Fans of the fighting genre have been waiting a long time for a new entry in the Virtua Fighter series. Sega finaLly released their fifth installment of the franchise, entitled Virtua Fighter 5 Online. You might be curious as to why Sega added “Online” to the title considering virtually all fighting games for Xbox 360 are “Live” enabled. There is a good reason for that as more than half of the game’s content takes place on Xbox Live; Sega is trying to put the emphasis on old-school “arcade” tradition, reliving the days of stingy local arcade scenes, where everybody lines up their quarters awaiting for their turn to shine. This makes Virtua Fighter 5 very attractive as it not only gives fighting fans the dramatic “arcade” experience, but also cutting-edge access to features that would have otherwise never made it in local arcades.
Sega’s latest offering is steadily being recognized as the best Virtua Fighter to date! Everything that you love about the previous versions is all here. The matches are now much larger than life, thanks to the deformable environments. It’s a visual treat to see your character tear up the concrete after slamming your opponent to the ground. When you smash your foe into a fence, you’ll notice that chunks of wood just fly off into the air. And get this, using the environment to your favor actually multiplies the damage you inflict to your enemy. So unless you’re an expert in “counter”, you should stay away from any walls. With the right thrust, you can even flip your opponent over the edge! It’s a nice trick to pull off, especially when you’re down in health.
Newcomers to the Virtua Fighter series are going to be blown away by the game’s graphics, and how incredibly it is easy to get used to the gameplay. Some would argue Virtua Fighter is host to the greatest fighting system of all time – a system that is accessible to the casual gamer, yet deep enough for the most hardcore fighters looking to master the arts of fighting. The system is made up of high, medium, and low attacks, blocks, throws, and reversals. While it may resemble Dead or Alive at first glace, it’s anything but. The game is perfectly balanced – reversals don’t play as deadly a role, throws don’t cripple a competitor from the start of a match, and not everything can be blocked at once. Veteran players of 3D fighters should have no problem learning this game and the different character moves.
As for fans looking into more technicalities, the Xbox 360 version is based on Revision C of the arcade game, which offer various fixes. The result is a much more tuned and responsive system. Virtua Fighter plays host to 17 characters (including newcomers Eileen and El Blaze), each with their own (very) long move list, throws, combos, speed, and size. Some characters will tower over others but you’ll see a few of them will crouch as their starting stance. There are numerous styles of play to tinker with while using the characters. You have to experiment which character fits your fighting style. Besides that, the game also provides plenty of room to customize your characters’ outfits with items won or bought in Quest Mode.
The Quest Mode is where the brunt of the Virtua Fighter 5 single-player experience is. You will square up against different skilled AI for admission to random tournaments, and to win cash and prizes. You will also gain ranks as you practically pound your way through endless number of challengers. One of the major objectives in Quest Mode is to unlock all hidden items that range from orbs to special emblems. It’s fun collecting all the items; it gives you a sense of purpose, which in turn helps the game stay fresh. The Quest Mode has its own mini shop where you can spend cash you earn from winning bouts to upgrade your character’s persona. Here, you can edit each fighter to the point where he or she is completely different from the original form! This is done by changing hairstyles, wardrobes, accessories, and many more.
From a graphical standpoint, Virtua Fighter 5’s presentations are superb and it is exceptionally on par with the visual fidelity of the arcade version. Looking from sides to sides, the number of vivid animations are very catchy. The environments are done with tremendous effort, and you can just feel their live brewing in the background. Some of these spontaneous auras include fishermen casting their bait into the river, the cheering crowd atop a mountain, and it extends over with a reflection of stunning sunset around the Great Wall of China – all these niceties create for a more engaging experience! The character models look highly detailed complete with incredible textures and amazing highlights. The same can be said for the fighting sequence, which comprises of fluid character movements and solid frame rates.
In the audio front, the sound effects are amazing, resembling an old kung fu flick of sorts, which is very fitting for the kind of action that takes place on screen. The punches and kicks packs a satisfying wallop, while throws deliver a painful pounding. Most of the voice-over work is done well but the English dialogues are somewhat cheesy and announcers don’t dictate the action of the game well. Sometimes they make random commentaries that overlap each other, which can get confusing to grasp and annoying at times. The music is okay for the most part and provides a decent rush to the action sequence. The rest of the audio piece is convincing enough that you can almost feel the damage first-hand and not some synthesized bricks. You can be certain you are getting a superior iteration of Virtua Fighter here. It is one of the best fighting games to come out on 256-bit consoles. It’s accessible to newcomers, yet deep enough for veterans to enjoy. This is one fighting game you don’t want to miss out this year.