Review: Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown (PS3)

Title: Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1954 MB)
Release Date: June 5, 2012 (US), June 6, 2012 (UK)
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA-AM2
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), £9.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is also available on Xbox Live Arcade.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.

When Virtua Fighter 5 first launched on the PS3 over 5 years ago, it was generally well received by fans and critics alike, with a rich single-player experience. However, it was usurped within months when the game released on the 360; that version boasting an online mode to give the hardcore exactly what they wanted.

Now though, PlayStation-based Virtua Fighter fans also have a stage on which to battle for bragging rights with their friends. Final Showdown features online multiplayer, as well as single-player and offline multiplayer. The big question is, have AM2 really given us everything we want, at a price this low? Or have they made a few sacrifices along the way?

Let’s find out whether this fighter is a true championship contender, or nothing more than a wannabe…

The first thing you have to say about Virtua Fighter, is that it’s exceptionally polarising. Some treat it as the sensational cornerstone of their gaming lives; others despise it with every fibre of their being. You won’t see an animalistic, crazy green dude with lighting shooting out of him here. The pace is not as fast and frenetic as other fighting games. The sombre Virtua Fighter is somewhat methodical and slow in approach, with more of an emphasis on technique and timing than button-mashing combos. With a distinct lack of weapons or super-powers, you could call this the purist’s mano-a-mano arcade beat-em-up.

I’ve found Final Showdown to be a fantastically balanced game overall, which manages to cater for hardcore fight nuts and casual brawlers alike. The stigma Virtua Fighter seems to carry, of it being too difficult, is simply not true. The basis of what makes the game so great, is the surprising accessibility.

Never has the phrase “easy to pick up, hard to master” rung so true than with Final Showdown. Following an always customary button-mashing round where you learn the moves, complete beginners can start to take on the AI and actually know what they’re doing. The controls are so simple and intuitive that novices don’t need to hope they can win matches by hammering random commands; they can strategically approach the opponent with a plethora of kicks and punches learned in that initial practice round.

The overall balance of Virtua Fighter, both in the ring and in terms of character ability, is unrivaled. Each fighter has their own distinctive traits and moves, along with proficiencies and flaws in their style. This is what makes it almost unique amongst modern day fighting games – rather than there being a significant advantage of using one particular character, it is all down to individual preference as to which discipline you prefer.

For example, I’ve become quite comfortable with Akira, who has a somewhat powerful hit but doesn’t manoeuvre overly well. This contrasts to someone like Lion Rafale; a quicker fighter with weaker punches, but one that is more likely to get in a good combo. There’s a diverse range of methodologies, but due to the simplified controls being identical for each, it’s easy to get to grips with different characters. The AI in Final Showdown ranges from the ridiculously easy to the punishingly difficult, again relating back to the fact that anyone can be comfortable with this game.

Another facet of Virtua Fighter I love, is the sudden shift in momentum that can occur. You never really feel like a round is beyond you, as with a few well timed hits, you can recover dramatically. Often you can find yourself on the brink of reaching your damage limit, but with the timing so key, one good counter can turn the tables in your favour. It of course can often work the other way too – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory can become an all too common occurrence if you become complacent.

Even given the fact it’s only a PSN title, options are plentiful. Characters can be customised to the hilt to give your brawler an added sense of personality. 19 fighters is already a generous offering, but with the ability to change each one even further is the icing on the cake. Replays can be saved from your best battles; another nice addition to have.

The major gripe I have with Final Showdown, is the glaring omission of a deep single-player experience – namely Virtua Fighter 5’s excellent Quest Mode. That saw you hopping from one arcade to another around Japan, shutting down people’s winning streaks and starting your own. There were also tournaments which added another dimension to the gameplay, along with a great ranking system. The sheer volume of fictional opponents meant that your Quest could give you endless hours of game time.

With the absence of this, we are presented with four fairly short modes in Final ShowdownArcade, Score Attack, License and Tutorial. It really is lacking in any sort of meaningful offline depth, and could have been such a better (and longer lasting) game if Quest was still present. If you are someone who enjoys the fillet of trophies as a reason to keep playing a game, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed. There’s no platinum and it’s incredibly easy to get 100% in roughly an hour.

