Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown – Review
Back in the ’90s, when the polygonal revolution swept across arcades and home consoles, one genre that was most affected by that additional dimension was the one-on-one fighting game. The 2D genre was in a circling pattern, thanks to endless micro-revisions by Capcom and SNK, with each successive addition adding more and more characters and unrealistic projectile-based special moves. We were a long way from the simple elegance of Way of the Exploding Fist and the genre needed a boost. Along came the likes of Tekken, Toshinden, Soul Blade (later Soul Calibur) and Sega’s own Virtua Fighter series, considered by many to be the first true polygonal fighting game.
Since then, Tekken has gone from strength to mediocrity with overly large rosters and extra modes that can’t help hide the fact that the gameplay formula has overstayed its welcome (not to mention that really good Tekken players are often complete dicks), and Soul Calibur is awash with pomposity and an egotistical sense of grandeur that would make the king of Spain throw up in his mouth. Virtua Fighter, though, continues to offer some of the most refined, technical fighting action the genre has to offer, as evidenced by 2007′s excellent Virtua Fighter 5 – a connoisseur’s beat ‘em up, which pays close attention to the various martial art styles on offer while maintaining the kind of fair balance that Namco can only dream of. What’s more, Virtua Fighter 5 had some of the most impressive netcode you’ve ever seen, with buttery smooth online battles that were a radical improvement from what was offered by contemporaries like Dead or Alive 4, and with a wealth of customisation options for your characters, the game actively encouraged specialisation with one character rather than Tekken’s ‘jack of all trades’ approach.
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown has arrived almost five years later via the online delivery system of Xbox Live Arcade and is an odd beast indeed. Players new to the series (or at least those who skipped Virtua Fighter 5) are reasonably well catered for, with twenty or so varied characters to choose from. Given how technical the game is, you could certainly spend weeks attempting to master any of them and so there is some value to be had there right away. The game’s main draws are the Arcade Mode, headlined by the T1000-esque robo-bitch Dural, or the excellent online mode which, depending on your connection of course, seems a silky as it ever was. The half-hearted Score Attack Mode fills out the main menu but adds very little to the overall package.
For an Xbox Live title, the visuals are pretty tasty, with crisp, well-defined fighters, beautiful backdrops and true attention to detail when it comes to the animation – although they might not cut it as a full-priced release. That said, the overly shiny look of games like Tekken (and particularly Soul Calibur) can make the action quite hard to follow, and while Final Showdown is hardly minimalist, the visuals never overwhelm the action.
As a fighting game, parallels are drawn against the early Tekken titles, with success coming to those fighters who understand the importance of range and timing. Flinging hadokens from the other edge of the screen isn’t an option. Instead, you need to work for your openings and exploit them as efficiently as possible. The well-balanced roster also rewards you for persistence; pick a short-range fighter like the wrestler El Blaze and you’ll initially take a beating, but learn how to get in close and you’ll be wrecking the shit of anyone unlucky enough to run into you online.
So, a well made, if very slightly dated, beat ‘em up for the purists that does away with the ponciness of Soul Calibur or the crowd-pleasing pyrotechnics of the Street Fighter series, for 1200M$P (about a tenner in your Earth pounds) would seem fair enough, and it sort of is… but there are a couple of chavs in the neighbourhood. Firstly, the disc release of Virtua Fighter 5 was already a very decent, complete game. Final Showdown adds two characters to the roster – brand new karate expert Jean Kujo and the returning sumo practitioner Taka-Arashi – and a couple of new arenas to fight in, but that’s it for new features. A few tweaks further tighten up the fighting engine, with zombie-like assassin Goh, in particular, benefitting from a much-needed speed boost. However, button mashing tactics from Kage and Taka-Arashi especially can wreck the AI fairly consistently, although these are easily negated in multiplayer matches.
One aspect that has been spectacularly spoiled is the customisation element. In Virtua Fighter 5 you could radically alter the look of your chosen fighter with traditional or modern costumes and a wealth of accessories. These are only available in Final Showdown as DLC (either 400M$P per fighter or two 1200M$P collections). The thing is, if your opponent hasn’t downloaded said packs, they won’t even see your customisations – if you’re a daft enough bastard to waste good money on virtual costumes – so there’s no point, and given that every pack (and collection) are apparently the same exact download (based on the identical 1.97GB file sizes) the pricing seems entirely mean-spirited of Sega.
A tenner is about what you’d expect to pay for a copy of Virtua Fighter 5 in the shops and if you’re into dressing up ninjas, that’s the version to go for, but for the convenience, extra characters and tweaked gameplay Final Showdown is a good option provided you don’t already own the game’s disc-based big brother or if you’re tempted by the extremely easy four hundred gamerscore on offer.Pros
- A well-presented, visually pleasing game that looks great for an Xbox Live Arcade title
- Excellent roster of varied but deep fighters to pick from and master
- A slick, responsive online experience with the minimum of fuss between you getting a game
- Anyone looking for an arcadey pick and play fighter might find the game a little too short and samey
- Adds very little to the disc release
- A tad dated given that the core game was released in 2007
- could easily have been DLC
- customisation options are entirely ruined by greedy pricing
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is as capable a fighting game as you'll find on the system and pays respect to the martial arts on offer and rewards those who are prepared to put in the time mastering their chosen brawler without resorting to the gimmicks of other fighting games. Newcomers may find the price a little off-putting and fans will already own the disc version of the game which makes buying Final Showdown something of a waste of time and money although you'll be more likely to find an online match on this version.
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