Having had a brief but
memorable love affair with the Sega Dreamcast, I could fondly remember my
infatuation with the gifted Game God that is Yu Suzuki–creator of the awesome
Virtua Fighter series and the ambitious Shenmue. I’ve spent many
an hour dropkicking foes left and right and have even fell in love with the
plight of Ryo, hero of the RPG/fighter that let you do everything from buying
stuff at the local convenience store to hitting the arcade to play Suzuki-san’s
other Sega classics. I’ve even looked forward to Virtua Quest when it
was announced back when Sega’s console was still around so it was good news when
it found its way on the GameCube. Still, without the help of its Yu Suzuki,
will this be a Sega classic Nintendo gamers will love? Let’s get right to it,
is a potpourri of gaming genres, mixing in
a dash of fighting, a sprinkle of platformer gaming and dose of role-playing
game goodness. This concoction results in a game that in some way plays in the
Virtua Fighter universe yet introduces some original new characters that
aren’t beating each another to a pulp. Enter Sei and his buddy Hayami, two
young kids who have taken the high road to adventure by being “Treasure
Hunters.” Treasure Hunting in this world, though, consists of being jacked into
the virtual Nexus world and the “treasure” consists of valuable Data Chips they
can earn so Sei could buy parts for an air bike he plans to use in a race. Yet
all goes sour in the Nexus world and Sei and his friends discover that an
organization called J6 might be kidnapping Treasure Hunters and that the threat
is even leaking out into the real world.
Sei’s first official trip
into the Nexus comes when he receives a Hunter Glove from his father–a glove
used inside the network to store specialty attacks (but more on that later).
After a somewhat lengthy test of his skills, Sei obtains a Hunter’s License that
allows him to jack into various areas within the Nexus and he does so but at a
cost. You see, he encounters a mysterious girl that tells him of his fate and
as he picks up each mysterious Virtua Soul he learns new combat attacks from
none other than familiar Virtua Fighter characters like Akira Yuki or
even Shun D. Yet first you must defeat them in a fight and you’ll find that
your familiar opponents have all the same moves as in past Virtua Fighter
games. After defeating them you’ll be able to use their specialty moves in
combat. Nothing’s cooler than using Shun D’s Touku Hitenhou spin attack and
seeing it performed by someone other than Shun D is pretty neat.
What isn’t pretty neat is
the actual execution of said moves. Thanks to the game’s problematic controls
laying the smack on enemies just isn’t as smoothly carried out as in the
fighting games that inspired this particular title. In fact, much of the
fighting will become repetitive. Really, the only cool fights come when you go
up against Virtua Fighter characters. The same can be said about the
platforming bits in this game–it becomes pretty dull pretty fast. Sei’s glove
allows him to use a wire hook that–like the classic NES game Bionic Commando–allows
him to zip or swing or drag enemies closer to him. Sounds great, alright but
the camera plus the awkward controls just makes using the wire hook
frustrating. The only thing that really works well is the Prince of Persia-style
As for the role-playing
part, it’s traditional in that Phantasy Star kind of way and that’s not
bad but then again it’s no Shenmue. You’ll be able to walk around the
environment and communicate with other characters throughout the game. Most
important of all you’ll even level up and upgrade everything from Sei’s Battle
Mode (that goes from Light, Middle and Heavy) that reflects on his armor and
even hit point and hunter level. The story does have its interesting points but
it doesn’t hook you in enough to make you care about what’s going on . . . and
that’s too bad since Sei and his friends can be a bit charming.
Visually speaking, though,
Virtua Quest isn’t a very attractive-looking game nor is it filled with
wonderful detail. We’ve seen the GameCube produce some really spectacular
graphics on past Sega games but this one, sadly enough, falls flat. Even the
game’s environments look a bit blockish and sterile with very little in terms of
detail. I’m even turned off by the animation and the visual effects but at
least the characters are kind of cute . . . if you like anime, of course.
Sound-wise, I wince at the
voice acting and wish there were more to the soundtrack. The rough translation
means the dialogue is embarrassingly cheesy but even then the performances feel
as though they’re being read by people that aren’t even voice actors. The
soundtrack doesn’t play throughout the whole game and much of it is simply
generic and tame compared to, say, Skies of Arcadia on the GameCube.
Even the sound effects aren’t as cool. So if you’re looking for an emotional
audio experience you won’t find it here at all.
Virtua Fighter 4
Evolution is bar none of the best
fighting games Sega has produced and Shenmue is an extraordinary RPG
fighting game, with a track record like this you’d think Virtua Quest
would be gaming gold. Sadly, this is far from the truth. While the game has
its few shining moments, Virtua Quest just doesn’t leave us wanting to
see it through to the end. Maybe it’s the gawky controls or the tame combat but
this one just doesn’t play as good as it could have. Sorry Virtua Fighter
fans but I’d skip this one.
The game’s biggest disappointment
comes in the form of its controls that are just too difficult to maneuver
smoothly around the environments. Many of the combat moves feel both good in
the Virtua Fighter kind of way but also way too awkward. The RPG
elements aren’t really bad at all but they seem to lack that spark found in
other Sega RPGs like the Dreamcast version of Phantasy Star Online.
The characters are actually pretty
cute in that Pokémon Saturday-morning-cartoon kind of way and the
familiar Virtua Fighter characters will be instantly recognizable when
you see them. While this is good, the environments and character animations are
just so lackluster. There are some okay visual effects but they’re not able to
save this game’s overall visuals.
Unfortunately the sound doesn’t make
up for some of the game’s visual blemishes. In fact, the sound actually hurts
the game’s visuals thanks to badly performed dialogue. The soundtrack could
have even brought emotion to the cut scenes but it doesn’t. The sound effects
are actually pretty good, though.
Virtua Souls grant you some
specialty moves that make fighting look good but thanks to the awful controls
you’ll be struggling with it a lot in this game. You’ll also be able to level
up, which will help you defeat enemies easier. Some enemies are too dumb to
pose much of a threat while others will have you really mashing those buttons.
I started liking the main character,
Sei, unfortunately I started liking him way late in the game when his character
began to show personality. I like the Energy Wire that adds just a tad more
variety to the platform-style and I absolutely LOVE the Virtua Fighter
cameos throughout the game. There is very little else, however, that will
really thrill gamers.
Sadly while it is an interesting
concept, Virtua Quest just doesn’t have all the right moves to make this
as enjoyable as the fighting games that inspired this title. In the past Sega
has given us some brilliant platform, fighting and role-playing games–and even
some that combined all three but this one is just far too flawed to recommend.