It was 5 years ago when Virtua Figher 5 introduced its online play and showed us that you didn’t need to be in the same room as your opponent to lose to them. So how does the re-release of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown stand up today now that online play is no longer a stunning novelty and rather taken for granted.
Final Showdown has been out on Arcade consoles in dingy, low lit rooms for two years now, however it hopes to jump on the DLC bandwagon with its console release as a download for the low price of £9.99 (Free for Playstation Plus members), a tactic that has worked for other recent fighters.
The propagated myth that Virtua Fighter is only for highly skilled players should be disregarded. While there is definitely a depth to the combat that both excites and scares me, the fundamentals of fighting are easy to grasp for entirely new players to the genre.
So what have they done to warrant a new release? There are new(ish) characters, better graphics and animations, new moves and thousands of downloadable costume items to personalise the martial arts master of your choice. While it isn’t a whole new game, I have seen developers within the genre do much less to their titles and release it as a whole new sequel for full price.
The two new(ish) characters are Taka-Arashi, a hulking Sumo who crushes opponents under foot and in deadly bear hugs. His weight also counters jugglers (those who use combos to keep an opponent stunned while airborne) by making him far heavier and therefore less ‘floaty’ than his thinner counterparts. Although he is not an entirely new character and appeared in Virtua Fighter 3 he has been given an updated move-set which personally I found to be a little too strong against most of my competition. The other all-new character is Frenchman Jean Kujo whose mechanic of charging attacks and obscure fighting style keeps opponents constantly guessing.
Players of the original Virtua Fighter 5 will notice the aforementioned significant graphical update with all new smoother animations. Although it must taken into account that final showdown has been out on arcade systems for 2 years now and the graphics were sub-par even in comparison to other fighters of that time such as Mortal Kombat on the 360. The FPS boost is appreciated in the professional community but for the majority of us normals who don’t possess brains like hummingbirds this is practically unnoticeable.
Licence Challenge replaces the old Quest missions, these special bouts throw special win conditions at the player to increase difficulty and practice techniques like no throws or low gravity, allowing for easy juggling practice. The ‘Special Sparring’ mode however is locked without purchasing the full DLC pack, but it offers nothing but fights against opponents wearing the DLC clothing items. These costume packs are relatively cheap with £3 being the price for hundreds of items for a single character, giving the player huge amounts of customisation options. There is also the option of buying the complete DLC and game as one reasonably priced (£20) bundle, meaning that players who want the full experience will still be paying nearly full price.
For newcomers to the series and fighters as a general, the Dojo features an extensive library of tutorials that cover not only Virtua Fighter specific mechanics but some of the broader aspects of fighters like juggling. While I am impressed at the expansiveness of the Dojo I feel it could have been better streamlined, with each tutorial lasting roughly a minute followed by another 30 seconds of loading and menu navigation to get to the next tutorial. It just feels a little clunky and sluggish, a complaint I have over the whole VF5:FS menu system as a whole.
Some systems like the throw counter have been streamlined, before the player had to anticipate the throw direction and counter appropriately, now just pressing the throw command with good timing will counter, eliminating the ‘guess’ component of counter throws.
New moves have been added to bulk up the trimmed character move sets. Any moves that felt a little overpowered, underpowered or useless have been removed and replaced with others in an extensive reworking move in the hopes of making the most balanced VF yet.
Virtua Fighter as a series has always avoided the flashy guns, explosions and magic that give many of its peers in the genre an impressive on-screen spectacle but add little in terms of gameplay. It is just as challenging and brutal without turning your opponent to ice or destroying the planet you are currently fighting on. There are no Up, Down, Right + Square combos here, just correctly judged and timed kicks/punches using just three input buttons that becomes totally instinctive after long sessions. While it is possible to go ‘all out aggressive’ on your opponent with characters that cater to this play style, a lot of fights are a flurry of kicks, blocks and counters followed by a few seconds of calm manoeuvring around your opponent to get into the position for another brutal combo. The fighters have less health than they do in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat so this burst combat feels much more effective than it would in other fighters when 5 quick punches takes as much health off as one solid kick in VF.
While it may not be the prettiest game in the genre in terms of particle effects and character design, it has a deep and disciplined fighting system, similar to the martial arts it attempts to replicate in its characters. This is why in my opinion it is one of the best fighters out there in the genre, relying on its depth of combat to engage the player rather than jiggling breasts and visceral finishers.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.