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Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown
 

 
REVIEWWay 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 VF 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 quite.

 
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 a
nother 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 touch. 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 game.

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.
 

Taka-Arashi's wrestling 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 against all the characters in the game.


As you may know, Virtua Fighter is 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 TEKKEN 6. 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 move too." 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 original VF5.

Lastly, onto some aesthetic details that I always like to talk about - especially 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 connected. 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 impressive.

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.

Page Updated: June 21st, 2017
Developer(s): Sega-AM2
Publisher(s): Sega
Designer(s): Noriyuki Shimoda    (Producer)
Yoshihiro Tsuzuku    (Director)
Platform(s): Arcade, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date(s): July 29th, 2010     ( Arcade)
June 5th 2012      
(/ PSN)
June 6th 2012      
(/ XBL)
March 2015          ( Arcade - "Version B" update)
Characters Akira, Jacky, Kage, Lau, Jeffry, Sarah, Wolf, Pai, Shun, Lion, Aoi, Vanessa, Lei Fei, Brad, Goh, El Blaze, Eileen, Taka-Arashi, Jean Kujo, Dural

Featured Video:

Related Games: Virtua Fighter, Virtua Fighter Remix, Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Fighter Kids, Virtua Fighter 3, Virtua Fighter 4, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, Virtua Fighter 5, Virtua Fighter 5 R, Dead or Alive 5, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Fighting Vipers, Fighting Vipers 2, Fighters Megamix, Last Bronx, Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion, Soul Calibur 5, Dead or Alive 5
 

Gameplay Engine  9.0 / 10
Story / Theme  2.5 / 10
Overall Graphics  9.0 / 10
Animation  9.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  7.0 / 10
Innovation  7.5 / 10
Art Direction  6.5 / 10
Customization  9.0 / 10
Options / Extras  5.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation  4.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  7.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  8.0 / 10
Characters  8.0 / 10

BOTTOM LINE

 8.3 / 10

 Review based on PS3 version

 

Final Words:

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 fun.

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 fighters... 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 Webmaster
 

 
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