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11/14/2011

REVIEW: Virtua Fighter 5 Online (Xbox 360)




Virtua Fighter 5 Online is the last installment in the flagship franchise of fighting games made by SEGA, who started way back into the company’s old consoles when they still made hardware. The series has always been in the shadows of more famous ones like Tekken, Soul Calibur and others but has always gotten a lot of respect from the media, developers and players in general.

VF5O is a 3D fighting game, which plays very similar to Tekken, Soul Calibur and especially Dead or Alive. Having two characters beat each other out with different martial arts styles on a full 3D environment. Like in DOA, VF5O only uses three action buttons, one for punches, one for kicks and one for blocking and with that, the game manages to provide an insanely high amount of actions and possibilities to the players.

But what makes Virtua Fighter a very obscure franchise is the complexity and learning curve. It is very hard to manage to play correctly with a character given the tons of movements each of them have and learning to take advantage of the rules of the game, like sidestepping, juggling, stunning and blocking is no easy task at all. All these make most of the fighting game players avoid mastering it despite admitting that most of the aspects are of great quality.

Graphically, VF5O looks very good. The character model are very realistic, with tons of details on them, for example, the “aged” characters like Lau Chan or Shun Di have tons of wrinkles on them which makes them look like real old people. The clothes are amazing and most of them fit perfectly, they have movement effects to simulate physics and seem very real. The stages are very beautiful; there are tons of variations, one for each character. You can fight on a beach, a Shao Lin temple, Chinese streets, an abandoned dojo and the like. They look very cool, with tons of quality lightning effects, anti-aliasing, colors and even things that give them more life like a bunch of people in the background cheering or birds flying around.

The game plays very smoothly, running at a solid 60FPS at all times, which allows for each character to have amazing animations that simulate all the varied and curious fighting styles each of them use. As mentioned before, there are only three action buttons besides the movement ones and with those; each fighter will have around a hundred different moves at their disposal. Like in most fighting games, each character will be able to combo mixing punches and kicks, block attacks, move freely around the stage and use awesome throws to damage their opponents. But doing these actions correctly is hard, given that many characters have complicated command lists and the game uses a very strict system of rules that require hours and hours of practice in order to understand and better yet, use them.

Each fighter has a unique fighting style with an exclusive set of moves, for example Akira, the mascot of the game, uses a fighting style named Bajiquan which allows him to land accurate and extremely strong blows in short combos that can KO an opponent in just a small number of hits, his movement is rather slow and has a very complicated command list but can be extremely satisfying to win with him once you start learning how to use him. There’s also Pai Chan, a Chinese girl who uses the Mizongyi fighting style which is way faster and easy-to-use than Akira’s but her blows are weak and she needs more hits to KO an opponent. Characters like her or the loud and rather annoying Jeet-Kune-Do user Jacky can be perfect characters to start playing the game.

Then there’s Wolf Hawkfield who is a huge pro-wrestler from Canada or the Pankratium user Jeffrey who have a very slow movement set-up but each of their blows and extremely varied throws hurt a lot. The characters are so different that once you get used to play as one, switching to another requires a lot of focus and trying to re-learn the rules of the game from scratch, but part of the beauty of the game really comes into play in that, the insane variety of gameplay styles.

Virtua Fighter 5 Online features several game modes like Arcade, where you try to beat a set number of AI opponents before fighting a final challenge, Versus, where you can play either offline or online with players worldwide (though the online now days is deserted, sadly), Dojo, where you can train and practice your moves against a training dummy, Options, and a very curious one called Quest.

In Quest mode, you create a file with a given character and will simulate a real-life player going around arcade places fighting hordes of infinite AI challenges of different levels of difficulty. In this mode you have a map where you can choose from around eight arcade places, each with a difficulty setting and by winning matches, you will rank up, unlock clothes to customize your character, earn emblems and even get invited to tournaments for other different prizes. Quest mode is very fun and works wonders when you just want to try out a character against AI opponents of different levels and want to mess around in the customization modes where it’s possible dress your character in thousands of unique ways so they look exactly as you want them to.

In Customization, each character will have four base costumes and from those you can buy or earn tons of clothes like hairstyles, shirts, pants, gloves, shoes and the like to personalize all of the fighters in many unique ways. Customizing your character can be a lot of fun by itself and making the results fight each other is very cool to watch and sometimes even seems funny, especially for a game as hardcore and difficult to master as Virtua Fighter 5.

The sound effects are awesome for the most part, especially on the stages where there are many ambient sounds for water, cheering crowds, wind, thunder and the like. The character’s voice acting is very good for the most part with few exceptions like the extremely annoying “Oh yeah!” coming from Jacky or some of Eileen’s lines. There’s a curious narrator that tells what’s happening in the fight as if you were watching a TV show but though it is a very nice addition, you will most likely grow sick of it rather quickly and turn it off. The same happens with the music which seems pretty at first but turns extremely repetitive way too fast. Fortunately, like all Xbox 360 games, Virtua Fighter 5 music can be completely replaced by a custom soundtrack from either the HDD of the console or an external device plugged via USB to enjoy the game with your favorite music.

Sadly, the Virtua Fighter series is a very obscure one and though it is clearly one of the best fighting game series out there, it has never gotten the respect it deserves. But in the near future, the “Final Showdown” version of the game will be available for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 as a digital download; the final version of the game has many gameplay tweaks and even a couple completely new characters. With luck, the game will finally gather a big crowd and possibly enough population for a solid online and offline community to develop.

But until then, VF5O for the Xbox 360 is an amazing and very cheap fighting game that everyone with the console should definitely try their hands at. It is very hard to play at first, yes, but with patience and perseverance, every player out there can learn and use at least one character to his/her advantage. The game has great graphics, sound effects, game modes and one of the best gameplay mechanics in the genre.

Pros:

-          One of the best fighting game mechanics in all the industry.
-          Extremely varied roster of characters, each with a unique set of moves and martial arts style.
-          Quest mode provides hours and hours of fun and is perfect for practicing and trying out new fighters.
-          Customization mode is rather deep and provides almost limitless options.

Cons:

-          The music can get very repetitive and annoying quickly.
-          The game is very hard to master.
-          Losing a round from a ring-out is really disappointing.



-          Graphics and Visuals………...9
-          Music and Sound Effects….....7
-          Gameplay…………………...10
-          Replay Value………………..10

Overall Score……………….. 9 / 10

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