PS3 / PS4

[Review] Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown

We in America first got our hands on Virtua Fighter 5 close to the launch of the Playstation 3 in 2007.  What came out was a gorgeous fighter that I could argue is still one of the highlights of this generation.  Unfortunately, it launched with no online code at a time very early in the troubled PS3 launch, so it had issues in promoting itself at the start of the online era.

Six months later it would rectify these problems with their Xbox 360 debut.

The Xbox version of Virtua Figther 5 would be a much better game from the ground up as it utilized a newer version of the arcade code.  On top of online play, this version would fix up some minor gameplay issues and add a number of new items for players.  In 2008, Sega applied an online patch to the 360 game that fixed some issues in online and refined the matchmaking in Quest Mode.  This would be the final update to the title and it would be the definitive version of the game in North America.

In Japan, however, Virtua Fighter 5 continued to be tweaked.  A release called Virtua Fighter 5R brought many new improvements to the title with refined animations, more moves, an improved camera, more costumes, and to top it all off, it added the characters Taka-Arsashi and Jean Kujo.

With Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, we get the benefit of countless updates that Japanese arcades have been getting for years.  With a name like Final Showdown, it can only be assumed that this is the final major upgrade we will see this generation for Virtua Fighter.  Is it worth the upgrade?

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown isn’t a radical departure from Virtua Fighter 5.  You aren’t going to go into this game and see a radical difference between the fighters.  After about thirty minutes, however, it really clicks that these characters have a bit more to offer.  It isn’t just frame tweaks, either.  Through playing with all of the characters, I began noticing these new moves that were changing the way I played.  They aren’t flashy like in Street Fighter, nor are they changes that affect the core moveset.  They simply offer a more varied attack which changes many strategies you thought you had with the original Virtua Fighter 5.

This change works for all characters and it really has been a blast relearning some old favorites.  The addition of the new fighters offers two really distinct styles that play surprisingly well.  Virtua Fighter needed some more big guys in the lineup and Taka-Arashi is pretty fun to play with.  He has some quickness in his combos that belays the size and makes for a good mid-range fighter.  He makes for a good balance between Jeffry and Wolf.

Jean Kujo is a lot like Akira in play style. Lots of quick powerful strikes that makes him similar, but he is more approachable in move set than Akira.  Overall the two are welcome additions to the game and fit almost naturally with the fighters.

If you need reassurance that Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is a good fighting game, it is.  The three button control system was initially restrictive in the early days of the franchise, but has really been refined in to a technical fight system that prides itself on location and precision of attack.  How this works is you have three major hit points for your opponent in high, medium and low.  Most attacks and combos work in the medium range, so it becomes a guessing game of where to catch your opponent off guard.

Likewise, fighting in the 3rd dimension allows for players to evade a right kick due to a simple lateral movement.  With the great number of different context sensitive moves and combos, it really is one of the highlights of the fighting game genre.

Unlike the retail versions of Virtua Fighter 5, this iteration is bare bones in terms of extra content.  The original game offered a quest mode on top of many of the things you see here. In this mode, you were awarded points which let you buy items and was a pretty robust feature for the game in 2007.  That isn’t here.  If you purchase all item packs, the game opens a special mode that allows you to fight against teams of colorful combatants dressed in items.  Even that doesn’t offer some of the extra value that a simple quest mode could feature.

With the distribution method they have taken, something like this could really have only been displayed this way.  It’s unfortunate as it breaks down the game in to the basic Arcade Mode, Score Attack and Training Modes.  Training mode is actually interesting in the License Challenge Mode which essentially acts as a teaching test for the game mechanics.  License Challenge Mode places you in 5 or 6 battles with challenge goals to accomplish in order to complete the challenge.  Other than that and Multiplayer, you aren’t going to find much more here.

It’s a shame they didn’t utilize many of the awesome extra features the Arcade version of the game offers.  It’s just not as satisfying to have to spend $30 to unlock an extra mode and every item in the game.  Virtua Fighter 5’s Version D offered a special mode called Knockout Trial, and that was in 2008.  There are a wealth of tournament features and slot machine style item grabs that Sega has implemented.  Without them, it makes this all seem like a very simple release.

Multiplayer isn’t going to wow you.  Arguably the best feature is the ability to shadow change your fighter in the confirm menu.  Once a match has been initiated, you are given a confirmation screen to recognize and confirm the match up.  This screen has about a half minute time frame for you to confirm and allows you to change your character up through the start button.

Other than that feature, it’s pretty much the same thing you would expect. from a 2012 fighter.  Replay recording with inputs, ranked and player matches, a lobby to find potential combatants, nothing you haven’t seen before.

Not having enough time with real people around the world makes it hard to judge the net code, but for all extents and purposes its solid.  Not quite up to BlazBlue levels, as I did experience a few stutters in one match with a coworker.  Overall it was satisfactory.

