Release Date: February 20, 2007
Virtua Fighter is one of the longest-running and most beloved fighting franchises out there. It's generally considered to be one of the deepest and most technical fighting games ever and is a tried-and-true favorite of the die-hard fans of the genre. When you'd rather see true blue fighting as opposed to the somewhat WWE-style theatrics of other franchises, Virtua Fighter is your best bet.
Enter Virtua Fighter 5. This already-classic arcade fighter is coming to the next-gen systems this year, but PlayStation 3 owners gets first crack at it in February.
You've probably seen videos of the new Mexican wrestler, El Blaze, in action. He's quick on his feet and fast with a throw. Eileen, a diminutive fighter, is another speedy character who packs more speed than punch, but she can still hold her own in a fight.
While Virtua Fighter 5 features a few new characters, the real draw undoubtedly lies in Quest Mode. You take an established character, give him or her a custom name, and then go off to battle at one of a handful of arcade centers. These arcade centers feature a number of similarly customized CPU fighters of varying skill level. As you take on these combatants and hopefully rack up wins, you'll rise up through the ranks. If you're good, you'll get invited to tournaments, giving you more chances to go up a rank and score some nice loot.
If becoming the top dog isn't enough for you, you can also visually customize your character with the points you earn from fighting, giving your player his own distinctive style. Think your character deserves a new color scheme, a sword, and a snazzy jacket? Fight until you can afford it, and then go to town.
Of course, the players are plenty distinctive already. El Blaze, the new Mexican wrestler, and old-timers like Jeffry or Kage are all immaculately and lovingly rendered. Expect to see real-time sweat dripping off your character and rippling skin. If that doesn't float your boat, the meticulously detailed stages should. You splash through puddles, grass, and a number of other areas in your quest to be number one, and it all reacts just like you'd expect them to in real life. Similarly, the music is appropriately mood setting, with plenty of upbeat tunes to keep your heart pumping.
Speaking of getting your heart pumping, the classic Virtua Fighter gameplay has made it through fully intact. Everyone's favorite fighting simulation requires a careful hand and calm mind to play. It is a bit more deliberate and slower paced than your Tekkens and Street Fighters, meaning that flailing about like a madman or button-mashing will just get you smashed. There really isn't any kind of play except for high level in Virtua Fighter 5, so expect the hardcore to dominate.
What's slightly disappointing is the apparent lack of online play. As of yet, Sega has not included it in the package, which is somewhat frustrating to a large variety of gamers. There are plenty of CPU opponents with varying levels of artificial intelligence in the game, but most fighting aficionados will tell you that there is nothing like genuine human competition. For now, it's looking like we'll have to settle for head-to-head battles on one console and hope that there is a patch or upgrade down the line.
Look for Virtua Fighter 5 to include a commentary mode when it comes out as well. You're treated to two announcers who will remark about various facets of your fight. If you're on a good win streak, they'll say so, and if you clearly outclass your opponent, they'll say that, too. They'll call out move names, combos, and announce wins so it could easily come off a little cheesy, but time will tell on that front.
The hi-def capabilities of the PlayStation 3 are pretty fully utilized by Virtua Fighter 5. The characters look like poetry in motion, and the stages are the next best thing to reality. Sega is looking to deliver a ton of options for the fighting game fanatic, including a detailed training mode on top of the already-insane quest mode. Look for it on February 20th.
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