With the release of fighters like Dead or Alive 4 for the Xbox 360 and Soul Calibur III for the Playstation 2, it’s easy to forget the grandfather of modern 3D fighting games, Sega’s Virtua Fighter. Well, with the newest installment in the Virtua Fighter series, it’s a safe bet that most gamers will have Virtua Fighter 5 on their minds for a long time to come. Making a name for itself by offering a more realistic kind of fighting, VF has always stood out from the crowd. You won’t find any weapons, fighting bears, anime styles, or even much of a story mode here, but what you will find is state-of-the-art graphics and an incredibly deep fighting engine.
While very little is known about VF5 right now, some nice nuggets of information have slipped through the cracks of Sega’s walls. For starters the basic control scheme has remained the same with the three button setup being guard, punch, and kick. One new part of the gameplay will be the varied ability to attack and block from either side of a character. To achieve this new dimension of fighting every character had to have new motions and movements (including a nice helping of motion blur) implemented into their already long list of animations. In order to move around your opponent quicker and to have a shot at performing a side attack Sega has put in special commands. Up-Towards or Down-Towards in conjunction with the guard+punch+kick will help gamers move around foes and their defense much easier. Since movement will clearly play a bigger role this time around, this altered style my better fit the faster characters in Virtua Fighter.
As far as characters go, the roster thus far is basically the same as in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution. The list of characters are: Akira, Aoi, Brad, Goh, Jacky, Jeffery, Kage, Lau, Lei Fei, Lion, Pai, Sarah, Shun Di, Vanessa, and Wolf. There are two new additions to the list though. First is yet another wrestler named El Blaze, the undisputed Mexican junior heavyweight of wrestling. All of his success means nothing to him when compared to Wolf. Blaze is jealous of Wolf’s celebrity, and he believes defeating Wolf in the next Virtua Fighter tournament is the only way to gain ultimate stardom and wipe out his own diffidence. Even though Blaze is much smaller than other fighters like Wolf and Jeffery, he makes up for his lack of strength and power with agility and speed. The second new brawler is a female from China named Eileen. Eileen’s chosen art of fighting is a very fast Kou-ken monkey fists style, and she’s mostly for new comers to the fight game. Raised by her grandfather, she loves the opera and recently attended a performance by Pai. Eileen idolizes Pai and decides to join the fifth tournament in order to meet finally her.
To keep with the theme of character customization found in VF4: Evolution, Sega has added even more items and areas of fighters to which you can alter. You can now add tattoos, sunglasses, tank tops, and jackets just to name a few. Don’t hold your breath for a create-a-character though. Sega’s vision for customization ends at appearances for now. Also, instead of just having two costumes for each person, they all have four different outfits now. Each fighter will start out with two costumes and you will have to unlock the last two (sort of like what Dead or Alive does), which can really alter the way longstanding characters look.
As any of you that have actually seen screenshots and/or videos of VF5 know, the real draw for gamers at first is going to be the stunning visuals. Graphically, this game puts all other titles to shame. Everything from character models to mist, reflections, sweat, motion blur, water, lighting, shadows, and every thing else that sets the mood for the levels looks absolutely beautiful. The textures look perfect, and close-ups reveal wrinkles in skin, bags under eyes, scars, pores and bulging veins, making the characters look beyond realistic. The stages are another sight to behold, as well. The battle grounds are a mixture of new and revamped old stages. Sadly, they are all walled off arenas and not mutli-tiered maps. The list of known stages are:
Arena- Fights take place on a glass floor where NPC crowds gather underneath to watch the bout.
Bridge- Shun Di’s classic level.
Broken House- A place with high semi-destructible walls.
Canyon- An ring that shows off the amazing water effects.
City- Another stage that shows off water effects.
Deep Mountain- A snowy place with huge mountains in the background.
Great Wall- An old arena with destructible a floor and gorgeous lighting from a sunset.
Island- Jeffery’s classic stage.
Palace- Great lighting glow effects from chandeliers.
Statues- Not yet seen.
Temple- A garden level filled with trees. Leaves get kicked up during the match.
Terrace- An arena that takes place in front of a high society gathering.
As marvelous as Virtua Fighter 5 looks, gamers can be even more amazed that the game isn’t even finished yet. VF5 is still in the development stages for an arcade release in Japan. So for now, fans and the curious alike will just have to wait and salivate over the pics and trailers for Sega and Sega AM-2's truly mind blowing next-gen fighter.