Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown review
I've never been much of a 3D fighting game enthusiast, preferring the tight, easier-to-manage gameplay of the 2D realm. That being said, most casual players are irrationally terrified of combo-heavy 2D fighters, so the dial-a-combos of games like Tekken are the most common fighting fare I offer house guests who want to hit things. It seems that that's why Virtua Fighter has struggled to find an audience in America, with the hardcore fighting players opting for 2D titles like Street Fighter since Virtua Fighter's complex gameplay is a bit too much to pull in the casual 3D players.
The point is, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is somebody's dream game, with this most recent version adding another round of tweaks and fixes that only the hardcore could know about, while throwing in two new characters to boot. The problem is that the market for this game just isn't huge, especially since the game doesn't have much to offer casual players.
For starters, Virtua Fighter 5 looks rather dated at this point, especially when compared to recent titles like Soulcalibur V or the upcoming Dead or Alive 5. The game's models have barely been updated since their debut six years ago, with textures all coated in this weird, shiny effect that makes the characters look almost like action figures. Additionally, Virtua Fighter has never included much by way of visual flare. Impacts barely seem noticable, and there's no cute particle effects to announce a punch has landed, with characters often looking like they're play fighting. The environments are similarly simplistic, mostly large square-shaped arenas — the only difference between them being the square footage and the type of wall surrounding it. Don't expect to see many cheering fans in the background; these fighters seem more interested in fighting in big non-descript fields or alongside boring rock formations.
Of course, these visual effects are all just noise, and the core gameplay is actually quite decent. Combos are easy enough for beginners to discover, while offering plenty of intrigue for more advanced fighters. The game's guarding is especially well implemented, and it's a blast to properly block a string of attacks before launching into your own onslaught. Again though, the real question is who you'll be playing with. Though the game sports a fine online matchmaking system, this is definitely not party game fodder. Virtua Fighter 5 is like a game of chess for players who appreciate the subtle beauty of a fighting system, more than willing to excuse the barebones presentation.
For $14.99, the game could've been considered a decent bargain. Unfortunately, this version of VF5 is lacking the arcade-traversing "quest mode," which was a major draw for previous home versions. Traditionally, this is how players would unlock the game's hundreds of customization items, letting them play dress up with the fighters. Instead, Virtua Fighter enthusiasts are expected to shell out $4.99 apiece for character packs containing these costume items. Either that or shell out $10 apiece for two larger costume packs, at which point you've paid $40 for a minor update to a six-year-old fighting game with barely any bonus content beyond the mundane "score attack" and "challenge" modes.
If you're a hardcore Virtua Fighter fan, this game provides what it says on the tin — the most up-to-date version of VF5 yet. But if you're just an Average Joe looking to beat up your friends, a used copy of the original Virtua Fighter 5 will give you double the content (Quest Mode) for half the price.