[+2 New Fighters] [+Solid Fighting System] [+Surprisingly Deep Controls] [+Updated Moves] [+Solid Online] [*Lack of New Modes] [-Features Locked Behind DLC]

Virtua Fighter 5 is still a gorgeous game, even if the characters faces do look a bit comical at times.  It was the highlight of Sega’s portfolio after the merger and AM2’s improvements in Final Showdown are still noticeable.  New entrances and victory poses have been added, with special items unlocking different poses.  The characters are starting to get a bit more of a personality now that wasn’t really there with earlier versions.  To see my Mecha Jeffry shoot a cannon out from his head is the highlight of each of my victories.

All of the favorite stages return, but many have simple tweaks and adjustments that make them new again.  While I was disappointed to find that the mud level had been covered in sand and the snowy floor from Wolf’s stage had disappeared, there is something offered in replacement.  Jean Kujo’s stage is particularly interesting because the outside walls transform.  In one round you might be playing in an open arena while another might net you with tall walls.  The arena is pretty big so its not a game changer, but it is pretty fun to hear the loud clang of gates come down before the round.

The most interesting set of new stages is a narrow one with walls about one and a half character lengths behind the fighters.  It really is a novel concept as it allows for real quick juggles against the wall unless you side step on the plane to an open arena with no walls.  It’s interesting in the variety it adds to the formula of arenas, but more so in what you can do within this area.

If you are looking to see if there is a big difference between Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, there really isn’t.  The only annoying feature on the PS3 version is a trophy sync when you boot the game up that isn’t an issue with the Xbox version.

Right now I think it would be appropriate to discuss the costumes.  Those not planning on purchasing any costumes can really skip ahead as this feature is not available to you.  Above, I have included how the costumes are broken down in categories.  In Virtua Fighter 5 you were allotted costumes A-D.  What Final Showdown is offering you is packs E and S, with some minor additions to the packs.  If you have played Virtua Figther 5, you have an idea of exactly what you are getting into with this system.  Nothing drastic has changed except for the addition of the two new packs.

For the uninitiated, the costume system in Virtua Fighter 5 is a bit unlike any other system.  You are basically given a template of what is now 6 base costumes.  You can then apply different variations of items on to said costume.  The difference is that not all items are given freely to you like in a WWE character creator.  The reason for this is simple.  Sega doesn’t want to put 2 identical fighters against each other.  With so many different movements of the camera , if you and your opponent get mixed up on sides, it can get confusing really fast.

So this means that all customization is locked in to these costume sets and the bigger more defining item like shirts or dresses are locked out from set to set.  Costume S is generally the most open with its add-ons as your start is nothing but a swimsuit.  The variety you can find with some of these costumes is pretty substantial and creating your Sarah Bryant is easy to do.  I still feel that there could be more from these characters.  A good deal of the stuff available was from Virtua Fighter 5.  Whether this means that another item bundle is coming or not is a major question, but for right now, you are basically buying 2 new costume sets to add on top of what you could have unlocked in the original Virtua Fighter 5.

The amount of time and detail you can go in to this customization should keep you happy as you cycle through the various items and color variations.

[+Great Visuals] [+Unique New Arenas] [+Lots of Costumes in DLC] [*Small Upgrade From VF5 Visually]

It really is intriguing for Sega to sell this game in this fashion.  You get the basic fighter, no bells and whistles for $15 (1200 MSP) and just shy of 2gb storage space.  Two downloadable content packs will be available for $15 (1200 MSP) that contain all of the character’s items distributed between them.  Individually you will be able to spend $5 (400 MSP) per character if you so choose, but if you actually think you are going to buy more than one or two costume bundles, it is highly recommended to go the bundle route.

No customization of your characters is available with just the base game.  You only get the default A and B costume and nothing else.  It is also noteworthy to add that unless you get all packs, you are locked out of a special costume mode where you fight single player against other odd looking opponents in teams.  It’s essentially Arcade Mode with funny costumes

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is enough of a step up from the 2007 video game to justify the basic package, but the high price of the DLC might turn some off.  While I’m not exactly sold on the way Sega has broken this game apart, there are enough bells and whistles to justify what you would buy.  For those new to the game, I highly recommend starting with the basic package (or even the 2007 release) and finding what fighters you are best with. If you really are only a Kage Maru fighter, these packs might not be necessary for your enjoyment.

For $15, this basic package gives you all you really will need in the game.  Unfortunately, you will be left wanting more.

[+Basic Package Available] [+Bundles Available for DLC] [-No Customization Outside DLC]

Sega has transformed one of the best fighters available in to an awkward downloadable bundle.  None of the improvements are going to shock or amaze you.  They didn’t radically overhaul this game between the 2008 update of Virtua Fighter 5 and this arcade release.  What they did is make it a better game, even if they won’t hit you over the head with amazing new features.

It feels familiar and a little bit different.  Even when you add 2 new characters, it feels natural.  Virtua Fighter 5 is a good game no matter what iteration you pick up.  This just happens to be the freshest version.

[+2 New Fighters] [+Solid Fighting System] [+Surprisingly Deep Controls] [+Updated Moves] [+Solid Online] [+Great Visuals] [+Unique New Arenas] [+Lots of Costumes in DLC] [+Basic Package Available] [*Small Upgrade From VF5 Visually] [*Bundles Available for DLC] [-No Customization Outside DLC] [-Lack of New Modes] [-Features Locked Behind DLC]

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