All in all, Final Showdown offers a thoroughly refined and polished feel to proceedings. 5 years have passed since the first iteration, and while SEGA haven’t opted for a full overhaul, you can see that they have perfected the already outstanding formula.

I like the visual style of Final Showdown a lot – from the character models to the arenas, it’s all been done well. As eluded to earlier in this review, there is a decent variety in fighting approaches, and this is reflected in the appearance too. You have a black belt in karate, a sumo wrestler, a masked Mexican… may be generic, but it gets the job done. The characters all look different enough, whilst each of their faces, builds, and clothing all looks fantastically detailed.

The numerous arenas (which have been slightly tweaked from the original) look very good indeed, with some slightly atmospheric surroundings. Each stage is distinguishably different and some feature a light element of destructibility in fences or walls. There’s also one that is enclosed by water, which obviously makes achieving a ‘ring out’ very satisfying. In fight you’ll mainly only see the rectangle or square that you’re doing battle in, so just prior to the match, the camera will swoop through the entire surrounding area to show you the great detail that’s gone into each location.

One aspect that is a departure from the norm nowadays, is the lack of any sort of character back story – which in term means no cutscenes. There’s a lack of any little movies pre and post arcade mode, which can be viewed as a slight oversight. In terms of blood and gore, there is none, so don’t worry about playing this one around younger kids. Like I said earlier, it’s simply hand-to-hand combat, and that is as far as the violence stretches.

Overall Final Showdown is quite bright and colourful, with good looking textures and animations. The graphical upgrades since Virtua Fighter 5 are negligible; there’s a new lick of paint on the menus, but you won’t notice an overtly improved look in-fight. That’s not exactly a downside though, because the original release looked amazing.

It’s unmistakeably Japanese. What more do I need to say? The announcer and all in-fight sound effects have Japanese B-Movie written all over them – but it works. The awfully cheesy sounds of each punch, along with the atrocious catchphrase and dubbed voice acting, all fits in to the game wonderfully well. Yes, I’m saying the fact that it’s bad is actually a good thing. It just works.

What doesn’t work though, is the grating music throughout. There are 3 tracks in this game (all Japanese Pop music of course). One is for the main menu, one for sub-menus, and one pre-fight. All are extremely poor, extremely repetitive and extremely annoying. I know it’s only a PSN game and you could say it’s to be expected, but having just a little more variety wouldn’t go a miss.

The online component of Final Showdown is extremely solid, though not spectacular. I had a few games against players in the US (I’m in the UK) and there was no lag whatsoever. It was completely seamless and smooth – exactly what you need from a fighting game that relies so heavily on timing. The modes were as expected – there are ranked matches (you begin at 10th Kyu), player matches and rooms. In all three you can either go straight into a quick game, view a list of people waiting for an opponent, or set up a fight yourself; with the ability to customise the number of rounds and more.

Although the stability is obviously the most vital aspect of the online mode, a few bells and whistles would have been nice. For example, when I wanted to see what country my opponents were from, I had to manually view their PSN profile, whereas in other games a little flag pops up next to their name in the pre-match lobby. You can’t really knock it too much though, because it’s only a $15 PSN title after all – and overall, I cannot stress enough how brilliantly lag-free the online experience is.

Is there are discernible difference since the original that makes Final Showdown a worth release? Yes. Is it necessarily better? Well that will depend on your own preference when it comes to online or single-player. As a standalone game though, this is definitely worth the money, and offers a phenomenally pure fight experience that is the undisputed champ in many ways. It strikes an exceedingly fine balance in many areas, the hallmarks of a meticulously polished game.

However, you can’t help but feel that if the Quest Mode was included, this would be one of the most essential purchases on PSN. If it had that depth from its previous outing, you’d be looking at an ‘A+’ below. The unfortunate truth though, is that the original 360 iteration is still the definite version, and the only way to be truly satisfied with a complete experience.


Written by Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Sub-Editor.

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