The appeal of Virtua Fighter has always been the reliance of knowledge of fighting styles and becoming the master of them. Negating the glitz and gory glamour of series like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, Sega’s beat-em-up franchise opted for smart, yet ranged combat with no frills whatsoever. Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is a fighter that focuses solely on the fighting. There’re no story modes or distractions. It features one single-player mode and a robust tutorial, then the online play (which wasn’t available at the time of writing).
Once you get stuck in and see the range of characters and fighting styles on offer, it becomes clear how deep Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is. Each character is an expert in a different style. This makes every fight vastly different from the next. Lau Chen is both balanced and quick, catching opponents off guard with his Tiger Swallow Fist style; Taka-Arashi is a powerful sumo who hits hard and can be hard to attack; Aoi is a tactician that can confuse the enemy with defensive flair, but also hits fast if unprotected; and El Blaze who uses Lucha Libre to build monster combos through fluidity and guile.
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown: Deep and satisfying combat
No matter who you choose, it can take a long time to master their command list. Not only is it important to find your feet, executing the tougher moves in synced combos won’t come naturally. Button bashers might find Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown a godsend, but to truly master, spending time in training is the key. Every fighter has positives and negatives. Personally, I stayed away from heavier fighters as I prefer speed over strength. The Drunken Kung-Fu Master Shen became a favourite of mine. Moving around as if off his face on wine allowed me to lash out unsuspectingly, and making use of his “Drink Counter” built up the strength of my attacks.
There are very few actual buttons to press. You can punch, kick, and grab, but combining them with directional buttons alters their impact. You can hit high, low, or the middle. Each attack has a different effect depending on whether it is blocked or countered. Matches can become beautiful acts of violence, and when servers are live it’ll be exciting to watch the really skilled players. Cranking the difficulty up becomes just as much about balancing attacks and blocks. This will lead to silly mistakes if you’ve not mastered every facet of a character’s skills. Regardless, the journey of learning and practicing is so satisfying.
New engine, new visuals
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown has been fully remade with the help of Ryu Ga Gotoku, the developers behind the Yakuza series. Not only that, the Dragon Engine used in Yakuza: Like a Dragon has been utilised to improve graphics and framerate, running at 60fps. Character models are beautifully animated and detailed. The various battle stages look great, ranging from inner cities; the Great Wall of China; high rises; sumo and wrestling rings; and religious temples. Every fight plays out with tremendous speed. You fight fast, you move like a bullet in the wind, and you’ll love every second. Matches load quickly, meaning I never waited for too long. With a lack of filler, you’ll jump into the action, going from round to round faster than ever before.
There’s quite a lot of customisation in Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown. By selecting a fighter, you’ll be able to change their outfit with a fair few options. Characters have a few costumes anyway, but this provides more choice for how you want your favourite fighter to look. It’s such a colourful fighter that stands out thanks to the new engine. It runs well and looks fantastic regardless of the fighter or the arena. There’ even a throwback to the original, where you can fight on the familiar stone grid and blue sky.
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown: A bold beat-em-up with potential
It’s hard to fully review Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown as the servers are currently not live. After I’ve spent time getting my ass handed to me in multiplayer, I’ll alter the score and give an opinion on the servers. As a fighter, you’re going to have your hands full getting used to the nuanced command list, however, it’s a lot of fun giving it a go. It looks gorgeous thanks to the new engine, and when playing alone or against a friend in Offline Versus mode, it takes little time to get into a match. With it being free on PS Plus, I would definitely jump in and see for yourselves. This fighter is engaging and deep, and I hope the servers hold up to provide a great fighting experience for anyone that plays it.
Deep combat system
Runs at 60fps
Feels quite bare