Virtua Fighter 5

I busted out my copy of Virtua Fighter 5 over the Labor Day weekend, on the XBox 360. I forgot how much fun that game was. As a fan of the series from the very first release in the arcades in the mid-90s, and playing countless hours of VF2 on the Sega Saturn (it was a pack-in game when I got my Saturn!), when VF5 finally came to the XBox 360, I had to be there, right away.

Virtua Fighter was the very first 3D fighting game. Its use of polygons instead of pixels was revolutionary at the time, and Sega definitely saw what the future of gaming would be, arguably before anybody else. Between VF and Sonic 3D Blast, Sega was all on top of making 3D games before 3D games were the norm. I wonder what happened?

Anyways. VF is much like other fighting games, in that you pick your martial artist and go head-to-head against other fighters from all over the world. The controls are complex in their simplicity; In addition to the 8-way Joystick/D-Pad, there are just three gameplay buttons; Punch, Kick, and Guard. Pressing combinations of P, K, and G will execute different attacks; For example, P+G is a throw attack for every character. K+G is usually a stronger kick attack. Throw in directional pressed on the joystick, and you’ve got an infinite number of simple combinations that are executed instantly, each with their own range, power, speed, and priority.

One of the unique features of Virtua Fighter is that each sequel has only ever introduced two new characters, and only one of the characters was retired (Taka-Arashi, the Sumo Wrestler from Virtua Fighter 3, was apparently too difficult to calculate hit detection for, in relation to the other characters). But every game gets completely re-imagined backgrounds, and brand-new character models for each and every character, and cleaner, crisper controls.

VF5 introduced two new characters: El Blaze is a Lucha Libre expert, very reminiscent of Mexican Wrestling sensation, Rey Mysterio (before Rey got a bazillion tattoos everywhere). Also joining the cast is Eileen, a teenage practitioner of Monkey Fist Kung Fu.

Of course, with my being a pro wrestling fan, I’ve always gravitated towards the grapplers in fighting games, and VF is no exception. My character of choice is Wolf Hawkfield, a Canadian native American Heavyweight who integrates the most popular maneuvers of pro wrestling into his move set. In addition to all kinds of chops, clotheslines, elbows, and kicks, Wolf also has a wide variety of powerful throws and devastating suplexes, in addition to a handful of bone-crunching submission attacks. If only he weren’t so slow, I may consider him the ultimate fighting game character.

The only downside to VF5 is that the online community has all but vanished, as the game is nearly 3 years old, by this point. Two minor updates to the game have been released in the arcade since the XBox 360 release (re-introducing Taka-Arashi, as well as an all-new character, Jean Kujo). Even if Sega were to just release the most recent update onto consoles, it could breathe new life into the game.

Or we could just wait for Virtua Fighter 6. Which I’m perfectly content doing.