Way back in 2007, Virtua
Fighter 5 graced the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The original VF5 was a very well-received
console fighter, especially since both systems were lacking variety in terms of
available fighting games. Times have certainly changed over the past 5
years... as the fighting genre is now saturated with competitive titles (both a good thing and a bad
thing, in my opinion). With the genre's continuing resurgence, Sega
wisely decided to bring the latest incarnation of VF5 back to PS3 and 360
for one more go... this time as a digital title!
With strong player support in Asian arcades over the past several years, VF5 has seen numerous upgrades
and expansions, all exclusive to arcades. For years, the
fans overseas have been left watching VF5R and VF5F5 videos on Youtube, longing for the day they'd get a chance to
get their hands on a new VF title. I commend Sega for taking their sweet time with releasing Final
Showdown, because this is easily the definitive and most refined version of the
game. Releasing any of the "minor" upgrades earlier probably wouldn't
have gone over very well in such a competitive market. So... was it truly
worth the wait?
Same game? No... not
Once the action starts, it's easy to forget the VF5 graphics and
gameplay engine is
over 5 years old. In many ways, Final Showdown feels and looks like a
brand new game. A ton of character animations have been tweaked and look noticeably
smoother. Many attacks have also been reworked to
"more clearly" resemble low, mid or high attacks. Along with new win poses,
updated stance animations, and new KO animations, each fighter has also received
a significant update to their moveset. The new background environments are
nicely polished, offering good variety both in terms of appearance and
gameplay strategy. Character models haven't been updated visually, meaning some of
them definitely look their age in some areas... but thanks to the new customization options, they can be
made to appear almost entirely new. Needless to say, VF5 is still a
pretty fighting game.
Final Showdown's main menu is crisp and to the point. As you might've expected, the single player options are very
very limited... even more-so than the last two console iterations. No installment of Virtua
Fighter ever featured an in-game story mode, and VF5:FS is yet another
fighter of this era living by the motto that "fighting games
don't need a story mode to be good."
The bulk of the 1-player
experience can be found in the game's incredibly in-depth Tutorial/Training Mode.
The "Dojo" is made up of 3 individual modes: Tutorial, Command
Training, and Free Training. Tutorial takes you through all of the game's
gameplay systems; and once you complete it, you should have a solid
understanding of all the ins and outs (and how freakin' deep the game it
is). You can also seamlessly browse through all of the
tutorial categories in case you want to refresh on anything - a nice
Command Training (my personal favorite) allows you to run though a
character's entire moveset, performing each technique one by one.
Other 1-player modes include Score Attack, License Challenge, and Special
Sparring. Score Attack & Special Sparring are alternatives to the standard
Arcade Mode, offering different "routes" of computer-controlled opponents. Special Sparring is the more entertaining of the two, as it features
a variety of visually customized AI opponents to fight against. License Challenge
is made up of numerous special challenge "tests", and players can
upgrade their in-game "class/rank" by completing challenges. Aside from
Dojo and the 3 modes I just mentioned, there's really nothing else in terms of single player department.
That said, II definitely miss Quest Mode from past VF titles (along
with "prize matches" where you can obtain new customization goodies).
A godlike Tutorial Mode.
All other fighting games take notes please!
Which brings me to the next
subject... Final Showdown's much-talked-about Customization Mode. Every character has 6
different costumes, each of which include a specific set of customization
items. (There are also many items that are shared among all outfits). The catch
is, you have to purchase the DLC if you want to access the Customize menu (which all together weighs in at around $30).
Considering the game itself is only $15 (or completely free if you picked it up
with PS Plus), it's not too bad of a deal. Even so, comparatively to the
vast customization modes of Soul Calibur V and Tekken 6 (with most content
being free and on-disc) some may think that's
asking a bit much? In any case, it's kind of an awkward way to pay for a
Also, the fact that you can simply (and literally) "buy" all of the
customization equipment at once, almost takes the fun out of it for me.
I probably don't speak for everyone on this, but personally, I always enjoyed
unlocking customizations through playing the game. Why? Because it "meant
something" to obtain and wear certain items (when fighting against other
human players), as some items were difficult to obtain and represented how long you've played the game. This
"meaning" behind customization still holds true in the arcade scene, but
sadly doesn't translate to the console version. I'm also somewhat disappointed
to see the custom flashy "intros" of the arcade version not make the cut to
consoles (as silly as they may be).
