Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown | Review
I’ve always thought the Virtua Fighter series was highly underrated by a preponderance of gamers. The original was no doubt a breakthrough success in 1993 for being the first 3D fighting game. It gathered attention and critical acclaim for good reason. However, it feels as though Virtua Fighter has fallen by the wayside the past few years. It hasn’t completely been forgotten, but in the modern age of fighters, the series is generally forgotten.
Why has this happened? I attribute it to the fact that most fighting games nowadays are so noob friendly. If you look at most competitive fighters played at tournaments such as EVO, you realize just how accessible this generation of fighting games has become. Games like Street Fighter x Tekken used that shoddy gems system to boost character stats. It also has a rage like mechanic that increases damage dealt when health depletes to a low enough level. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is filled with unbalanced characters and an exceedingly simple combat system that should see fighting noobs pulling off 20-80+ hit combos with ease. Mortal Kombat‘s most devastating moves, the X-ray attacks, can be performed by hitting two buttons simultaneously. Tekken has its unreasonable juggling.
There’s also the dreaded X-factor. Do Level 3 X-factor Dante, Sentinel, or Wesker ring a bell? There is also the obligatory flashiness. The Street Fighter series has characters with burlesque designs and super powers. They can throw fireballs and manipulate lightning among other things. Virtua Fighter does away with all of that. It is perhaps the only pure fighter still alive.
The original Virtua Fighter 5 never released in arcades in North America so we got our first exposure to it with the PS3 port in February of 2007. The Xbox 360 version came eight months later with online support, a feature sorely missing in the Playstation 3 original. Five full years after the initial console release, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown comes to Xbox Live and Playstation Network with some changes, improvements, and even some omissions. It claims to be the definitive version of Virtua Fighter 5, but is it really?
The fighting engine the game is erected from is superb. There is a basic punch button, kick button, and guard button. It might seem simple to the inept Virtua Fighter, but add in directional movements, counters, fall recoveries, throw escapes, etc… and you have a deep combat engine. Stringing together combos feels effortless thanks to the animation and balanced character roster.
There are only 19 characters, with one extra unlock able character which is rather paltry in comparison to the likes of the 40+ rosters usually pervading modern day fighters. This isn’t really a detriment to Virtua Fighter 5 because for the most part, the characters vary wildly. Most of them also require a degree of skill, save for one character unlike other fighting games that typically have characters made specifically for noobs.
Mastering each character takes time, but knowing move lists alone won’t help. The Virtua Fighter series has always been less about performing long winded combos or special moves and more about performing successful blows. Reading the opponent’s moves and play style is imperative to coming out on top.
A player can know every single move in a fighter’s repertoire yet it will do no good if that player is incapable of reading his opponent. Virtua Fighter is one of the most technical fighters in existence and along with BlazBlue rank as the most skillful current generation fighting games. Anyone considering themselves a connoisseur of fighting games, but doesn’t play either of those two you are missing out.
Some of the the changes made to this downloadable version of Virtua Fighter 5 are minor graphical updates and character balancing tweaks, furthering the games solidity as a competitive fighter. It also has new character costumes and animations.
This would normally make Final Showdown seem like an undeniable choice over the original, but two major concessions had to made to make it digestible for download. The more minor complaint I have is with the sound.
Because downloads have to be under a certain size, there is obviously going to be something in the game that will change to appease the download size limit. The sound is very muffled thanks to considerable compression. The announcer and character voices are muffled with the sound effects sounding as if they don’t belong. The compromise to the sound hurts immersion. The music itself though doesn’t seem to have suffered much.
The other major crutch to appease the download size is the removal of the single player quest mode in Virtua Fighter 5. Virtua Fighter 5 had a single player story like mode in which you pick a character and go to arcades around the world to challenge players. This mode ate up a decent amount of playtime because you could earn customization items for your characters this way. The quest mode was a nice way of fitting in a “story” mode into a fighting game without bogging it down with an actual story.
The online play works excellently and I have rarely ever experienced lag. You can do ranked match, player matches, or room matches. The player matches allow you to have a rematch with your current opponent albeit without the opportunity to rank up. Room matches are exactly what they sound like. They’re lobbies you can create or join. Up to eight players are allowed in one lobby and private slots can be set for friends.
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is an excellent fighting game, but it is not an excellent package. Certain improvements were made to the core, but the two major concessions made to this release hurt it immensely. If this were a disc release with none of the compression and the single player quest mode intact, it would have scored higher. There’s not too much to fret though as it is a downloadable game after all. This amount of content and technical accomplishment for a downloadable game at a $15 price point is easy to stomach, but it could have been more. In short, Final Showdown is a must buy for fighting fans. Just don’t go in expecting worthwhile content if you own or have played the last console release.
(Version Reviewed: Xbox 360)