Other things have also changed, but mostly for good. There are two new fighters ? El Blaze and Eileen, which we?ll come to in a minute ? while old favourites have been given an extra life by virtue of subtle redesign, both physically and through tweaks to their standard combos.
El Blaze, a Mexican pro wrestler, is a good mid-range fighter ? an all-rounder. He looks like one of the characters from the appalling Nacho Libre
movie, but don?t let that put you off. Eileen, on the other hand, is a small and quick specialist in Monkey Kung-Fu. She almost feels too diminutive at first, but ? as with Kage and Shun ? practise sufficiently and you?ll find how she can best use her strengths, even when up against Akira or Jeffry (who is bigger than ever in VF5). All in all, with a cast of 17 characters to play, and Dural in the game?s Dojo Mode, there?s more than enough variety of fighting styles in VF5
There?s also plenty of variety in VF5?s
stages, and some of the visual highlights are just spectacular ? the Great Wall of China is splashed in golden sunlight, the river stage is played on a moving boat as other boats punt by, and the snow in the mountain stage is so powdery you could sniff it. The lighting here is excellent and character shadows are perfectly tied to their animations. 3D backdrops go on as far as the eye can see. There are properly modelled spectators and passers-by in most stages. We could go on. The point is: Sega has announced in VF5
that the n-n-next-gen can begin.
In terms of the modes on offer, VF5
provides a good blend of serious and silly. There?s the Customize option, which lets you mess with your character?s look and select his/her wardrobe ? a great laugh.
And then there?s Quest Mode ? played from a map screen that looks like Tokyo ? in which you can visit virtual Sega arcades to fight against virtual players of all skill levels, and enter tournaments as and when they?re held. The objectives in Quest Mode include levelling-up your personal fighter (from 10th Kyu all the way to greater than 1st Dan), and winning clothing/accessories and gold (for use in VF5?s
Quest Mode is a great way to spend time when you?re playing on your own, as is Arcade mode. Inevitably, though, most of your hours will be given over to two-player fights with VF
-mad friends; and rightly so. The balance of VF5?s
gameplay ? the more considered tempo, an increased number of simple combos, and a Dojo Mode that shows you how to play VF5
like a Master ? makes this the perfect two-player beat ?em up.
Even beginners can stand a chance against veterans now ? and not because Sega has pulled a Namco and turned this into a Tekken
-style button-masher (it certainly hasn?t, I?m glad to say), but because VF5
is about re-education. The whole game engine has gone a level-up and the parameters have changed. As ever, though, it?s an absolute joy to play.
SPOnG rating: A
Why isn?t VF5 an ?A+?, you?re probably wondering. Well, there are a couple of points that we still hope are addressed in the Xbox 360 version. For one, there?s no online play here. And secondly, the loading times are just a bit sloppy. Regardless of those minor concerns, though, we?re happy to slap a big, fat ?CLASSIC? rosette on AM2?s latest. It?s VF-ing good.