Virtua Fighter 5 has returned to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as a downloadable title. The Virtua Fighter series has been a flagship of the fighting game genre for quite a while and is one of the crown jewels of Sega’s AM2 development team. For anyone too young too remember, Virtua Fighter was the first 3D fighting game and it has remained one of the premier 3D fighters. It’s a straight up hand to hand combat game. There are no weapons, there is no magic. It’s just fighter versus fighter and may the best technique win. There are quite a few fighters to choose from as well. The cast of VF5: Final Showdown is the largest yet, with nineteen playable characters plus Dural (an easy unlock) to make twenty.
Each fighter is a practioner of existing martial arts: Praying Mantis Kung Fu, Shao Lin Kung Fu, Judo, Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, Karate, etc. Utilizing each fighter’s skill and strengths is paramount to success. Final Showdown does not mess around with the tried and true formula that began with the original Virtua Fighter. The control interface remains the same with just three buttons: Punch, Kick and Guard. Virtua Fighter’s three button layout makes the game simple enough to be accessible to newcomers but don’t fool yourself into thinking it is an easy game to master. Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is the deepest VF game to date. Many fighters have multiple stances and have different attacks that allow them to transition in and out of each stance with ease. Just learning a character’s moves isn’t sufficient to be proficient. A solid VF player knows how to implement all of a character’s skills given the situation. The area in which the fight takes place is also just as important because controlling the ring can be just as vital to success as striking, grappling and defense.
The arena’s come in various shapes and sizes. Some have have a full cage, others have half walls or even none. Some are octagons and others are square. Ring outs are just as good as a knockout so it is important to pay attention if your opponent is trying to push you to the edge of the ring. Being up against the cage isn’t any better either. Juggles can be expanded since the cage can hold a character up for additional bashing and many characters have special moves and throws for just those situations. As varied as the ring is, the environment of the arena is even more impressive. One arena is filled with sand with excellent particle effects as the characters move around. The Great Wall stage, for instance, has puddles which allows for water particle effects and splashes.
As impressive as the backgrounds are, the character models are just as nice. Each character has a very high polygon count and the textures on them are pretty solid. On top of that, their clothing is also rendered in a way that allows Akira’s gi to flap in the wind and for Aoi’s and Lei Fei’s robes to flow smoothly as their arms swirl in a flurry of deadly attacks. The game runs locked at 60 frames per second so the animations are wonderfully smooth and there’s never any slow down or hitches, a pet peeve of mine in fighting games. From my experience with online play, the game holds up well with maybe only one very minor instance of lag.
For PlayStation players you read that right. Yes Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown has online competitive play. Ranked matches are available, non-ranked player matches, as well as player rooms. Setting up a room brought me back to the old arcade days where players would line up their quarters on the machine waiting to play the winner. The person setting up the room has the option of capping the room capacity, match rounds and time limit. Once the room is set up the top two players get priority for first and second player spots when readying up for the upcoming match. All waiting players get to watch the match take place as it is happening just as if you were at the arcade. The loser goes to the bottom of the list with the winner remaining on top to take on the next challenger if he/she wants to. While the addition of online play is much needed for the PS3, the single player options don’t seem as strong as before.
Where the original release of Virtua Fighter 5 featured a Quest Mode that simulated travelling the arcade circuit and moving through competitive tournaments, that has been scrapped for VF5: Final Showdown. The character customization options are still there to treat your favorite fighters like you very own barbie/ken doll but the unlocking of items through quest mode is gone. Instead all the items you need are in downloadable character packs. Once all the packs are downloaded and installed a mode called Special Sparring is available to compliment the standard Arcade Mode, Score Attack and License Challenges. Special Sparring is similar to Quest Mode in that you fight against AI teams sort of like the tournaments in VF5. The License Challenge mode provides licenses for passing various challenges based on striking, guarding, etc. The obligatory practice modes are also there including Command Training, Free Training and tutorials so beginners can learn the basics and so that returning vets can break some of the rust off and practice new techniques.
Considering all of the content in this downloadable game it is pretty impressive. It’s even more so when considering the price. Virtua Fighter 5 releases Tuesday 6/5/12 on PSN and 6/6 on XBL for just $14.99. It’s even better for PlayStation Plus subscribers as it was announced today that the game is available free. If you’re a Virtua Fighter player, this is a must buy. If you like fighting games, you will be hard pressed to find a better fighting game available for a better price. The game looks and feels just as every Virtua Fighter game has… fantastic.