Friday, November 2, 2007

Review: Own gamers online with "Virtua Fighter 5" for the 360

Me and my virtual persona, Kage-Maru, should make auditions when Michael Bay gets his hands on "G.I. Joe." After 61 victories, me and Kage-Maru can team as Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Of course, I am going to be Snake Eyes.

"Virtua Fighter 5," published by Sega, was actually released on Sony's Playstation 3 way back in February 2007. According to, PS3 version is based on the arcade version B of the game, while the 360 port is based on arcade version C of the game. What does that mean in plain English? The 360 got a much, much more polished version of "Virtua Fighter 5," which also features online play. The PS3 version? Not so much.

Both versions are similar in gameplay. You can choose either online or offline play - and can choose Arcade, versus, Quest, Dojo and VF.TV modes. Arcade is the mode where gamers fight against the CPU through seven stages and can go on Xbox Live to fight as well. You get unlimited continues. Vs. mode allows gamers to play against a human opponent. Quest allows gamers to play against rivals at virtual arcades and tournaments. At the end, you can become the top Virtua Fighter. Sweet.

Dojo is the mode I suggest folks new to "Virtua Fighter" should go. Yes, it's a training mode, and you don't get points or awards, but you do get a chance to polish your skills. You select your player, select your opponent and work them over. Don't worry - they always get back up. Well ...

You can also view replays, rankings and promotional movies in the VF.TV mode. Keeping a couple copies of online fights would be the ultimate.

Gameplay is good. You can turn down or amp up the difficulty and trust me, the characters will respond. The AI is very good - it learns your tendencies in fights and on later levels, actually counters them. It's a good addition and really can throw a curveball at you, especially if you love using a bread-and-butter move all the time.

My only real gripe is the inability to pause your game during some matches. I fought at least 10-12 folks before I was invited to a tournament. I could use that time (a dialog box pops up) and allowed me to handle some business around the house. But being able to pause the game whenever is an unwritten rule dating back to the Commodore ViC 20, the C64, Colecovisions and tape drives (Please press PLAY on tape). I hope an Xbox Live update corrects that flaw.

"Virtua Fighter 5" also features two multiplayer modes - Vs. and Arcade mode. You battle other gamers, however, you can go online via Xbox Live in Arcade mode and fight in Ranked matches (results are recorded) or Player matches (just for kicks).

After you conquer your foes, you can visit the Item shop and buy items to customize your character's appearance. Sorry, there's no bling in the shop, and they are fresh out of the Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow outfits. Man ... it's just not my day.

You can also customize your personal comment setting, which is a two-line comment that appears before fights. Mine? Still deciding between "I'll own you" or "Authorized distributor of Act Right™" "Act Right" currently has my vote. Play long enough and you see some fun ones, like Sgt. Angry or "Eileen." What? After beating them, too bad I couldn't rewrite their comments to say "PWN3D."

I do think the destructible and useable environments (like being able to kick someone over a barrier) are nice touches. There's nothing like watching your opponent getting kicked off the mat, into a river or off a cliff. Now ... add a few Wilhelm screams and we have ourselves a winner!

The graphics are very nice. The colors are deep and flow together. The backgrounds are lush and moving - be it NPCs in the background, the water or dust - it's sweet. The character animations are stunning. Most of the moves are fluid and lifelike. Eye candy is in full effect in "Virtua Fighter 5."

Achievements are kind of hard to come by, but can be had. When I was in Quest mode and defeating foes left and right, I earned two achievements for beating 50 plus fighters. You have to fight tooth and nail to unlock achievements. If you want easy gamer points, this is NOT the game.

It's a fighting game - pure and simple. It's not "Bioshock," "Halo 3" or "Manhunt 2," just a fighting game, set in exotic locales, with online play for the Xbox 360 crowd.

Me and Kage-Maru will be OWNING you in a ring near you ...

Why should I care: Sega's "Virtua Fighter" series has been around longer than a vast majority of gamers. It finally makes the jump to the 360 and wow - what a jump it is.

The good: Excellent graphics, stellar gameplay, wicked combat moves, evolving AI, ONLINE PLAY, several modes, online and offline, lush backgrounds and you can even spend your cash in the gift shop and a thick and detailed manual.

The bad:
Not being able to pause during fights (this should be corrected, Sega. Please!), couldn't review multiplayer - since I was reviewing it before any else had a copy, I couldn't compete online ;-( , funny character intros during fights and being amazed at how much my opponents were suckers for punishment.

The ugly:
Nacho Libre's lil brother getting own3d, kicking into a river and barely getting a lick on me. And dude, pink is definitely NOT your color.

Overall: 9.5 (out of 10): This is the best fighting game right now on a next-gen console. It definitely blows the PS3 version away and really shines on the 360. If you love "Street Fighter," "Mortal Kombat" and the like, you HAVE to get this game. It's definitely a button-masher's dream, but on your way to buy this game, I'd advise getting some Band-Aids to soothe your aching thumbs and fingers. Practice makes perfect, especially when you could end up facing me.

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