No one is afraid of a “Jeffry”. Except of course, the great Jeffry McWild. Imagine a bulky, towering man with no shirt and fury in his eyes stomping his way toward you Mike Haggar style.: to be blunt, there is no way that encounter will end well. Luckily, Mr. McWild is relegated to the fictitious world of Virtua Fighter.
The latest installment, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, is a reprise that boasts better tuned fighting mechanics, among other enhancements that SEGA has been rolling out since 2007. For diehard VF fan, the game hits on all the high points. It’s those who are on the fence who need some convincing.
Your favorite characters from Virtua Fighter 5 return, along with some additions (sumo wrestler Taka-Arashi returns from hiatus and karate master Jean Kujo who first appeared in VF 5 R). Each has a distinctive fighting styles and differences in control. As expected, they also have their pros and cons depending on how you like to play.
Case in point, if you like to be aggressive and a little reckless, Jeffry or Jacky Bryant are the ones for you as they offer a little forgiveness to the button masher in all of us. Akira Yuki and Aoi Umenokoji are another story, requiring more exacting controls and combinations. The roster runs the the gamut and there is something for everyone.
Against the AI, there is also definite strategy to be had based on the character and difficulty. When it comes to the essentials you won’t find a wimpy fighting game here. The controls are tight and there is no shortage of action. So what exactly does the game do to differentiate itself from the rest of the franchise? The answer is: nothing much.
It is better to think of Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown as the “ultimate version” rather than a full fledged game. It takes all the refinements SEGA has made over the years — online play, character animation tweaks, camera adjustments–and adds a game mode or two. Arguably, this justifies the game’s virtual release rather than making it full fledged disc software you have to go to the store to buy for some ridiculous sum of money.
So what of the game modes? There’s Arcade, where true to the VF name, players fight their way up the ladder to face Akira as the final boss, with the ever so sexy and shiny Dural at the bonus stage. One of the pet peeves you may experience is that no matter what character you pick, the foes you fight, and the order in which you fight them remain the same. Perhaps to its detriment, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown offers no real story. When they say Arcade, they really mean Arcade.
Score Attack mode offers more variety. Here, players have the option of three routes to get to Akira. The object, which can be gleaned from the title, is to get the high score with large combos, maintaining high health and defeating opponents in the shortest amount of time. In the end, scores are posted on a leaderboard which can be shared with friends and the greater online community.
The most interesting mode is the License Challenge. Each challenge has the player knock through three to five matches with specific tasks, i.e. don’t let your opponent pull off five parries against you before you win, defeat the opponent with more health than you, etc. After all is said and done, players may spend the most time here ranking up in licenses.
One more mode, Special Sparring, allows you to fight against customized opponents. However, this requires you to buy what is called Item Packs, or Customization Packs. Online play is also available, with both ranked and unranked matches. Albeit, at the time of this review, there were little to no matches to be had.
As a downloadable title, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is quite robust. The amount of game modes and the promise of online play makes this a fairly competent fighting game. This may also help one overlook several things that have come to spoil fighting game tastes, like deep stories, or dynamic backgrounds with tons of things going on (ala MvC) and multi-level fighting with crazy transitions of people flying through walls or falling off roofs (ala DoA).
In the end, those who expect all the bells and whistles that have come to grace more recent fighting games, you may pass this up and feel no remorse. Same goes for those who already own a previous installment of VF 5 and feel content. Albeit, for die hard fans, those looking for yet another fighting game to add to their library and those who have strayed from the franchise but are still curious, this can be a good investment.
This review is based on a digital copy of Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown for the Xbox Live Arcade