On Tuesday, publisher Koei Tecmo silently released Dead or Alive Xtreme Venus Vacation to Steam, which is also the first version of the Japanese game to be translated to English. Previous versions of the game allowed players to poke and touch the game's female characters, but the Steam version not only region locked the game to restrict sales to Southeast Asia, it also removed the controversial groping features. Now, some fans of the series are pissed.
In DOAXVV (a spinoff for the long running Dead or Alive fighting game franchise), players run Venus Island—a magical resort destination for the women of the series. It’s part dating sim, part management sim, and part sports game. Dead or Alive is infamous for the highly sexualized depiction of its female characters, and DOAXVV seems to exist explicitly for that purpose. Players talk to the women, dress them in revealing bathing suits, and pit them against each other in various minigames. The characters mostly play volleyball, but can also gamble, or engage in “butt battles.”
Koei Tecmo has released several version of DOAXVV under various names across several platforms, but this is the first time it’s been on Steam with English localization. The game was initially released for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in 2016, and hit PC as a browser game the following year. This week’s Steam release is the first version of the made-in-Japan title to have English translations for its menu system. To access the English language version, fans have used VPNs—virtual private networks that can make a computer seem as if its located anywhere in the world—to trick Steam into thinking they’re in Southeast Asia.
Fans are happy with the English menu system, but upset about other changes. In previous versions of DOAXVV, womens’ breasts jiggle gratuitously and players can “touch” the girls. It’s an interaction akin to sexual assault. “As the player pokes and prods Kasumi's body with the PlayStation 4's motion controller, she tells him ‘I don't like it,’ and uses a word that directly translates to ‘bad’ that is often used to flatly deny permission,” Engadget said of the game’s PlayStation VR release (under the title Dead or Alive Xtreme 3) in 2016.
According to fans, the new PC release has decreased jiggle and removed the ability for players to touch the characters. “They literally removed physical interaction with the girls,” one fan said on Reddit. “You cannot touch the girls at all. If you plan to censor core elements of the game why bother to release in the first place?”
“Refuse to give this version money unless the censorship is removed,” another fan posted on Steam. Both Steam and Reddit are full of threads asking for Koei Tecmo to release the game in the West, allowing players to access it without a VPN, and reinstate the ability to touch and harass digital women.
I played the game’s new release and confirmed players can’t touch or disturb the game’s women anymore. Jiggle is present, and I’ve reached out to Koei Tecmo to confirm any changes to the game. Spokespeople were not immediately available to comment.
The Dead or Alive franchise is known both as a stellar fighting game and a series with overtly sexualized female characters. Critics have praised the gameplay while condemning the pandering and grotesque sexuality. Every series entry since 1996 has contained options for the “bounce” of breasts up until its most recent release. Dead or Alive 6 toned down much of the overt sexuality, including shipping without the revealing costumes that the series is known for.
It’s unclear why Koei Tecmo released this version of DOAXVV without a “touching” mechanic, but the developer has long expressed a reluctance to bring the unfiltered game to Western markets. Ahead of the release of Dead or Alive 6, series director Yohei Shimbori told Eurogamer his team changed the game to follow a “global trend” of desexualization.
“This is a fighting game,” Shimbori said. “We felt people were not looking at this as a pure fighting game. They were looking into something that was in the wrong direction. So, we wanted to make sure this is a fighting game first.”
But Dead or Alive Xtreme Venus Vacation isn’t a fighting game. The mechanic that simulated sexual assault may be gone, but the game still amounts to a hyper-sexualized series of minigames bordered by a managerial dating sim.
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