy armor, but this has no gameplay effect (such as the increased damage you might expect). Armour is destroyed when successfully connecting a Lethal Hit, the conditions for which varies by character. It’s effectively a stun that slows down time for the attacker, who can then put together combos that wouldn’t normally be possible.
It’s a great idea, but hitting a Lethal Hit won’t be common. Okubo stressed that it would be the badge of honour signaling a very skilled player. Not included in the above interview was him also agreeing that finishing the match with less armor is a “mark of shame.”
Rated I for Immature
Both of these franchises, of course, are known for other kinds of “assets.” Their approach to character balance has always been a bit front-heavy. But for once this is an area where they contrast, and if it’s an important factor for you, it’s an easy choice.
Soulcalibur VI will give us a steady drip of character announcements leading up to its release but wasted no time in flying its fan service flag. Once again Bandai Namco’s own definition of “character reveal” was employed shortly after the game’s existence was confirmed, in the form of Ivy, a fearsome dominatrix wielding a chain whip and the ability to ignore cold.
The age-old jiggle physics are back, and fighters will try to navigate around their independently moving chests as they jostle for position in the ring. Soulcalibur VI‘s new Lethal Hit removes the victim’s armor. As mentioned above, it has no gameplay effect — which suggests it exists as both a taunt and to disrobe fighters.
Dead or Alive 6 has vocally turned its back on character sexualisation this time, but isn’t immune from ripping clothes off its fighters, however. It has a feature that scratches and bruises fighters the more damage they take. Finishing the fight without a scratch will be a new form of humiliation for the other player. But in our play session, we noticed it was more than skin being sheared off.
Dead or Alive 6 might want to be careful with this one. It might’ve stated it’s ditched the sexualization of its characters, but it has a history with taking clothes off — not to mention pushing the envelope in DLC packages. What we saw in the above image is quite tame, but this franchise has earned itself some skeptical eyes.
Should You Choose Dead or Alive 6 or Soulcalibur VI?
We won’t cop out with an answer about how subjective the choice is (although it is, of course). We’re more impressed with what Dead or Alive 6 is bringing to the table. There’s still plenty of time for Soulcalibur VI to prove us wrong. Truth be told, both fighters are offering little new.
But Dead or Alive 6 is measurably introducing more ideas that complement its core triangle system, whereas we’re less impressed with the newbie-focused Reversal Edge and the vanilla super attacks in Soulcalibur VI. More time with the game will uncover the subtle dynamics of demon mode, but for now, Dead or Alive 6 is the pick for pushing things forward.
Even if you don’t personally care about how sexualized your characters are, we don’t play games in a vacuum. It’s an odd feeling justifying a game to the person who just walked into the room to witness an action upskirt. We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve said “But it actually does have a great fighting system” about Dead or Alive games.
Geralt (and Groh, for that matter) is a great addition and we’re sure to be pleased about more character selections to come.
It’s odd that Dead or Alive 6 and Soulcalibur VI have so many things in common. Both place equal weight on finishing a match cosmetically unscathed, for instance. Both have fancy new supers. The meat of these fighters, their mechanics and animations, are both looking great.
We’re excited to play both of course, and get to more intimately know their new systems. We’ll get Soulcalibur VI a lot sooner in October 19th this year on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Dead or Alive 6 will land in March 2019.