Nonetheless, I have to admit that I've spent most of my time
with VF5:FS in the customization mode.
It's a lot of fun for sure, and you might catch yourself spending hours within
the mode itself. To elaborate further on the new customization options, the
"Final Showdown update" adds a plethora of
new items over previous arcade installments
(including VF5R). Each character has somewhere
between 400 to 700 customization items that they can equip.
Altogether, there are around 14,000 costume customization items in the game. Final
Showdown adds the "S-type"
costume, which doesn't amount to much more than swim wear at
first, but there are several specific clothing "sets" that are exclusive to the
S-type costume set. At the end of the day, you can definitely make your character
appear practically completely different from their original version.
ring... such an awesome stage.
When it comes to gameplay, there are few
fighting games that are as technical, deep, and balanced as Virtua Fighter.
Many hardcore 3D fighting game connoisseurs swear by VF, and it's not difficult to understand
why. While I'm a though-and-through TEKKEN player at heart, there's
definitely something to admire about VF's diverse and dynamic characters. As a lover of martial arts, seeing
so many authentic martial arts techniques performed brilliantly by the fighters of VF is
just beautiful. Just as VF is one of the most technical fighters,
it's also the host for some of the most authentic martial arts, which will immediately be appreciated by
real-life martial artists (and fans of martial arts in general).
While VF characters still have their fair share of laughably awkward
one-liners... they speak much louder with their fighting styles. Every character is dynamic and fun to use in their own way.
Unlike a straightforward or sometimes "gimmicky" 2D fighting game
character, there are several detailed "layers" of every VF character's
moveset. To truly understand and master a character, it will most certainly take
a vast amount of time and practice. Now with the addition of Jean Kujo and
Taka-Arashi, the roster of VF is more diverse and well-rounded than ever before.
It's true that 20 playable characters is considered a "small" roster in this
era of fighting games... but at least it doesn't take as long to learn how to fight
the characters in the game.
As you may know, Virtua
the grandfather of all 3D fighting games, originally inspiring the likes of TEKKEN
and Dead or Alive. However, considering its prestige, I
do have to call Virtua Fighter out on one thing... I've noticed
that there are several noteworthy "new" moves added in Final
Showdown that were definitely inspired by similar moves from TEKKEN 6 characters. It's
true that some of these moves are "traditional/well known" martial
arts techniques... but the manner in which they're animated and performed, and
the timing of when they were added to the game, strongly suggests inspiration from
For one, Jean Kujo's entire fighting style seems quite inspired by Jin
Kazama's (also, they ironically have the same initials).
In another example, Jacky's new "Low High Kick" looks exactly the
same as Marshall Law's from TEKKEN 6.
Any way you slice it... the fact is that TEKKEN characters were doing these moves in
TEKKEN 6 before
VF5: Final Showdown was released. It's almost like the VF dev-team glanced through the T6
movelists one day and said... "Hey, so-and-so should have this
Additionally, VF5's new "bound" combo system strongly
resembles TEKKEN 6's combo system. (I bring this up simply because there are some
folks out there who would declare "TEKKEN copied Virtua Fighter" any day of the week... but it clearly works both ways.) I
also find this interesting, because both games have been directly competing with one another for
the top spot in
Asian arcades for the last 5 years. As the "top two" 3D fighting
games of the this era, I suppose taking some inspiration from one another is to be expected.
In retrospect, I do believe VF5:FS was indeed "borrowing" some
ideas from TEKKEN 6, as Namco's trademark 3D fighter was clearly gaining
some ground in popularity.
Jean Kujo must have some
Kazama blood in him...
Overall, VF's gameplay
is still as solid as it's always been. With new defensive & offensive
techniques, there are even more options on the table. 8-way walking has been
tremendously slowed down from "vanilla" VF5 (to remedy "runaway" tactics). At first I was put off by how
incredibly slow the 8-way movement speed is, but with dashing and jumping backward still available, moving
around doesn't feel too slow overall (although, it is definitely slower compared to
other 3D fighters). VF5's tried and true juggle
system feels familiar, but tweaks like "bound" and a reworked wall game definitely
flesh out the dynamics of the system. Many classic attacks from vanilla VF5
also have different hit effects than before, and with tons of new moves
come a great variety of new combo possibilities per character. Indeed, the
characters can be played very differently from how they played in the
Lastly, onto some aesthetic details that I always like to talk about -
in 3D fighting games. In VF, juggles do look more "believable" than,
say... TEKKEN's lengthy "wall carry" juggles.
