One of the first fighting games out on the Playstation 3 was Virtua Fighter 5, which then was released on Xbox 360 a couple of years later with a new version and online play. US audiences didn’t catch on with the games sales-wise despite how critically acclaimed it is. Japan, however, was able to get later iterations of Virtua Fighter 5 with R and Final Showdown in their arcades. Sega eventually realized the demand of more Virtua Fighter consoles worldwide and decide to release Final Showdown—the latest iteration—on Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. This is not just your average Sega arcade port, as AM2 made the game fully featured to be similar to past console releases. From the robust and currently unmatched training mode, solid online play, the deepest fighting system compared to its competition and the low price point of $15 (free for Playstation Plus owners this month), Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is a superb package for fighting game fans old and new.
The full cast of Virtua Fighter 5 is back, from coverboy Akira Yuki to other franchise favorites such as Kage, Wolf, Jacky and Sarah Bryant. The existing characters have been changed slightly in terms of new animations for certain moves and other things for the sake of balance. New to Final Showdown is Jean Kujo, who can hit fast and hard, and the return of sumo wrestler Taka-Arashi, who was last seen in Virtua Fighter 3. Most of what you remember in past versions of VF5 still work here, if that was your last Virtua Fighter game. Past VF games had a big character customization feature in terms of changing up characters’ looks, as that is still in these console versions, but in microtransactions where you have to pay up some money. If that was your thing before, then you wouldn’t mind coughing up more dough, but it is not necessary to get them if you’re just in for the fighting, which is still what Virtua Fighter is all about.
The franchise has been known for having the deepest fighting system compared to most games in the genre and that is still the case with Final Showdown. Despite still being a three-button game with punches, kicks and blocks, each character has more than 100 moves to do. It is not as daunting as you think, since you’ll eventually have go-to moves and combos in mind to use against the opposition. The stage can be used to your advantage positionally as well, whether it is closed off with walls, breakable walls or open-ring to ring-out opponents. Virtua Fighter is also not known for being as flashy a fighting game as something like Street Fighter, but if you want in-your-face, honest fighting that does not resort to comeback mechanics seen in recent fighting games, Final Showdown is very deserving to learn and play for both beginners and veterans of the genre. It is also the most accessible Virtua Fighter yet with a training mode appealing to those new to the series, but still as robust for those that have been around, especially since the fourth game. There is a great in-depth tutorial to get players started about the fundamentals of the game, from learning how to get out of certain situations to advanced tactics that you’ll see higher level players use in tournaments. Along with the dojo tutorial, there are both command training and free training, which are similar to past iterations of the franchise. Command training allows players to learn all the moves for their certain character, while free training is self-explanatory.
Besides the training modes I just mentioned, Final Showdown’s content is still stacked for both single player and multiplayer. The traditional Arcade mode has players facing off against eight opponents and then concluding with a bonus boss battle against Dural. Score Attack is another single-player mode where players score as many points as they can against CPU AI opponents by doing combos, perfects, etc. Then, there are the License Challenges, which is basically a mission mode-of-sorts in Virtua Fighter that will have you performing certain tasks in addition to beating your CPU opponent to progress. This is where the dojo tutorial comes in handy, in case something advanced comes up with those challenges. There is also a special sparring mode against the good CPU AI, but that is unlocked if you bought the character customization packs. If you didn’t buy them, it's not so bad that you’re gonna miss it, since you’ll be, rather, playing against human opponents locally and online. Local multiplayer consists of the traditional Versus mode, but online is where it is at if you don’t have local competition close to your vicinity to play against others worldwide. The online structure is similar to most of the other fighting games out today with ranked and player match options, along with lobbies for up to eight players. Ranked matches have a level-up system that is similar to past games with the kyu/dan titles. Performance-wise, matches have running smoothly for the most part with great netcode, but you’ll eventually run into a laggy match every now and then if your opponent has a bad connection.
Final Showdown looks great graphically, even though it is still the same Virtua Fighter 5 you've seen at its core. There are some added effects to the hits and such, but the new blur effect might be distracting for some, although that is a minor flaw. Most of the stages are reused from past iterations of VF5, but there are some new ones like a sumo stage for this new entry. Load times are fast in between fights both locally and online as well, especially for a 3D fighting game. The frame rate runs consistent and smooth at 60 frames per second in expected Sega AM2 fashion. The sound is also what to expect in Sega games with great background music for the stages and cheesy, yet tolerable voiceovers for the characters, specifically with their win quotes. The recycled sound effects the franchise has been known for is also there in full effect too.
For $15, you’re finally getting one of the best fighting games out today in downloadable form with Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. That is an amazing deal when it still has the deepest fighting system around, the franchise-famous training mode, great characters to spend lots of time learning and enough modes to keep players only especially facing off against others online. The online performance has been great for me. even though I ran into some laggy matches from time to time, but that is a low percentage compared to most of my other matches. It is also Sega’s most accessible Virtua Fighter yet, giving new players an in-depth tutorial that is better than most fighting games out today to get them started. Players that have been playing VF for a while and want to get better to be tournament-level status will also find the dojo tutorial useful, too. Normally, fighters this superb would cost the regular retail price, but Final Showdown at $15 makes it the fighting game to beat this year, especially with stacked competition that is out already and more to come this fall.