Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is an interesting fighting game that struggles to find a place amongst the best that the genre has to offer. While the training mode is unparalleled in its features and the tutorial is one of the better I have seen, the fighting and presentation is nothing to write home about. Ultimately Virtua Fighter’s best feature is the fact that it is a slightly above average and fully featured fighting game for $15.
Virtua Fighter 5 is a three button 3D fighter. The buttons are kick, guard, and punch. Though they have no strength variation there are different moves that come out depending on the combination of buttons pressed. Further variations can be achieved depending on stick inputs, though there are no quarter circles or dragon punches. The gameplay is highly technical and the move lists are almost comically large. Still the game is fairly easy to play as even basic attacks do a fair amount of damage allowing players to be competitive without spending a ridiculous amount of time in training mode. I found the general fighting to be very satisfying when everything worked out the way I wanted too, but the game lacks spectacle. In a game like UMVC3 the crazy animations and colors make even the most simple combos and moves awesome looking and fun. The spartan presentation of Virtua Fighter makes it a much harder game to appreciate. While I wouldn’t call it a sim or describe it as realistic, the game is highly technical and generally stays away from the more ridiculous designs and effects favored by so many fighting game. Still when you do appreciate what is going on the game can be as much fun as Tekken or Soul Calibur.
The training and tutorial modes that Virtua Fighter offers are by far the game’s greatest strength. In tutorial mode you will learn the basics of fighting games as well as some specific tricks that are useful in Virtua fighter. It’s not as useful or as informative as the one in Skullgirls, but it’s pretty close. Still the actual training mode is excellent. Most importantly it will actually give you frame data, which lets you know if certain attacks are safe or not. There is also a mode that will tell you if you have done the correct inputs for a move or not. All these systems combine to make learning Virtua Fighter a far less daunting task than it would otherwise be.
There are arcade and mission modes to play through, but these will not take you very long and the true joy of this game is in playing against others. Fortunately the net code is quite excellent and I rarely had any lag and even then only on poor connections. Overall it is an impressive package, especially considering it is only $15, but if you don’t enjoy the fighting system than there is very little for you here.
Virtua Fighter’s presentation is pretty week. The game lacks its own original style. Fighting games usually have some sort of strong connection with their art style, be it the brutal brawls of Mortal Kombat or the high speed anime fights of Blaz Blue. Virtua Fighter’s stages, moves, and characters are all bland. Again this is not to say they are believable, but they lack the imagination and creativity that is so key to the experience of fighting games. Most of the fighters look like extras in a kung fu movie, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but it’s hardly a unique and interesting look for a fighting game. Technically the game doesn’t look particularly good either. It looks like a game that came out much earlier in the consoles life cycle, and considering that it is an update of a 2007 game, that isn’t too surprising. The general flatness of the characters adds to the game’s blandness. If the game had a unique art style, some of its technical shortcomings could be forgiven or may not even be apparent. At least the game does perform well, so you will not be frustrated by issues while playing.
Virtua Fighter is a solid fighting system that can be a lot of fun. I really enjoyed pulling off short, but difficult, combos that have a noticeable impact upon your opponents life bar. Even training mode was more fun than usual thanks to the wide array of options and modes. The solid online makes it easy to have fun with both friends and strangers as you don’t need to set up a face-to-face meeting.
The real issue that Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown faces is one that it can do little to solve. This is a game that struggles for recognition in a market flooded with excellent fighting games. Virtua Fighter 5 is a decent game that is certainly worth $15, I just don’t think that people will continue to play it for long before they return to their preferred fighters. Still if you are willing to put in some time, you can get a lot out of this solid remake.