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Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown

This article first appeared on vgutopia.com 

It’s been a couple years since the original Virtua Fighter 5 came to consoles and arcades way back in 2007 but with this revised and updated “Final Showdown” version fans can finally benefit from the numerous tweaks that have been made to the game since then. But is Final Showdown worth its $15 price-tag? Read on to find out.

First, the new features; in addition to an entirely new menu-layout Final Showdown also boasts several new arenas and two entirely new fighters: the Sumo-Wrestler Taka-Arashi and Karate expert Jean Kujo. Arashi’s powerful Sumo bulk allows for some devastating throws and grapples and he isn’t too shabby of a striker either; Kujo meanwhile fights more like a combination of Jackie and Akira with powerful yet fluid strikes, his style actually reminded me a lot of Jin from the later Tekken games.

The entire base roster from Virtua Fighter 5 makes a return as well, including newcomers Eileen and El Blaze. Each fighter sports significant overhauls to their movesets ranging from new strikes and combos to new throws, tech hits, and reversals. Taking your favorite characters for a test spin and seeing all the new tricks they’ve learned is a great way to spend your first hour or so with Final Showdown.

The available modes are pretty standard fighting game fare; “Dojo” allows you to brush up on your skills with both free training and command training if you want to learn a specific character’s moves and combos. The new “Tutorial” mode even allows Virtua Fighter newbies to get up to speed quickly as it teaches everything from the basics such as movement, striking, and defending, to advanced techniques such as fall recoveries, throw escapes, and advanced combos.

Once you feel ready to step into the ring you can try your hand at single-player in one of three different modes; “Arcade” has players fighting against a random string of opponents, culminating in a fight against Dural, score attack lets you pick one of three “routes”, each featuring a different progression of opponents, and awards points based on performance. And finally there’s the “License Challenges” which allow you to earn various licenses and titles for completing specific tests.

If you think you’re ready to take on some fellow players you can do so in either offline versus or take the battle online in both ranked and unranked matches. Final Showdown’s online mode comes complete with leaderboards and the same kyu/dan ranking system as the original Virtua Fighter 5 so there’s plenty to keep avid online fans busy.

Sadly the appeal of Final Showdown starts to wear thin once you’ve partaken of the new characters and online functionality. The highly addictive “Quest” mode from the original VF5 is nowhere to be seen which means once you’ve played through Arcade mode and Score Attack a few times you really only have two options: either try and beat the License Challenges (which get ridiculously hard past the first couple tests) or head online and try your best against opponents who nine times out of ten severely outclass you.

Along with Quest mode goes the easily accessible character customization elements. Instead players must purchase individual customization “packs” for specific characters (bundle packs are also available) in order to give a character unique clothing/coloring options. Individual packs cost about five bucks a piece while bundles run for about twenty bucks which means things could get very pricey if you want to be able to customize more than one or two characters.

Final Showdown’s $15 price, half of the original VF5, is actually strangely appropriate since without Quest mode and easily accessible character customization options, it really feels like half a game if you’re not willing to spend a majority of your playtime online. Despite the new characters, stages, and moveset-tweaks, I can’t recommend Final Showdown to anyone except the most die-hard Virtua Fighter fans.   

Verdict: If you’re a hardcore fan of the series and have $15 lying around, go for it. Otherwise stick with the original Virtua Fighter 5.

Follow me on Twitter at @NateHohl and check out my other work at vgutopia.com, hookedgamers.com, and explosion.com

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