It’s somewhat fitting that the final boss fight in Virtua Fighter 5’s arcade mode is against Dural, the shiny silver fighting machine; as Virtua Fighter 5 is the perfect showcase for the potential of Sony’s shiny black gaming machine: the Playstation 3.
The Virtua Fighter series has never had the same sort of profile in New Zealand that the Tekken series has, despite being in many ways superior. Players seemed a little put off with the difficulty and complexities of the fighting system inherent in Virtua Fighter. In this fifth iteration, new players will be drawn in by the outstanding graphics and stay for the great re-playability. While veterans will slip into the game like a pair of old shoes and be astounded by the sheer depth of the quest mode.
The game introduces two new fighters to the world of Virtua fighting this year: Tiny Eileen, who, to put it kindly, fights like a monkey and the Mexican wrestling sensation Ray Mysterio, or rather El Blaze. The two new fighters add more depth to a field now comprising 17 characters ranging from fast and subtle to slow and powerful. Finding the right character for your personal fighting style is essential but each fighter has plenty for everyone. Becoming a master with every character will take some time but would be infinitely rewarding for those who persevere.
Arcade mode provides the initial entry point for most people into Virtua Fighter 5. Initially easy, button-mashing will suffice. The fights build in difficulty until fluid combos, side-stepping and counters are required to fully complete it. You only get one shot and one round with Dural, so make it sure it counts. The arcade mode provides a nice simple counterpoint to the expansive quest mode. The core of the Virtua Fighter 5 experience is found within the quest mode.
Slightly different from what you’d expect, Sega has done away with any semblance of a storyline and instead pushed the Japanese arcade experience front and centre. You choose a character and enter one of seven different arcades scattered across the land of Sega. And you fight. And fight, and fight and fight. The main objectives of the quest mode are to level your character from 10th Kyu to Master and to unlock all the various orbs, garbs and items along the way. At random points in your quest you will be given the opportunity to partake in tournaments at either the arcade or the Event Square.
Winning these tournaments will help increase your items and ranking, and the sense of achievement felt when dispatching battered 10th Dan opponents in five-match finals is unequalled. When you win items, you can use these to further customize your character, adding or subtracting layers to make seemingly limitless combinations. For example, in a vain attempt to make Jacky look smarter, I gave him glasses; while it might not have done a lot for his IQ, at least he appears less like an airhead.
When the game arrived at Japanese arcades last year gamers were amazed by the outstanding graphics and enthralled by the depth of playability. The port to Playstation 3 is pixel perfect. Gorgeous backgrounds and characters compliment the outstanding action. From neon-baked cities to beautiful sundrenched tropical islands, Virtua Fighter 5 is simply the most stunning game to hit the Playstation 3 yet. The cherry-blossomed Kyoto setting is especially magnificent. The characters themselves use motion-capture to fully express their personalities through their individual fighting styles. Drunken Shun Di stumbles about in a haze, Akira stays poised, polished and powerful while Eileen still fights like a monkey!
The only negatives to be found in the game are simple constraints upon the genre itself. Sega decided to forgo online play due to problems that players might encounter in latency issues. While no online play is a bummer, players can understand that even the slightest lag would have a profound impact on the experience. The SIXAXIS controller, while responsive, is no match for the amazing feel and response of an arcade stick. Any hard-core addict of the series must pick up the stick to experience what the game is truly meant to feel like.
Virtua Fighter 5 is an outstanding recreation of the brilliant arcade game. A showcase for graphical beauty and in-depth gameplay, the game simply must be on the list for those picking up a Playstation 3 on launch day.
• Brilliant gameplay, great characters and jaw-dropping visuals make this a showstopper in every sense of the word. Buy this game.
• Lack of online play means the “true” arcade experience is lacking.
• Arcade sticks are expensive