Virtua Fighter 5 Preview
It's a fighting franchise that routinely sports the deepest and most intricate system in games, so when it explodes into the next generation, it's gonna make a splash.
The latest installment in the critically acclaimed Virtua Fighter series is currently being developed by Sega-AM2 for release on the PS3 some time next year. It has finally hit the arcades in Japan after a lengthy beta test, and just recently, Sega unveiled Virtua Fighter 5 at the Tokyo Game Show last month. The version displayed was only about half-complete, but it still provided gamers with a look at just how refined that complex system can get, given the significant power of the PS3.
The game offered two modes to sample on the floor; Arcade and Versus. The arcade mode featured the full roster of fighters we expect to see in the final version, and let you tackle a brief round of three fights against random opponents in a variety of different environments. And in Versus mode, of course, two human players could go head-to-head in the setting of their choosing.
Unfortunately, the arcade version hasn't released yet in the U.S., so most show attendees from this country wouldn't be able to compare and contrast. But FYI, American citizens, the TGS VF 5 appeared to be a faithful recreation of the arcade version, and for all you "fighting purists," Sega is planning to release a classic arcade stick alongside the game. Outside of this option, the standard control scheme is back; three buttons are primarily used, one each for punch, kick, and guard.
The combat system that began with the uber-blocky original Virtua Fighter in the arcades all those years ago has seen a great deal of growth. Sega has worked to refine the battle mechanic ever since, and the fifth installment should represent the deepest and most accessible system to date. The developers are streamlining the entire process, and therefore, the speed has increased and the tightness of the overall package is greatly enhanced.
One of the bigger gameplay tweaks involves the new "Offensive and Defensive" moves, which should add a great deal of depth to an already-deep combat system. Furthermore, even though show-goers had the chance to use that kick-ass Virtua Stick at TGS, those fancy maneuvers should be easily accomplished with the Sixaxis controller. The only negative reported from the presentation centers on the loading time, which was a few seconds longer on the PS3 than it is in the arcades. That issue will likely be tackled during the remainder of the game's development.
As for how the game is going to look on the PS3, VF 5 should come through nicely in the visuals department. At TGS, the game was running at a steady 720p and looked absolutely gorgeous, and although it was an incomplete version, the graphics were certainly on par with the arcade version. Each character features a huge amount of detail, the vibrant color palette we've come to love in the series, and general fluidity of movement. The large roster of fighters also looks cleaner, sleeker, and more refined.
When it comes to the backdrops, each of the arenas should boast a healthy sampling of open spaces, enclosed settings, and even some classic VF stages, such as Shun Di's VF2 raft stage. According to those who had the chance to actually go hands-on, the frame rate remained steady and unaffected throughout the demonstration. Thus far, Virtua Fighter 5 seems primed to successfully showcase the PS3's capability, while also giving fighting fans everything they could possibly ask for.
10/18/2006 Ben Dutka