March 1, 2007

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Virtua Fighter 5, (PS3)
Sega, 2007
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

“Do you know Praying Mantis?”

“Brother, you’re looking at him.”

Back in the way-back, little Glenn Given missed more than a few matinees pumping quarter after quarter into the Comack Movie Theatre’s brand spanking new Virtua Fighter arcade machine. While those halcyon days of coin-op glory are lost (and likely never to be understood by the “kids these days”) Virtua Fighter 5 slathers another layer of polish onto the Fighting genre.

Since VF3, the Virtua Fighter series has been the thinking-man’s fighting game. It eschewed the spastic tapping of Tekken, avoided the horrible character imbalance of Soul Caliber and simply left Street Fighter in the dust. In its latest iteration VF presents 17 characters whose methods of ass-beatery range from Shaolin Kung Fu and Ninjitsu to boxing and high-flying wrestling. Newcomers Eileen (monkey-style Kung Fu) and El Blaze (a Mexican luchador wrestler) add some high velocity options to a roster that was beginning to tip over to the power-house brawling side of the fisticuffs spectrum.

Not to say that any of the returning cast is a slouch; far from it. All our scrappers find their repertoire of moves expanded with dozens of new grapples, combos and strikes seamlessly integrated into their chosen style. For returning players this means it’s a cinch to pick up and play your favorite fighter and wade right into the fray. You can try out the ridiculously deep list of moves in training or in Quest mode which pits you against increasingly difficult fights as you advance from lowly 10th Kyu to 1st Dan and unlock a Paris Hilton-esque array of costumes and “flair” to play pretty pretty princess dress-up with.

‘Cause as we all know fighting games are all about finding that perfect scarf for your autumn wardrobe. Don’t expect to dazzle your fellow Virtua Fighter enthusiasts with your threads, though, as Sega doesn’t let you bring your buffed-up characters to Jeff or Suzy’s house. You also won’t be fighting online anytime soon, thanks to latency issues, nor can you participate in online ranking or trade recorded matches.

As much as those omissions may stick in your craw Virtua Fighter still stands as the nicest-looking, smoothest-playing, most engaging and best-balanced fighting game available today. It can also safely claim the title of best PS3 game thus far (but admittedly nominees for such title are thin on the ground). If you have a PS3 and enjoy beating up a ninja with your kung fu school girl (as all non-freedom-hating patriots do) than VF5 is a must. If you don’t have a PS3 (but still love the ‘ol red white and blue in all her “We’re number 1” glory) than wait for the XBOX 360 version that’s coming down the pipe in a few months. Hopefully Microsoft will iron out the online issues and elevate this otherwise perfect title above an A-

— Glenn Given.