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RELEASE DATE (NA): January 18, 2005 GENRE: Adventure/Beat-'em-up
// review by SoyBomb

Virtua-lly a game.

Let's talk about Virtua Quest, a game that, in concept, sounds promising but ends up falling flat in pancake fashion. In Japan, this game has a much longer title, Virtua Fighter Cyber Generation: Ambition of the Judgement Six, and is a spinoff of the popular Virtua Fighter series. Though Virtua Fighter is generally known for its one-on-one fighting, this game isn't that. It's an action-RPG that has little to do with Virtua Fighter, save for cameo appearances purposely separate from the world of reality in the game itself. Virtua Quest may have had good intentions, but it's a crusty flop.

The first disappointment comes with the story, which ends up being low-quality brain diarrhea. Because your friend Hayami needs money to repair his Air Bike (and is too lazy to, y'know, get a job), you have to become a Hunter and visit the various servers of the digital world of Nexus to raise funds. Doing so causes our "hero" Sei to uncover that there's an evil plot to take over Nexus featuring a bunch of Negative Nancies. Sei's duty becomes to rid the cyberworld of those bad hombres. Don't expect to know the whole story anytime soon, tough. The horrid trope of "you don't need to know [very important information] yet" is in full effect.

Where do I begin? How about with the incessant, INCESSANT number of cutscenes thrown your way throughout this quest? The game starts out with too many of these to begin with, and the amount of cutscenes only dwindles slightly as you are given access to more servers, and more time is spent actually exploring them. Everything has to be explained to you in the simplest of language, but even then, I didn't pay much attention because I was too busy falling asleep. Beyond this, cutscenes are frustratingly cornball and serve as solid evidence that Sei has as much charisma as canned tuna past its expiration date. He has little of value to add to a conversation most of the time beyond trying to stutter out a full sentence. The other characters aren't that much better, and based on their physical actions and facial expressions while they talk, it's clear the localization team must not have been paying any attention to the source material when writing the script. That is, if there WAS, in fact, a script, because much of the dialogue is laughably disappointing. Does everyone lack personality in this world?

It also doesn't stand to reason how Sei looks like a daft young boy but sounds like he already survived puberty a decade earlier. The deep voice just doesn't match with the look of the character at all. (It's actually the same voice actor as Sly Cooper, but somehow even LESS interested in what's happening.) Everyone else's voices sound amateur as well, done by passersby on the street who all coincidentally forgot how to have emotions.

Now don't let the "Virtua" name, and the fact it's a Sega game, mislead you into thinking this is a Virtua Fighter spin-off. It's BARELY that. You don't ever play as ANY Virtua Fighter character. At best, you find them, locked away in separate universes inside purple boxes, where you then defeat them, take one of their powers, and then be on your merry way. But at least you can equip those moves and use them to defeat the hordes of Captain Generics more efficiently...

...provided you're not just flying off in a completely different direction. Seriously, the combat is clunky and unrefined. Punching out regular baddies isn't a terrible experience, just a dull one. Sei feels incredibly stiff while pulling his punches. For some reason, most attacks are mapped to the same button, the Triangle. But it's when your fighting bosses and Virtua Souls where things go ape-feces. Anticipate trying to pull off any special move and ending up missing your target entirely and flying off in another direction. It's extremely annoying. This could have been remedied with a targeting system or, you know, not screwing up combat in the first place.

Virtua Diarrhea.

Same issue goes with when you're using Sei's whip as a grappling hook. (Oh, yeah, Sei has a whip, a PINK whip made of sheer electricity. It's not a cool whip. It's not as cool as Cool Whip.) Trying to use it to grapple glowing sparkles in the sky works well enough, but spinning around it and jumping off at just the right time to land on a desired platform? 50/50 chance of actually doing it. Nah, make that 30/70. We can also chalk this up to also having a protagonist who couldn't jump efficiently to save his life. Super Mario, this is not.

As an aside, the only other way in which Virtua Fighter characters nudge their way into the game is through collectables. You collect little 3D figurines of Virtua Fighter characters, either by simply stumbling upon them or by completing missions for people. These are as useful as a root canal performed on a corpse. They don't help you; you now have fancy Sega-themed paperweights. Oh, the game says that they'll strengthen your Virtual Soul move sets, but... no, you're now a Virtua Funko Pop collector.

Virtua Quest also allows you to purchase upgrade tools using data chips, the game's token tokens. These can be used to improve your HP, offense, defense, and more. Once you possess one, you equip them by inserting them into a three-dimensional grid like a Tetris piece. But holy mother of cod, is it ever unintuitive to actually place these blocks in the grid! The perspective is always messed up, and it's hard to just plant a block where you feel it fits. Just moving it left and right, up and down, into a proper spot flat out stinks. How do you screw this up? Virtua Quest, that's how.

Oh, and you have a sidekick named Bit that hovers around you and doesn't do much. He may offer you a tip to let you know there's something of note nearby, but you could easily do without him.

Here's the final deal-breaker: the camera. Forget it. You can't freely move your camera around, and in a 3D action-RPG, set in a three-dimensional world (you know, with THREE dimensions)? The only thing you can do is press L1 to re-center the camera behind you, and you'll be pressing L1 aplenty because turning a corner or just moving left and right fails to have the camera follow you in any meaningful way.

Not that the environments incite much interest anyhow. Bland backgrounds used merely as excuses for places to brawl are the norm. A little strategy is needed when you come across a static coded digital wall in your way, and you need a repair program to unlock it. Where could it be? Oh, it's in a trash can. Brilliant place for it, really.

Is Virtua Quest playable? Sure. Is it enjoyable? Kind of. But too many moments of frustration and ennui really muddle the experience. And, of course, if you're coming in expecting something Virtua Fighter related, you're going to walk away disappointed.

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