Yohei Shimbori: Alive And Kicking
Official Xbox Magazine|May 2019

Dead Or Alive’s chief ninja tells oxm about his long involvement in the ‘intense fighting entertainment’ franchise, keeping every kind of fan happy and how being a ‘fighter’ is the perfect quality for a game designer

Chris Burke

Team Ninja’s fighting series has a long history on Xbox, Dead Or Alive 3 having been a launch exclusive for the original Xbox, and with DOA4 and the series’ Xtreme spin-offs all appearing exclusively for Team Green. The series’ apparent focus on its beautiful female fighters and their many revealing costumes, not to mention the hyper-realistic boob jiggle physics, has led many to overlook the games as serious fighters – particularly as attitudes to such things have changed massively in the last couple of years. But as anyone who’s played a Dead Or Alive game knows, the depth and potential for complexity offered by the series’ fighting mechanics, with a vast range of combos and possibilities for counters and recoveries, make it by far the most strategic fighting game out there. It’s still a hugely fun arcade-style experience, though, with a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ triangle (strikes beat throws, throws beat holds, holds beat strikes) at its core. It also has an esteemed videogame heritage. Influenced by Sega’s pioneering Virtua Fighter series, it has featured characters from that game in its roster, as well as Ryu Hayabusa and others from Tecmo and Team Ninja’s brilliant Ninja Gaiden series. Further cementing its place in Xbox game history, DOA4 even featured a character from the Halo universe – Spartan-458, aka Nicole, who came back in time via a bubble in the space-time continuum.

Yohei Shimbori is the man principally responsible for the Dead Or Alive series for the last few years, having been involved in the design as part of Team Ninja since Dead Or Alive Ultimate 15 years ago. As producer and director for the latest entry, Dead Or Alive 6, he’s been there from the project’s inception, planning the game modes and battle design, and as well as leading the overall game design he’s had a hand in everything from PR strategy to appearing at events, and managing staff at Team Ninja. Fair to say he’s been a busy man – but as a restlessly creative individual, he’s still found time to think up new ideas on the fly. “During breaks I would think of moves and ideas for costumes as a sort of hobby,” Shimbori-san tells us. “Rather than playing games, I’m the sort of person who has more fun thinking about how to create them! As such, I don’t get the feeling that I have to do something because ‘it’s work’, but rather if I have a spare moment, I should try doing something.”

Tell us about the Break Gauge and the Fatal Rush systems that are new to DOA6?

To put it simply, the Break Gauge is a special gauge used for executing special moves. Since most other fighting games have such a gauge, it was our policy to not include them in DOA. However, these days fighting game players are playing a variety of games, so to make the transition from other games to DOA easier, and to make it easier for those spectating to understand how the gameplay unfolds, we decided there was a great incentive to include such a gauge. Fatal Rush is a special new combo technique that is performed by repeatedly pressing the ‘S’ button, which is a newly introduced button. It’s different from autocombos that you often see, which are performed by repeatedly performing a weak attack. This is an amazing technique on par with a critical attack, allowing you to stun your opponent with a powerful Fatal Stun.

There’s also a ‘special move’ now. Is the thought behind these additions to make the game more accessible for newcomers?

You must be referring to the Break Blow and Break Hold! Break Blow is a critical attack that delivers a powerful blow to opponents while you are trying to handle their attacks to the upper half of your body. You can perform one by using all of your Break Gauge.

Break Hold allows you to stop your opponent’s attack regardless of whether it is high or low, and sneak around behind them while dealing a little bit of damage. We are currently working out how much of the gauge will be consumed. In particular, Break Hold is the only option for getting out of a Fatal Stun, so the more advanced the player, the more powerful the technique will be. We consider the feedback from players who noticed this during the online beta test to be very valuable, and are making adjustments as we approach release.

Do these new additions also allow veteran Dead Or Alive players to put together more complex moves?

Of course. Although the game is really fun, even when it’s played by two beginners, it gets even more interesting as you master the techniques. For example, with Fatal Rush, you can stop at any point during the sequence of button inputs, allowing you to freely create combos. In addition, you can also stop a Break Blow midway to freely attack an opponent that has been fatally stunned.

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