"A Final Showdown Indeed"
With this one being the third release of the title this generation, Virtua Fighter 5 gives other fighters a run for their money in terms of re-releases. However, this final release, subtly titled Final Showdown, has a unique pricing structure and is a download-only title, making it easy for all types of players to get into it and expand at their own pace.
For the uninitiated, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is the latest title in the long-running 3D fighting game series, the only 3D fighting game on display at the Smithsonian. Being a forerunner of the genre, Virtua Fighter is played through three buttons: Kick, Punch, and Guard. Characters are able to move in eight directions and have all basic movement options seen in other 3D fighting games. Aside from small quirks in gameplay, the game is pretty basic in terms of mechanics. In a refreshing change of pace for the genre, there is no attempt made to tell a story in the game; the series has gradually drifted to presenting the story as if it were simply set in an arcade with tournaments. The high degree of customization offered is partly due to the fact that the game presents everything as a blank slate, with a deep fighting system.
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is pretty easy to get into. There aren't a lot of system mechanics specific to the game; it’s simply about choosing a character and diving into the game with them. The game offers a few training modes to get the player accustomed to the fighting style and how the characters move. There are trials for each character. Of course, traditional training against a dummy is also available for those who would like to "go to the lab".
Unlike the previous PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 retail versions of VF5, there is no need to purchase cosmetic items for characters through gameplay; items are only available through purchasing them separately. This is offset by the SEGA employing a unique pricing system: the base game costs 1,200 Microsoft points (or $15 on PSN), and items for characters are sold separately. They are available by character or bundles that contain all items for half of the cast. While it gets the game in more hands, the item structure completely changes around the replay value of the game. Even in the arcades, the items are slowly given out as players play the game more and use their player card to record their win and loss record.
In addition to the aforementioned additional training modes for VF5: Final Showdown, the single-player mode consists of a traditional Arcade, Score Attack, and License Challenge (here players face CPU opponents under special conditions). Purchasing a set of customization items opens up a Special Sparring mode, where CPU opponents wear custom get-ups.
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown's online mode is arguably the meat of the game, similar to any modern fighting title on the market. The game supports the traditional Ranked and Player matches, similar to the Xbox 360 version released in 2007, and it adds the option to participate in an 8-player room where matches can also be watched. The game plays well online, and I only encountered some slowdown in one match. However, the ranking system is strange: promotions were happening even though I had a huge loss streak.
Visually, the game looks similar to any other version of Virtua Fighter 5, which still looks good over 5 years after the initial release; any gripes are dependent on personal preference. The sounds of the characters and the announcers speaking could have been made a little clearer, especially when compared to the nice graphics. The soundtrack is typical arcade fare; the option to choose soundtracks from previous games in the series a nice touch.
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is a well-made reintroduction to the series and an interesting pricing experiment. The replay value has been drastically changed around from previous versions of the game, with SEGA banking on players buying items and going online to fight opponents, making the game like an MMO with a pay wall of sorts. For those not acquainted with the series, Final Showdown is still worth picking up, since it's a well-made fighting game on par with retail releases, but at a lower price.
GameDynamo's Score for Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown (PS3)
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