Virtua Fighter has never really had a strong foothold here, and I put that down to two factors. The first is availability, since the SEGA machines the games appeared on were scarce here, and the second is that Virtua is a lot more difficult and technical to play than Tekken. You have to know what you’re doing to be a decent Virtua Fighter player.
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown has just been released on the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE, and claims to be a tweaked version of the original Virtua Fighter 5, with reworked play mechanics and a more user friendly control scheme this time round. I’m not sure what they’re talking about, since it seems almost identical to me. I had to look really hard to see if anything was different. About the only thing I noticed was that the throws had changed somewhat. There isn’t a single standing throw in the game that ends with a down, down-forward or down-back command any more, making the business of escaping throws a lot easier – but that’s about it. I’d still recommend this one only to fighting game fans who aspire to play with a degree of skill and thought.
All of the existing characters have received some tweaks, new moves, new outfits and new winning animations. There are also two new characters – well, one new character and one returning character. The new guy is Jean Kujo, a hard-hitting karate fighter with a poncy, J-pop fashion sense. Every character in Virtua Fighter has their trademark technique, which is true of any fighting game, I guess, but in Virtua Fighter, it’s really pronounced. In Jean’s case, he can delay, cancel and even switch certain moves in mid-strike. It’s a mind game tactic, which is completely useless on amateur opponents, since they’ll attack blindly no matter what you do, but against other experts, the applications are clear.
The returning character is Taka Arashi, the sumo wrestler who appeared in Virtua Fighter 3. In the spirit of sumo, he has lots of pushing moves that force other characters back, blocking or not, for ring-outs, and a few catch-throws to get them into his special hold.
Other than that, it’s the game we all remember. Akira is still the choice of experts, with his two and three-hit slamming moves that only the twitchiest experts can pull off. Shun still has to booze himself up mid-fight to access his best moves, Sarah, Jacky and Lion are still the most straightforward and Tekken-like characters of the lot, and Lei-Fei is still a complicated mess of different stances that grant him access to different moves.
The graphics are fantastic with a very unique and clean look to them, and the music tracks are energetic and suitable for a fighting game. There’s a ranked online mode too, so PS3 players can now fight online (unlike last time) and you can customise your character with a modest selection of outfit pieces, hairdos and accessories. It’s a fantastic fighting game, but it will only really appeal to avid fighting fans. Oh! And the download is somewhere under 3GB, if I remember correctly.