Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown PS3 Review

I love fighters. I absolutely love them. Something about the highly-competitive atmosphere and unique metagame just sets my blood aboil. I’m always looking out for a new experience that revitalizes the genre and offers new techniques and mechanics. While Virtua Fighter 5 isn’t that game, it brings enough refinements to the series to warrant a purchase at its very gracious price point.

Let’s go back in time a little, back to the launch date of the PlayStation 3 to be exact. Many people were clamoring over the launch titles, excited to see what developers could bring to the table with the system’s amazing graphical and processing capacities. I, for one, was interested in SEGA‘s next-gen foray with the Virtua Fighter series. Cue launch title Virtua Fighter 5. Now, the game wasn’t bad at all. It had a few quirks and quizzically lacked online play where the Xbox 360 version did not. Suffice to say, not much about it impressed me.

In this downloadable-only re-release, SEGA has managed to remedy nearly every issue I took with the title, but still left a few imperfections.

If you were an early adopter of the PlayStation 3 copy as I was, the biggest change you’ll notice is the addition of online play. Now, this is undoubtedly where I have to give VF5:FS its props. The game simply has the best online netcode I have witnessed in a fighter for quite some time. Out of about 30 matches, I can honestly say one or two had any sort of discernible lag, not that it affected my performance in any way. You’ll find that after all these years, SEGA has made amends to scorned PS3 users everywhere with the nearly flawless online component therein.

The control scheme is largely unchanged. You’ll find that characters move around in the staple 3D environments and have three attack buttons: Punch, Kick, and Block. By default, these maneuvers are mapped to the face buttons of the controller, but can be changed via options settings. I initially found the control scheme to be very simplistic, and quite honestly boring. With time, however, one finds that the combo system in Virtua Fighter games is far more complex than it appears on the surface. Figuring out what works with certain characters and what animations chain into others are the key to victory.

Speaking of animations, SEGA has graciously given each character’s move list a face lift in the form of numerous balance tweaks across the board. There was an issue with previous versions of the title where attacks would hit inconsistently, have ridiculous frame advantage, or look high but hit low. Everyone plays and hits much more fairly this time around, though a few characters still seem a little too powerful (*cough Akira*).

The graphics in VF5:FS have definitely aged, and it seems that not even an HD filter was put on the re-release. While the game doesn’t look terrible, characters tend to have an unnatural and glossy shine to their skin that is reminiscent of shopping mall mannequins. Textures are also fairly so-so. While I didn’t expect too much in the graphical department, with this being a downloadable title, I expected some upscaling at the very least.

Sound is also mediocre. I honestly don’t consider any of the game’s basic stage tunes to be very memorable, though that’s not to say they are bad or disappointing. They simply do their job, nothing more. You certainly won’t find any breathtaking symphonies here.

Something many will be glad about is the DLC support SEGA is offering for customers. While the base game costs a very affordable £9.99, DLC packs are available for each character at an additional £3.59. A complete edition is also available, bundled with DLC at a reduced rate. Customization packs allow cosmetic items such as flames, lighting effects, and bo staves to be placed on your characters. If you choose not to purchase them, however, they will not affect your chances at victory any less.

I’m extremely happy that Virtua Fighter 5 is finally getting a second wind on next gen consoles. While the disappointment at launch was a little disheartening, the revisions in Final Showdown combined with the extremely attractive price point more than warrant a purchase from anyone who has never partook in the series or would love to get back in the Virtua Fighter swing.

Now I’m off to go purposely cause some more Ring Outs.

7 out of 10