Seeing as “gameplay is everything” these days, I wasn’t surprised at the folks who figured my analysis of Virtua Fighter’s lacking appeal was half-hearted and ill-informed. Granted, I don’t buy anything to have my views validated, I’ve been meaning to try at least one of the entries to get away from the dull and lifeless Ringling Brothers Circus known as Tekken. And… I couldn’t find a copy of DOA5 anywhere so I had this option.

By the balls of Ra, it was worse than I imagined.

The hype of “deep and technical” wasn’t bullshit, apparently as every move and maneuver in this game requires precise timing to get down pat. Now, the more complex moves, the general rule of fighters is to never use moves that are more complicated than need be. But that doesn’t appear to be an option for these games. Every move feels more complicated than need be due to the timing necessary. And I’ve been through Namco’s fighters where timing is everything, it’s almost a completely different ball game here.

One of the worst things about this game is that nearly every move in the roster’s arsenal are indistinguishable from one another, killing any desire to practice with a particular character. And combined with the turtle-fest nature of the game and the sheer speed of the actual fighting, what motivation would one have to practice the moves when basic normals will suffice?

It feels as though the game is more about the basics of fighting. You know, attacking, blocking, occasional grabs, etc. With that, the game’s stiff ass controls rival those of pre-2011 Mortal Kombat. Unless you’re hot shit and can get the timing down pat for the game, your ass is out of luck.

But there’s a flaw in that design. Basic equals predictable. If you try to stick with the basics, you will be mauled. Advanced techniques are usually put into the game to defeat basic tactics. And assuming everyone that plays VF isn’t a newb, basic shit won’t get you anywhere. And therein lies the problem. The game demands you become a master of the system before you can start enjoying it.
And we all know by now that this kind of bullshit doesn’t fly these days. How many successful games are there that require you to become a master before you have fun? The game has to be fun the moment you begin round 1. And that can only be achieved by making the player feel like an arrogant bastard.

Yes. In order to garner a larger fanbase, you need to give your audience a taste of power. Make them crave glory. Ensure that power is an intoxicating drug that compels them to stay. Compels them to disobey their better judgment. Corrupt them with the tiny ounce you offer. Once they’ve sampled the forbidden fruit, they are spellbound, and they are yours forever.

Street Fighter offered the forbidden fruit. As did Mortal Kombat. Tekken. Soul Calibur. And all kinds of DOA.

Yes, all fighters need a little practice. But little is the key word here. Characters in the game should be easy to translate to, one to another. Why? Well, if you picked a certain character but aren’t too keen on your choice, you can go to another, practice a little, and see how that one works out for you. What lunacy is it that you will have trouble learning one character, let alone 2 in a single fighter?

Also, Let the players, not the game, dictate how much practice you need. People are motivated by other people, not the system itself. I’ve never seen one person look at a game and go “man, I want to become a grand master at this fighting system!”. It’s more so “DAMMIT! That bastard cheated me!” Then someone tells him “no, you just suck”. And then an argument pursues, but in the end, the player in question just has a trigger mechanism that compels him/her to play more and get better. When I play Mortal Kombat 9, I haven’t had much practice with it, but I feel just as haughty as anyone else. The game allows me to feel powerful. But the moment someone counters my cheap bullshit, I rage. I’m so arrogant and full of myself that I proclaim “yo ass ain’t gonna look pretty in the next round, bitch face!”. I get mauled again, then my mind goes “shit! Ok, lemme slow down and see what I can do to turn this around. Ok, my opponent button mashes and does random shit.”. Then, tactics are changed. Instead of going for the most powerful/cheap shit I can do, I switch to a defensive tactic. Back stepping, going back in, blocking more often, etc.

But that’s just basic shit. Basic shit isn’t too easy to counter in most fighting games, and a good majority of the time, that’s all you need. Virtua Fighter allows no such freedom. You MUST become adept to the system before you can enjoy the game. And that is by being an advanced player. Mastery of fighting games should only be reserved for the perfectionist, not all audiences. It’s far more demanding than a standard fighting game affair. Though hardcore gamers may love the element of a skill so damn wide that it’s rare for anyone to cross it. The irony of this whole thing is that everyone despises accessibility (if NSMBW is any indication), but no one likes Virtua Fighter besides the freaks. Amazing. A fighting game that is the definition of niche. Not even King of Fighters steals that medal.

In order for Virtua Fighter to become more broad, it’s systems desperately need to change. The problem is the same as with every Sega produced game. Sega is faaar too rigid and stubborn to change anything for the better (unless it’s Sonic because that makes them money). If a game doesn’t make them money, instead of improving on it, they let it stagnate for years upon years until the end of time. People don’t play fighting game for a few improvements to an old fighting system. They never have, and never will. They only come back for gimmicks. Street Fighter’s endless remakes have gimmicks that keep people coming back. New characters and stages are always an incentive no matter how scammish the package is. Improved fighting systems are a mere bonus.  Sega has only recently started doing this, but wasted their opportunities with overseas markets. They gives no fucks in regards to popularity and/or health. I guess they assume Japan’s freaks are enough to satisfy. Instead of growing the potential for the series and broaden their audience, they literally settle for less.

There are those that claim that the game isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be. Of course not. As long as you know how to switch from both offensive to defensive styles of fighting, you shouldn’t have any problem on the basic level. But if you’ve played fighting games for a long time and already know the basics of every fighting game out there, you have no wiggle room to move beyond that basic level and learn parries, proper evades, etc. The game ties you down into re-learning the basics because it’s system is so intricate and advanced. So even competent fighting game players have their hands cuffed and are not treated to the forbidden fruit. And believe me, that is a major drag. The reasoning for this is due to the game moving blindingly fucking fast. The character’s attacks and grabs are almost invisible to the untrained eye. It’s like greased lightening! So, you’d have to get re-acquainted with the basics and pay even more attention to the fighting than usual. Most moves don’t have visible start up cues for you to know when to defend. If you aren’t familiar with VF, you’ll find your self mashing down on the guard button like a DBZ character.

It all comes down to “realism”. Realism is the worst thing you could put into a fighter. Entertainment is not realistic. Entertainment gives pleasure or delight to the senses. It can hold someone’s attention. Virtua Fighter is not entertainment. Or it isn’t anymore. Virtua Fighter’s selling point was that it was the first 3D fighter to have realistic moves and such. But what good is the series now? Again, like Sonic, Virtua Fighter was about showing off hardware and graphics. There’s nothing more to it than an old broken heirloom.

So how’s that? Virtua Fighter has no appeal, content, or accessible gameplay! A triple negative and a good reason to avoid the series altogether. Unless you’re a soulless, sociopathic freak who gets off to being the best like no one ever was.

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