Virtua Fighter 5 first made the scene on the PlayStation 3 over five years ago, to varied critical reception. It’s forever lived in the shadow of the alternate Xbox 360 release with robust online features and accessibility for fans who want to take their fighting skills to the global stage, whereas the PlayStation 3 suffered, having no outlet for gamers to do so. Now, PSN and XBLA Virtua Fighter enthusiasts have a new and improved entry into the series to give them the challenge they crave in complete digital form: Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. Final Showdown packs online and offline multiplayer as well as the classic fighting action of the fifth entry into the series. How does this new iteration stack up?
For starters, it’s important to understand how different Virtua Fighter as a whole is from the rest of the pack. With a full cast of seemingly “normal” characters, this brawler is all about true combat skills – no hyper combos, ridiculous out-there animations, or fast and frenetic button-input. It chugs along at a much more relaxed pace than its fighter brethren, and it caters to a very specific type of gamer. If you’re looking for the chaos of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or the classic Street Fighter combos, you will be disappointed. If you place more emphasis on strategic combat and balanced fighters, you’ll find plenty to love in Final Showdown.
Beginning players and seasoned fighters should find it easy to jump right in and get to bashing through the competition, especially with the rich tutorials and formidable AI fighters available against which you may test your skills and perfectly-timed combos. Final Showdown is admirable in that it’s simple to pick up the combo strings needed to pull off advanced maneuvers in a short amount of time simply through playing the practice rounds at the beginning of the game.
There’s a great selection of fighters to choose from, 19 in total, which is more than enough for you to find your niche within – some quicker than others, some with more powerful offense, and some slow and lumbering who are meant to be played with strong defense. That’s plenty of options available to play through Final Showdown’s four single-player modes: Score Attack, Arcade, License, and Tutorial. Unfortunately, the original Virtua Figher 5’s most alluring single-player adventure Quest Mode is curiously absent here, replaced only with these quick-hit options that are clearly meant only to supplement the online multiplayer focus of this release. If you’re someone who keeps to themselves or aren’t as interested in playing online as many of the fans who buy this will be, you may want to reconsider your purchase and grab the original Virtua Fighter 5 instead.
For those looking to go online, however, Final Showdown’s online matching is smooth and relatively lag-free, with plenty of opportunities to rank up from 10th Kyu forward, and plentiful player matches and quick matches. Rounds are customizable and you can even see which country your opponents hail from without checking their PlayStation Network profile. This adds an interesting little touch and a little personality to an otherwise sterile experience, but then Virtua Fighter’s online system have been doing that for quite some time now.
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is a gorgeous fighter with crisp visuals and great fight music to get you pumped up and ready for battle. It’s also a pretty good value for players who never tried the original release in disc form, at just $15 with online and single player options to round out the package on either XBLA or PSN. If you’re tired of your fighter-of-choice or the recent glut of arcade-style franchise sequels, it’s worth giving a chance if only to see how things work on the other side of fast and frantic. There’s nothing to lose with this deeply absorbing and addictive brawler, and possibly a whole new fighter skill set to gain.