TOKYO--Nowhere is Sega's Virtua Fighter 5 more popular than in Japan, so it was a fitting place to see a very advanced version of the game on the Xbox 360. It was also welcoming to see that Sega had set up customised Hori sticks to play the game in as close to arcade conditions as possible. We spent some time playing through all the modes on offer, as well as talking to the localisation team about the what we can expect in the finished product.
Although Virtua Fighter 5 has been available on the PlayStation 3 for some time now, the Xbox 360 version looks set to be the definitive version. Because the game is based around the latest version of hardware in the arcades, it's the most up-to-date home port of the game and therefore features improved artificial intelligence. If that weren't enough to convince hardcore VF players to buy the game again, the Xbox 360 version's improved, antialiased graphics should tip the balance.
The Xbox 360 version is also set to offer more on the features side. The number of AI opponents has been upped to 1,000, meaning that there are plenty of different fighting styles to encounter in the quest mode. There are also 3,000 unlockable costume items to customise your characters with. The characters in the Japanese build all had localised voices, so American characters such as Jackie still had American accents, and although we didn't get to hear it, there's a full Dolby 5.1 soundtrack on offer, too.
But of course the biggest new feature is the online mode, and although we didn't get to play it at TGS (because there's no one out there to play against), the localisation team did have some more details about what we can expect to see in the final game. First of all, the expected one-on-one battle mode will of course be on offer, but your online ranking will be completely separate to the one you have in the single-player game. The game will also support voice chat for those who want to taunt their opponents, as well as a VF TV mode where you can watch replays of classic fights from the world's greatest combatants.
We played through some arcade, quest, and dojo battles during our time at the Sega booth, and we have to say we're very pleased with the Xbox 360 conversion. It held up a rock-solid 60 frames per second performance while still managing to look substantially polished. Because of our time spent in Japanese arcades, we loved heading to Club Sega in the game's quest mode, and the varying styles of the AI challengers made us want to carry on and play longer than we could. The dojo mode is a great place to familiarise yourself with the hundreds of moves for each character, seeing as it offers command, free, and time attack training. And finally, the arcade mode was just as we expected, offering a perfect opportunity to experience each of the 11 characters.
Virtua Fighter 5 is going on sale in Japan on December 6, with the Hori arcade sticks arriving on the same day for a little over 7,000 yen (around £30 or $60). We're really looking forward to playing more multiplayer games, especially if the online mode holds up, but it's looking likely that we'll have to wait for the finished game to see how well that particular mode turns out. Keep an eye on the site for more information as we get it.