The Ultimate Showdown
Virtua Fighter has always been the mother of 3D fighting games. Coming out ahead of its rivals, Virtua Fighter’s focus on technically focused play. The 3D brawler, that the legendary Sega Team AM2 built, won the hearts and minds of the public in its first 2 iterations, as well as 4 Evo for its sheer attention-to-detail training modes. The series did a lot of things first that its rivals ended up doing literally 3 or 4 main games over. Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is 10 years out, with a major tournament presence just as old. As we gaze onto Tekken 7 as the leader of the pack, in 3D eSports fisticuffs, the question remains: is Virtua Fighter ready for a comeback?
Technically, not much has changed in terms of its fight structure compared to Final Showdown. Characters and moves seem to be the same from a high level. That Kage 15 hit combo, that you remember from Final, will still be good in Ultimate. Perhaps this could be revisited, but again – if it’s that solid and fun, why change it? All 16 characters are back and ready to square up. The VFTV esque mode, where it shows online fights, is quite fun to check out via the main menu. I’d just sit there taking it in like the sport it is.
Graphically is where VF5US pushes it
From the same producers of Judgement and Yakuza, it’s no surprise that VF5US has the aesthetic prowess it possesses. The game’s been retooled with backgrounds more fleshed out than ever before and the character models looking their best for the series. Hit sparks take a bit of an explosive turn. Personal standouts are the Akira and Kage stages. The latter taking more inspiration from its Virtua Fighter 2 debut with more trees and details to look at. Jacky’s stage is also a treat with a few callbacks to notice and its best shading examples. The UI loses its cartoon paint job and gains a more subtle yet standout touch. The DLC is chockful of nostalgia – including 38 retro skins to party like it’s 1993. Jacky’s ’93 stage is also available!
Sound-wise, Virtua Fighter sports all the main timeline and a few iteration tracks.
Some extra AST tracks can be heard for character stages that were not seen in previous games. For instance, Pai’s arranged VF2 track will replace Aoi’s stage music if Virtua Fighter 2 is selected. It’s quite a nostalgic trip. While the game retains its original voices, a new set of music is also available from the Legendary DLC.
The modes, Tournament, Room, and Ranked, are the first ones to look at for VF5US since the focus is pointed to eSports. The original ranked system is intact, ranging from white belt 10 kyu to the likes of Storm Lord. The gameplay throughout these was favourable with not many dropouts. There were a few slow fights, but pretty much that. Not too many interruptions or at all were experienced. Thanks to the resurgence, I ran into a few notable faces online. The game is clearly for the audience it commands and is looking to set up that way. Virtua Fighter was never casual first. Survival and Time Attack are not present on Ultimate Showdown, which is a clear indication that this is meant to be a “fight first” title. There is no story mode and VF5US doesn’t clearly need one. Training mode is also here and still offers command guidance for those looking to learn more new characters. The Coming Soon part seems to be the most intriguing. What could this be?
VF5US has some stumbling to take to task
For instance, while it’s a boon to see random fights from the community at large, via the main menu, we are not able to review our own fights as of yet or change what fights to watch from here. What if I wanted to see a certain player or rank in the menu? No can do. Records of those are shown only in stat form, while the original Final Showdown had this at the ready. The lack of an invite friend option is also puzzling. License mode is gone, which was a cool training feature. The costume picker is a bit less offered than its forefather at this point, with a few variances to choose from compared to Final Showdown’s closet. A nitpick for me would have been the lack of costumes in legends. Why not have VF2 character model mode? instead, we’re treated to VF skins only.
Players can’t choose stage music to use more times than an overall musical choice. If you choose VF4 Evo music, that’s all you’re getting throughout. While it would be nice to have a similar approach to the Versus mode à la Capcom fighters being able to battle the CPU in that mode, that’s more of a nice-to-have than not. I was also surprised that the chibi Virtua Fighter Kids references are nowhere to be seen. Another nitpick is the UI for fights. It’s either the now UI or Retro, yet for myself, I’d love to see the other 4-5 iterations to some degree.
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown seems to be the remake the AM2 fighter needed to be back in the mix again. Especially with its no-frills focus in check, VF5US takes the best of the predecessor and adds a few new features to make it ever so special. With some small nuances to hinder it, which will be fixed in later editions, the answer to the above question is a resounding yes. Yes, we’re ready to see Virtua Fighter take to the stage again. And with it currently being free on PS+, providing new skins, the entry to even sample Virtua Fighter is at its absolute must-have level.
Review code provided
Release Date: 01/06/2021
No. of Players: 1-17
Download link: US PSN / UK PSN