The Original 3D Fighter Makes Its First Online Appearance
Fighting games were all the rage back in the '90s, and they're currently making a comeback. During the previous decade, games like Street Fighter lined arcades. Many fighting game enthusiasts loved taking Ryu and Ken into battle, but for some people, two-dimensional characters just didn't cut it. Some of these people were won over by up-and-coming polygonal fighters, like Virtua Fighter. Virtua Fighter may have moved at a slower pace than what people were used to, but they didn't care, because it had a degree of realism that was unparalleled at the time. The blocky characters may not have mirrored reality, but the lack of fireballs and teleporting yoga masters gave Virtua Fighter a realistic flare. Even though its characters look quite generic now, many of them remained with the series over its various iterations. Virtua Fighter's gameplay has only received minor enhancements throughout each installment, but it has remained in favor with 3D fighting game fans due to its increasingly realistic graphics and solid fighting engine.
Unlike Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter games don't have six attack buttons. Street Fighter titles include three punch buttons and three kick buttons, while Virtua fighter games (at least the recent ones) only have a punch, guard, and kick button. This seemingly simplistic gameplay actually hides one of the most complex fighting game series in existence. There are no flashy super moves in Virtua Fighter games, but each character has an enormous list of techniques to master. Virtua Fighter 5 is no different.
You'll likely need to begin in Training Mode if you don't want to get sent home in a sling. Virtua Fighter 5's practice mode gives you a list of each character's commands, and it'll notify you if you input them correctly. For example, Akira might have to tap right, right, down-right, punch, punch, up, kick. As you can see, some of these combinations are quite complex and hard to remember, so mastering a fighter takes eons. While these moves might sound difficult to perform, the resulting techniques aren't that spectacular. You won't find yourself hurtling fireballs, or performing spinning piledrivers. Instead, you'll execute realistic looking techniques from a variety of Martial Arts.
Each character has a specific Martial Art, so all of their skills will come from a particular fighting style. Players who've trained in a fighting art might enjoy playing Virtua Fighter 5, but other players will likely find it boring. If you require weapons or flaming projectiles in your fighters, Virtua Fighter 5 won't satisfy you.
I had some fun executing various combination attacks, but Virtua Fighter 5 was hard to stomach after playing games like Street Fighter IV and Soul Calibur Quatro. With their smooth animations and lighting-fast gameplay, it's hard to go back to a game that plays like a ninety-year old man walks. Okay, Virtua Fighter isn't quite that bad, but the animations don't look realistic. The character models are impressive with realistic muscles and facial expressions, but they just don't move smoothly. Have you ever played a laggy online game that stutters intermittently? Well, that's how your characters move in Virtua Fighter. Part of this is intentional, as Virtua Fighter requires precise timing and is far more accurate than most other fighters, but casual fighting game fans won't be impressed.
Virtua Fighter 5 may feature so-so animations in tandem with crisp characters models, but the backgrounds are a knock out. Fighting on a floating raft, a misty mountain, or the Great Wall of China all look amazing. Many fighting games feature generic-looking arenas, so it was refreshing to see some background eye candy. If the fighters moved as fluidly as those in Street Fighter IV, Virtua Fighter 5 would be unstoppable.
Most of Virtua Fighter 5's modes are relatively basic: there's an Arcade Mode, Quest Mode, Training Modes, and Online Versus, which is a series first. The Arcade Mode is typical fighting game fare, with a set amount of opponents, and a powerful final boss. The final boss doesn't impress with her liquid metal bodysuit, and neither do the other cheap opponents. Like your average fighting game, the Arcade Mode features cheap foes that will quickly make you beg for mercy. Luckily, there are five difficulty modes and a number of options to make the journey a little bit easier.
The Quest Mode is somewhat more interesting than Arcade, but it's basically a regurgitated version of the Quest Mode found in Virtua Fighter 4. It was unique back in the day, because there weren't many PS2 online games. It was nice to be able to challenge a plethora of opponents that actually played like real players, but boy, have times changed. With services like Xbox Live and PSN, this mode is obsolete--unless you want to unlock a bunch of trinkets.
Virtua Fighter 5's standard modes won't interest most players for long, but the Versus Mode will keep you coming back as long as you have opponents. Unfortunately, there weren't any online opponents when I last played, so it's possible that the online community has dried up, but when I played online over a year ago, there was no noticeable lag. The number of online options available can't compete with the modes found in the breastfest known as Dead or Alive, but the Versus battles are quite fun when you can find them. If you have real friends that are of a similar skill level, Virtua Fighter 5 may still be a worthy purchase, as fighting with the game's massive character roster can keep players busy for hours.
For most fighting game fans, Virtua Fighter 5 is no longer relevant, because they've moved on to less realistic fighters featuring fluid animations. It's a fine fighting game, especially if you enjoy realism, but the slow animations aren't likely to win over many new players. If you have a friend or two that'd be willing to play, Virtua Fighter 5 might be worth a ten dollar bill; otherwise, you'll want to avoid this, because the online community is melting faster than the ice on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
· One of the deepest fighters currently available
· Features a high level of realism
· A variety of real Martial Arts are represented
· The two new fighters are welcome additions
· Some returning fighters have received new moves and makeovers
· Online play works great when you can find people
· Features beautiful courses
· The online community is now practically non-existent
· Certain characters have unrealistic proportions (Jeffry makes other characters look puny)
· Virtua Fighter 5 takes forever to master
· The moves aren't flashy enough for some tastes
· The animations look rudimentary compared to those found in newer fighting games
· Training Mode could have provided more help with move timing. It's difficult to find players of a similar skill level