Dead or Alive is a franchise I have a lot of mixed feelings abou--actually, y'know what? Let's come clean. I love Dead or Alive, spin-offs be damned (yes, I spent an unhealthy amount of time on the first Xtreme Beach Volleyball). That's why I was especially excited to get the chance to talk to Dead or Alive 6 producer and director Yohei Shimbori, the man responsible for DoA's new direction from Dead or Alive 5 onwards.
Yesterday, Peter talked about our hands-on time with the game, and I have to add that Dead or Alive 6 cleanly brings new elements into the gameplay fans are already familiar with, making it feel like a fresh experience--I feel like it's gonna be hard to go back to previous titles after the bar gets moved with DoA6. Shimbori-san himself had some great answers for the questions I'd prepared, getting especially excited talking about his influences and creative process.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Shimbori-san. I'd like to start with a question about your past with DoA. You've worked with the series since Dead or Alive Ultimate on the original Xbox--how does it feel seeing the series come as far as it has?
Originally, I started working with the Dead or Alive series under Itagaki-san, with DoA Ultimate as you said. So for those early days, we wanted to follow his lead, and it always felt like I was learning new things about creating games. Even when I did my own first game with Dead or Alive Dimensions (on the 3DS), it still felt like I was collecting experience and building up my knowledge. After Itagaki-san left and I took over for Dead or Alive 5, we were able to make something that felt like our own DoA, with new visuals and new feeling, and were always concerned about taking this series and making it our own. But when we were making Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, we saw that the audience for the series had grown so much, and it was very exciting.
Dead or Alive has always been this very fast and accessible fighting game, but it has a technical side too, with Holds and Criticals to turn the tide. What inspired the addition of the Break Blow system and its meter?
The Break Blow system is something that took us a long time to create from all sides. Originally, we wanted something that people new to fighting games could do that would look really cool, but would still fit in the existing fighting system and have technical merit for experienced players. There were concerns that adding a new button to the system would complicate things, or that it would become too powerful a technique and make the action boring or unfair, but I think we've created the right balance with Break Blow. Tying it to a gauge makes the player think: when is the right time to use this technique? You can't just use Break Blow all the time, and that makes battles more exciting.
One of the defining features of DoA are the massive multi-part breakaway stages, and stage transitions--they're still here, and they're crazier than ever. When you create a new stage transition, what comes first: how a player can use it in terms of gameplay or how cool it looks?
Honestly, a little bit of both. The idea always starts with something exciting or funny we can add, but then as we revise that idea, we decide how we can make it work in the context of a fighting game. For us, the most important question is always "what's fun," and we always have that in mind when we're trying to show something new to the audience.
DoA has one other tradition I'd like to talk about: infuriatingly powerful boss characters. While I know you can't tell us anything about the final boss of DoA6 yet, can you give us a one-word hint about the kind of punishment that's waiting for us?
We haven't finished making them yet! [laughs] But to describe DoA6's final boss in one word... I want to say "fear," but I'll go with... "DARKNESS."
Whenever a new character shows up in Dead or Alive, they always bring something unique regarding their fighting style and visual design. Diego is this hardened street brawler with very rough moves--what kind of real-world fighters or fictional characters did you look to for inspiration?
With Diego, we really wanted to convey a manly fighting style, so we studied a lot of American action movies. More than usual for Diego, we looked at a lot of images of real fighting to develop his style. Also, we usually have a Japanese performer for motion capture, but we used an American performer for Diego!
Alright, these next few questions are the quickies--answer with the first thing that comes to mind!
Shimbori-san, you yourself are the next Dead or Alive character we have to fight. What stage do we fight you on?
WHAT?! Okay, um... a traditional Japanese stage, like Azuchi!
I'm sure the entire cast of DoA are equally your favorites, but you must choose one of them (not Ryu Hayabusa) to get their own solo game. Who's your pick?
Oh, definitely Christie. It could be a stealth game: Assassin's Christie!
Other than DoA6, are there any games you're playing right now that you really like?
I really love the new Spider-Man game, I've spent so much time on it.
What is one anime or manga you've watched or read that really stood out to you, and still influences you to this day?
Kinnikuman! When I was young, I would play with Kinnikuman toys and come up with new special attacks, and now I get to do that in Dead or Alive!
Finally, do you have anything special you'd like to share with all of Dead or Alive's fans around the world, myself included?
For Dead or Alive's fans, I really feel like this will be the best possible Dead or Alive game, so please come and join us on February 15th, 2019 when the game launches!
Can't come soon enough! Huge thank-yous to Shimbori-san and Koei Tecmo for making this interview possible--what are you most looking forward to in Dead or Alive 6?