This week may predominantly be about E3, and while some of us may be slobbering over anticipated future titles, we should not forget new releases for this month of June either. Releasing over the past couple of days through the PlayStation Network (PSN) and Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) was Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown (VF5FS).
Developed by Sega, VF5FS is a more robust, balanced and updated version of Virtua Fighter 5. Gameplay has been tweaked slightly to promote better balance to the underlying game, whilst also introducing two new characters into the fray. Sega saw fit to release VF5FS as digital download only as they felt it would suit the game better, selling at the substantially cheap price of 1200 Microsoft Points and $14.99/£9.99 on PSN. Of special note, if you are a PS+ subscriber, you can get VF5FS for FREE for a limited time. All of this is for the basic version which includes everything bar customizable clothing and one offline gameplay mode. You can then purchase the additional customizable clothing through DLC for each character in the game separately or combined. The extra DLC is merely flash and does not interfere with the core of the game. As such, the main game is of very good value especially if you are into fighters and will spend hours on it.
Newcomers to the game should not be scared though. The Virtua Fighter series prides itself on being a technical fighter, and for all intense and purposes, it still is. I was however surprised by how easy it was for me as a newcomer to fighting games, let alone to the VF series, to pick up and understand how to play the game. The game is very accessible to begin with and rewards the player should they delve even deeper into the combat mechanics.
With the addition of two new characters, Jean Kujo and Taka-Arashi, the game now supports 19 characters on a whole. That is a lot of characters to choose from especially considering the amount of variety each character has. For the uninitiated, VF5FS plays like a martial arts sparring fight. That is to say it’s all punches and kicks, with throws included too. As such you won’t find any magical attacks or weird creatures fighting either. Some may deem that boring, but I personally love the feel of brute force combat in fighting games. So find a character that suits your own particular playstyle and you should be able to enjoy the game immediately. It may take some getting use to the specific combos and movements, but it certainly does feel rewarding when applied properly.
Even better, the game comes with a pretty comprehensive tutorial for each character so that newcomers can learn how to properly use a character. There are a variety of ways to check how you input a command and how its execution affects your opponent and yourself, allowing newcomers to grasp advanced mechanics of the game should they want to face a top-tier opponent. Some commands even have a video guide to show you how moves are supposed to be executed. It’s a very robust tutorial which will be handy for a player of any level.
One of the game’s cons though is the fact that the game is more suited to those using an arcade stick. This doesn’t mean that standard gamepads don’t work, as many of the game’s combat moves are still easy enough to pull-off with a standard gamepad, but high-level play incorporating various dextrous movements will be hard to accomplish and will benefit anyone with an arcade stick over those with a standard gamepad. As such gamepad users may find themselves limiting their arsenal of attacks, but it is still very playable and enjoyable.
The game sadly also doesn’t have many game modes. This is wholly understandable given the price and size of the game, but it is still a shame. Whilst story modes in fighting games tend to be forgettable, they are always a good means of introducing the various characters to players whilst also allowing the player to grow through the AI’s difficulty levels. In VF5FS, offline modes are straight forward with basic single player fights and a ‘License Mode’ which is another tutorial mechanic where players are rewarded for utilizing specific combat mechanics and combat attributes in a fight.
Of note, the extra offline game mode that unlocks by having every characters customizable clothing DLC is a fairly simple mode that pits the player against the computer in arcade style fights where the computer fights in themed outfits, for instance in swimsuits. Nothing special, just an added bonus.
Online will be the meat of the game however, at least for the majority of occasions. There are three main online modes: Player Match, Ranked Match and Room Match. Player matches are non-ranked 1-v-1 fights, but this section is a bit devoid of players. Ranked matches are where most players lie in wait. Again, it is 1-v-1, but with the bonus of ranking up via points earned as you play. You seem to always gain these points, but victory affords you more points than defeat. Lastly we have Room matches, which seems to cater for friends to come together online and play amongst themselves. Room matches can be slow, as you might have to wait for up to six other players to fight before you get a turn. It is a shame there aren’t more online modes. For instance, a Tournament mode would be a most welcome addition. Bragging rights for tournament victories would undoubtedly make the mode popular. As said previously though, for the price, I can’t complain too much.
To add to the notion of bragging rights, players do at least have the option to save replays of fights, which they can then view later or upload to the game’s servers for other players to see. A neat addition. Of note for these online modes, the netcode for VF5FS seems pretty solid. So long as you face opponents with at least two connection bars, the fights should be very solid. Anything under two bars however can get laggy and destroy the fluidity of the game. The bad connections seem to be from the players’ side of things rather than Sega’s netcode for the game, especially since some match-ups I’ve experienced that are supposed to be from the same region have been laggy whilst others from a worldwide search have been great.
Visually, VF5FS isn’t the prettiest of games. Stages can seem very barren as nothing eye-catching tends to happen. At least the stages themselves are varied and provide different challengers to players depending on the stage itself. Some stages have no fences, allowing for easy ring outs. Others are rectangle in shape, providing fast frenetic action straight away in fights as players can’t back away easily.
The characters in the game look really good though. If you purchase the additional DLC content, you’ll even be able to make each character look very distinguished. If not, at least you still get two alternate costumes for each character. Aside from clothing, the characters movesets look really fluid and combos seem to really flow from one hit to another. Another addition is cinematic camera sequences which occur whenever the player gets a strong launcher or knockdown attack on the opponent, which really does spice the visuals up a tad.
From an audio perspective, VF5FS is weak. Background music is generic and even sound effects within the game are pretty dour to the ear. It doesn’t affect the game too much, but a bit more emphasis on this aspect would have been good for the game.
Final Thoughts: The core, solid fighting game mechanics behind Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is unmistakable. The game is a treat to play, and since it is an upgrade, the game is very balanced. Excellent tutorials provide newcomers and veterans basic and advanced information to understand the game’s mechanics. A very solid online component helps to keep the game enjoyable and greatly extends its replayability. At its current price tag, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is a must buy for anyone interested in fighting games and a sure bet for others just looking for a great game to pass the time.
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