As far as I understand, when you use the word “final”, doesn’t it stand for last? That’s what I thought when Sega released the download only Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown in 2012. Surprisingly there is a new iteration in the form of Ultimate Showdown. While many hardcore fans would rather have the coveted 6th installment, the new game has received a much needed face-lift. The talented people behind the Yakuza series, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, helped bring the game up to speed with many of its contemporary fighter brethren. Despite the shiny coat of paint, there are still elements keeping it from being the ultimate package for fans.
Virtua Fighter is perhaps one of the most technical fighters out there. There are no over the top special moves or flashy attacks. There are only three buttons: punch, kick and block. Despite the presumed simplicity, the combat system itself is very intricate. Different button combos, precise timing and other elements are what made the game a favorite among hardcore fighting fans. Therein lies the problem, the series is hard to get for those who are unfamiliar with the minutia of the genre.
The tutorial in the game helps ease some of the burden of the learning curve. While it does a serviceable job teaching some of the finer elements of the system, some aspects need improvement. For example I found myself stuck at the second evasion tutorial for a while trying to block an incoming attack while crouching. If the game had a proper timing UI to mitigate the issue, I wouldn’t have felt lost. The tutorial here is identical to the 2012 release, despite the cleaner UI. Compared to other modern tutorial modes that showcase frame timings and the likes, I wish the tutorial could’ve been brought to speed as well.
After learning the basics, there is sadly not much to do. There is a basic arcade mode in which a ladder of fighters must be defeated in succession. There are no special unlocks, let alone story, for those hoping for some depth. Obviously, there is of course a 1-on-1 offline mode, but the meat and potatoes is the game’s online mode. In fact, in Japan the game’s title is Virtua Fighter 5 eSports.
Players can play in ranked matches and climb up the ranks, or fight in individual rooms. Ultimate Showdown may not use the reliable rollback netcode that everyone wanted, but it works nonetheless. As a result, the online matches I played in were seamless without any noticeable lag. Granted, I do play on an ethernet connection on a fast cable connection, so your mileage may vary. A minor issue is that there is no Wi-Fi indicator that details connection quality. This will be hard to determine if the opponent has a solid connection or not. Despite this oversight, the online in Virtua Fighter 5 is excellent in my experience.
This is also the main problem. There is very little to do with Ultimate Showdown if you aren’t into the series, let alone fighting games. While the series was always devoid of the lore of its competition, there was some decent single player content in the past. Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution’s Quest Mode comes to mind. There is a greyed out button in the main menu that might signify a different mode might be coming in the future.
The other selling point is the graphical overhaul of UItimate Shodown. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio did a great job of updating the dated look of the original. Characters have better facial animations and don’t seem to be lathered in oil like in the PS3 days. In addition, the game does away with the aliasing mode that hampered the original release, as the levels themselves are cleaner than ever before. The corny voiceover remains as cheesy as always, but so does the audio quality. The tiny voices sound compressed, seeming out of place for a game released in 2021. Still, perhaps those who enjoy the cheesiness may find the low-fi quality fitting.
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is a welcome return of the grand-daddy of 3D fighters. The much needed graphical touch ups help rejuvenate an aging game thanks to better facial animations and cleaner visuals. The gameplay is as solid as ever, handling especially well with the online integration. Unfortunately those who aren’t into the competitive aspect of fighting games might not find a lot to enjoy here. If you are big into the genre and want a more technical fighter, it is highly recommended. I only wish that a game touting the Ultimate moniker would have more features to justify it.
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