Review: Virtua Fighter 5
In the blue corner, fighting out of Japan and weighing in at £39.99…
For many 360 owners, Halo 3 was probably going to be the biggest release of the year and sales have probably proven them right. I mean the bloody thing sold more than any Hollywood blockbuster could ever achieve. Saying that, for me that prestigious title was reserved Sega’s Virtua Fighter 5. Then again I am an old Sega Saturn fan and I still own all the other Virtua Fighter titles (other than Virtua Fighter 3). Hell I even own Virtua Fighter Kids and that game was considered pretty naff even by the most die hard of Sega fanboys.
So the thought of Sega’s great fighting game franchise coming to the 360 made me very excited especially since Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution Final Tuned was generally considered to be the deepest, and most enjoyable, of all the 3D fighting games. Lets be quite frank here Dead or Alive 4, which was the only 3D fighting game on the Xbox 360 before VF5, was pretty much Dead on Arrival thanks to its crappy character balancing, dodgy gameplay mechanics and poor online service which would lag like crazy making a lot of matches a random button bashing contest because judging what the opponent was doing was almost impossible.
Now lets talk about the game, I mean after all that’s the reason why you are reading all this drivel right? Anyway as you probably heard this title was originally a Playstation 3 exclusive but lo-and-behold Sega decided to release the game on the Xbox 360. Not only that they made the game better by including an online mode, tighteming up the graphics and improving the loading times a little as well.
Virtua Fighter hasn’t really changed much over the years when it comes down to the basics of the gameplay. The game still only has three buttons (to be the man with the master plan… are you the man now?) kick, punch and block. Because the game has few buttons it means that it’s easy to get to grips with but don’t be fooled, VF5 is no button masher. Randomly bashing buttons in this game is a fast track to Loservile.
There are no super powerful characters in Virtua Fighter 5 (so you can take it easy as no there is no Nightmare or Eddy Gordo in this game) because the balance is pretty much perfect, although some characters are a little easier to get used to than others . The trickier characters, like the ultimate Judo practising Romero horror flick fanboy Goh, are certain to have the most devastating combos but they will require expert timing.
These moves and combos can be practised in the game’s Dojo mode for later use in the two other single-player modes which are Arcade Mode and Quest Mode. Arcade mode is the old bread and butter of fighting games were you fight opponents one after the other until you encounter the final boss and defeat them. Obviously the final boss is going to have some incredibly cheap tricks up their sleeves just like a child who has gotten their first magician’s play set and Virtua Fighter 5 is no different really.
The end boss here is called Dural and she’s basically a metal woman who seems to know every move in the game and has the reflexes and foresight of agent Smith from the Matrix. Also you only have one shot to beat her which means you can’t credit feed your way to glory.
In Quest Mode you are a plucky young person who frequents Japanese arcades looking for people to challenge. While this is a down to earth approach method of setting the scene don’t let the absence of dramatics fool you this is one of the most addictive single player experiences that I have played in some time and it’s not just me either. I know a few people on my friends list who also own this game and they have also been known to play the games for a few hours straight at a time because Quest Mode literally grabs you by the balls and this is all thanks to the way that it’s been set up.
Back in the days of Sega’s most holy Dreamcast I owned two fighting games. Dead Or Alive 2 which was a gloriously arcadey and beautiful tit-obsessed brawler and Virtua Fighter 3 Tournament Battle which was overly serious, ugly and dour. Having skipped DOA3 thanks to me suckling at Sony’s teet, I was frankly appalled by DOA4 which remains the worst thing I’ve played on the 360.
After seeing Namco tread water for recent Tekken and Soul Calibur releases I’d really had all the fight knocked out of me. As of last month my favourite fighter on the 360 was Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. I’m not kidding.
So after a rather sexy looking VF5 demo I decided to take the plunge and I’ve been addicted ever since. This game is excellent on so many levels and is actually an outside bet for my Game Of The Year. From the simple but deep controls, the perfect character balance and the truly new-gen graphics this game has quality in spades.
There are a few niggles. Mainly the ridiculous length of the quest mode (although currently I’m so addicted to it that I’m having to resort to bouts between paragraphs), the overall cheapness of Dural (no continues? ARGH!) and the freakishly poor online lobby system which is only tolerable because of the sweet lag-free matches it offers.
Fixes to those and maybe a Namco-style extra mode (like Tekken Force or something) and this game would be looking at a possible 10/10 but for now it can… ah fuck it… KAGE I’M COMING, BABY!
Secondary Score: 9/10
Every match you win generally gets you that little bit closer to ranking up you character which will unlock new tournaments and clothing in the shops for you to customise your fighter with. The character customisation on this game is brilliant. It is possible to completely change the look of your character and I do mean completely. For example you can give Akria an emo-style floppy haircut complete with menacing hoodie if you really want it’s entirely up to you.
Once you’ve customised your fighter you’ll want to show him off online. The online play is a major coup because to most reviewers of the PS3 version the game having no online function was the biggest drawback of the game and it stopped the title from perhaps getting the high eights or nines out of tens that the game deserved shame really.
Online play, in terms of stability and lag, is fantastic but marred with a few problems the most noticeable being a dodgy lobby layout (for example you have to quit the game and come back in to the lobby if you want to select another character or see another of the excellent arenas for example). Also, if you join someone’s game as player 2 you need to configured your own 2P controls as well so make sure you do it otherwise you’ll be caught with your trousers down so to speak,
It’s funny generally Sega are considered to be on a downward spiral at the moment and on the most part that’s pretty much true thanks to their countless sub par Sonic the Hedgehog spin-offs. But once in awhile Sega manage to pull off what most people consider to be impossible these days and create something that harks back to the good old days when they were putting out high quality titles and Virtual Fighter 5 is one of those titles. Despite some minor setbacks (mainly the online lobby) this game is pretty much flawless and I urge you to actually try out the demo at the very least as this is the best fighting game on the 360 to date and will be for some time and yes I am aware the new Soul Calibur is coming out on the 360 soon but Namco’s recent form has not been great so don’t hold your breath on it’s being a Virtua Fighter 5 beater.