Captain Zoli's Review

Virtua Quest

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Not Quite Virtua Fighter

Developed by Sega-AM2 and published by Sega, Virtua Quest hit the streets in January of 2005, to much anticipation, not only from fans of the popular Virtua Fighter series upon which the game is based, but also RPG fans looking for something a little different from the regular high fantasy fare that is usually heaped upon them like so much mediocrity. I admit it. As a long time fan of both RPGs and the Virtua Fighter series, I was one of these gamers looking forward to Virtua Quest. Now that it is here, it isn't all I hoped for, but it's not all bad either. It just isn't that something special that it could have been.

The one thing about fighting games that is not of major concern to fans of the genre is an in-depth story. This isn't to say that there aren't stories in fighting games--because there are--they just aren't very good and aren't particularly important. This weakness of the source material has infected Virtua Quest, much to its detriment. What is viewed as simply a hallmark of the fighting game genre, is a weakness in RPG-style games. Basically, the story revolves around Sei, a young teen trying to impress his father (a high level programmer who spends all of his time away from Sei) by cruising the forgotten backwaters of a virtual world called Nexus. Sei's goal is to collect Data Chips to make money and repair his air bike for the big race. All is going well until he meets up with a mysterious young girl with blue hair; then things veer badly out of control. Sei gets sucked into a conspiracy involving world domination--and pretty much any other animé cliché you can think of--all presented in a manner that gives you the feeling the game was intended for the Saturday morning cartoon set. This has all been done before.

Although it has all been done before, graphically speaking, it is done very well here. Cut-scenes are all done in a very professional manner that makes it obvious that some time was spent on the game. In-game graphics are not the pinnacle of graphics that are to be found on the Playstation 2, but they aren't bad either. They are competent, even above average. Everything is colorful and the strong animé influence can be clearly seen in everything, from the backgrounds to the faceless enemies. Sega spared no expense making sure the game looked good. Also of particular note is the high quality sound and voice acting. Although the story has many flaws, it is told with quality voice over work.

Virtua Quest offers just a single mode of play, as is the standard for RPGs or adventure games. The first half hour or so of game-play is a tutorial that allows you to get acclimated to the various game mechanics: jumping, fighting, swinging, running on walls, and special attacks. Following this, the linear levels begin, each varying in cliché themes, like jungle, city streets, and construction zone. These levels branch out from the Hunter's "web-site," the main hub of the game where Sei will be able to speak with other hunters, practice his skills, and upgrade his equipment at the store. The level design is nothing special, and pretty much strictly adheres to the old trudge-through-the-level-and-then-face-a-boss-battle-at-the-end-model that every gamer knows so well. Although the design follows tried and true principles, it is tired and worn. This causes long stretches of boredom. Games can be saved either at the Hunter's "web-site" or periodically while exploring various levels at predetermined save points. There will be many stretches that you will wish these save points were closer together so that you can take a break from the monotony of this game.

Now for the tie-in. Sei must find all "Virtua Souls," the data taken from Virtua Fighters, to absorb their power and save the world. Virtua Souls are the real Virtua Fighter tie-in. When they are found, Sei does battle with one of the Virtua Fighters and is rewarded with a new special move if he wins. Special moves are the magic system of Virtua Quest. They cost SP to perform, and SP takes time to recharge. SP can also be used to perform a Bullet Time-style effect that allows Sei to get in extra hits on enemies. It is cool to see, but not anything new.

One of the real issues I have with Virtua Quest is the control. The controls are very loose. All the elements of great control are present and accounted for, but the implementation of the controls leaves much to be desired. It is possible for Sei to run along walls, but it can be difficult to get him to run along the wall as opposed to jumping off of it or falling down it. The controls are just too imprecise to deal effectively with the great amount of platform style action presented in the levels. This can be overcome and the game can be played, it just makes completing many of the levels more of a chore than something that could be considered fun.

On the other hand, the fighting controls are one of the bright points of the game. Fighting in Virtua Quest is a third person action-RPG style affair that has little in common with the Virtua Fighter series style of one on one combat. It actually has a lot in common with brawlers like Dynamite Cop or Double Dragon. One-button attacks, one-button jumps, one-button blocks or dodges, and one-button performs special moves--that's really about it. Used in combination, it makes for a fair variety of ways to dispatch the enemies that are met along the way. Although the regular battles can get a bit dull after a while, the boss battles are always entertaining and require a bit more thought.

In the final accounting, Sega's Virtua Quest isn't everything I'd hoped it would be. It lacks the depth of story that sets apart the best RPGs, the tight control that characterizes the best action/adventure style games, and the complex fighting system that is integral to its source material, Virtua Fighter. At times, it seems to have more in common with Quest 64 than the Virtual Fighter series. Despite these shortcomings, it isn't a bad game; it's just not a very entertaining one.

3 out of 5

Posted on April 26, 2005.

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Copyright © 2004-2005 Ronnie Richardson. All rights reserved.