January 19, 2007 - We've written a number of previews on it already, but SEGA's highly-anticipated Virtua Fighter 5 is finally in our offices. This means that we could sit down and try features we had only heard about before, or spend additional time with things we had to rush through at gaming events. The new Quest, Customize, and VF.TV modes stand out in particular, and there were a few surprises to be found as well.
The first stop that most v-fighters should make is at the rather extensive customization screen. It's a lot more detailed than the character modifier from VF Evo, and it gives players the opportunity to equip items won in battle onto ten different sections of the body (including their face, hips, wrists, legs, and feet to name a few). To keep things interesting, combatants are also given a maximum encumbrance level that limits how much stuff they can wear at once (illustrated with a 10-point system). Some items are worth more points than others and even if you haven't equipped every section of your body, if your item points exceed 10, then you can't equip anything else.
As you might expect, the huge range of items that players can toy around with alters their fighter's look pretty drastically. Users can unlock or purchase an incredible number of costume alterations and add-ons ranging from standard jackets and shirts to the more exotic swords, shurikens, and face masks. Even better is that gamers can now customize four different costumes for a single character instead just two, and you can save up to 30 unique characters per game. Bizarrely, the rather useless "red contact lenses" have made their return from Evo and can be equipped as well, but why anyone would want to spend their money on this barely noticeable addition is beyond me,
The meatiest and most addictive option, of course, is the aforementioned Quest mode -- which is essentially a beefed up version of the like-named Kumite revamp from Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution. Its premise is simple: take one of the characters you've customized above and throw them into the wild and wacky world of arcade dominance. Illustrated with a surprisingly old-gen menu interface, the city is shown as an icon-based map that allows competitors to hop from virtual arcade to virtual arcade. There are seven coin-op havens in all, and they're the ideal place to rack up ranking points, items, money, and other goodies (you can still go up ranks in standard arcade or versus matches too). There's even an "Orb Disc" that you can fill with spheres earned in special bouts that allows you extremely rare and unique items as you progress.
Speaking of progression, the easiest way to advance is to hop into the arcade of your choice (which are separated by skill levels) and win as much as you can. Eventually you'll be invited to participate in local tournaments for extra goodies or head off to the area to fight in official tourneys. Victory in all of them increases your standing, unlocks more stuff, and ups your win percentage. But if you don't feel like competing, you can always head back "home" and re-costume your character, input a special motto, or post specialized emblems next to your name bar.