To a casual
onlooker, VF's combo system likely looks more natural and less
intimidating. However, I have to point out that some attacks in VF just
don't look "impactful" enough to cause the effect that they have when
In general, VF characters don't seem to hit as hard as other fighting
game characters. There are some exceptions (like Goh, Wolf & Jeffry), but
sometimes it seems like VF characters are "light-contact sparring"
instead of truly trying to hurt one other. I guess that's just the
nature of VF's animation, but as someone who loves "ouch factor"
in fighting games, VF5's animation doesn't fully satisfy me. In fairness, there are a ton of awesome
animations, including badass "off-the-wall" throw techniques (which are entirely
different depending on whether it's a full fence or half-fence stage)! In any
case, after all
these years, VF's trademark animation style still holds its own and looks
Lastly, Online Mode contains the staple features you'd expect out of a standard
online fighting game. The set-up of certain lobbies takes some getting used to
at first, but soon enough you'll be fighting in private rooms, arcade style
"put your quarter up" lobbies, and testing your skills against the top
contenders in ranked matches. Overall, the netcode is fairly smooth for the most part.
I've had a fair share of both laggy and non-laggy matches. Sadly, the community
is pretty quiet online... and again, this has to do with how saturated the
competitive fighting game genre has become in recent times.
After such a long absence, it's great to see
good old Virtua Fighter back in the
ring. In traditional fashion, VF5: Final Showdown is a through-and-through
"arcade" fighting game experience. There's no story mode, no intro
movie, and no extras. There are no tissues to wipe your tears. What you see is
what you get. Even though Final Showdown is a clean game all
around, the presentation and single-player content is the most minimal you'll see
in a fighting game of this era.
Obviously, the gameplay is where it's
at. Returning to classic VF characters and relearning them has never been quite so
fun (thanks to VF5:FS's user-friendly Tutorial Mode). The dynamic movesets and
fighting styles of the VF characters never fail to impress. Personally, I
still strongly prefer TEKKEN's most recent gameplay systems, characters,
animation, and overall presentation. On a side note: It's become a bit of a
"hipster" thing to assume (and say) - that Virtua Fighter has
the "most advanced and technical gameplay experience" out of any 3D
fighting game to date. I would disagree. There's not much that VF's
gameplay offers that isn't already in TEKKEN. Also, "most
technical" and "most balanced" does not always translate to most
Final Showdown's customization options are excellent, but unfortunately the quirky character
voices can't be changed, or turned off. So as cool as you make your character look,
they'll still always sound like a goofy VF character.
That awkward moment in the room when Lion squeaks out "You better take
me shheeeriously!" or Brad brags "Yeaaah! I'm on top!"
never seems to go away. Those 5-year-old cheesy win quotes
never fail to turn my
stomach, and the continued lack of any fragment of in-game story hasn't
enabled the characters to develop like they should have by now.
One of my long-running gripes about VF was always the unevolved character
designs (and I know I'm not the only one). The cast of VF always carried
themselves in a "different" way. They're a "tame" cast of
especially when compared to their most significant rivals in the 3D fighting
game universe (the many evil
badasses of TEKKEN).
To compare further: If the two games were ice cream flavors... TEKKEN would be Blood Orange Raspberry
Gelato, while Virtua Fighter would be...
Strawberry (with a few sprinkles).
Ohh, and in case you're wondering, DOA would be some incredibly
"girly" and/or "perverted-sounding" flavor that I haven't
thought up yet.
In closing, I played a lot of VF2, VF4, VF4: Evo and VF5 back
in the day... and I can say confidently that Final
Showdown is the best installment of the series to date. While the characters
seem like they're stuck in "last-gen," they've definitely evolved
significantly in terms of their movesets. If you're a VF fan, you should
be very happy with this installment. As a downloadable budget-priced "arcade style" fighting
game, Final Showdown is an solid package. I would've been happy picking
up the game for $15, but when I heard I was getting it for FREE on PS Plus....
Hell yeah! Thanks SEGA. (However, the downside to this is that character customization
DLC is priced rather highly). ~TFG