March 21, 2007 - Virtua Fighter 5 is a huge, huge game to launch with any console and we don't want to play down the significance of its arrival alongside PlayStation 3. For some people, this is going to be a weekend to remember; albeit the kind who eat-sleep-drink Virtua Fighter.
News of an Xbox 360 edition due later this year stole some of the thunder but even so, SEGA has its best chance to get Virtua Fighter in the spotlight given the drought of exclusive PS3 titles at launch. Admittedly, SEGA's standard bearer might not justify £425 for a next-gen console all by itself; leave that to Sony's MotorStorm. However this could - and we'll have a little think about whether it should - be the first Virtua Fighter that sells to the gaming masses. For once the timing is perfect.
Insanely detailed fighters and sumptuous backgrounds are the order of the day.
Everything looks good from the off and not even the hardest of hardcore can point to graphical differences between PS3 and arcade VF5. It is, quite simply, beautiful. PS3 gets the very latest version of the arcade game too (Version B, in case you're wondering), so the gameplay is beyond reproach. On that note, nothing has radically changed since VF4 however; a few extra moves have been distributed among all the characters, but otherwise the same three-button layout serves to guard, punch and kick, as it has done since 1993. Thankfully the additional dodge button that came and went alongside that Sumo guy with VF3 is nowhere to be seen, replaced in VF4 by nudging the D-pad up or down, which is far more intuitive - just the way VF connoisseurs like it. Also welcome is the return of the Ranking System introduced in 2001, later borrowed by Tekken, that awards martial arts grades and beyond to achieve god-like status.
Newcomer El Blaze is one of the more accessible characters on the roster.
Virtua Fighter 5 is the least developed of all the series when you consider the progress made between versions 1-4. SEGA's AM2 division has clung onto its perfectly level, evenly-proportioned arenas to keep bouts fair and, well, completely square. Some are fenced in, allowing for context-driven special moves. Others are walled, which can be broken down to edge fighters out of the ring and clinch victory in the face of defeat. Strategy is forever where it's at with Virtua Fighter. Speed chess, as the fans say.
SEGA only ever comes forward with two new characters for each VF revision. Since the introduction of Lei-Fei and Vanessa from VF4 and Brad and Goh from Evo, SEGA has really found its groove with newcomers Eileen and El Blaze. Both perform impressive moves without the need for players to break a sweat. Beginners won't find themselves tied up in knots as with Lei-Fei, or stabbing at buttons to squeeze blood from a stone - yes, we're talking about you, Brad and Goh. With Eileen and El Blaze, we have VF's most accessible protagonists since the Bryants, and they didn't even need tattoos. Arguably, a Mexican wrestler and a Chinese practitioner of Monkey style Kung Fu aren't destined to become household names, but let's not pee on our milestone.