Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown came out recently. I thought I would discuss the game, what to expect if you are new to the game or the genre. This is not a review, if you are reading this, you probably know what to expect from a review of the game, it is loved critically, and not so loved by general players in America. Rather I will set this up as a pretentious pseudo conversation between me and some imaginary person.
“How do I buy this game?”
The game is available on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN. The base game costs 15 dollars and for that you get the full game, online play, training, and everything that you need. There are extra costume packs you can buy. These let you dress up your character are are completely optional. You can buy them per character for 5 dollars, or buy a pack for half the cast(about 10 characters) for 15 dollars. After buying the 2 costume packs and the base game it comes to a total cost of 45 dollars, a bit cheaper than a retail disk release. It is a revision of Virtua Fighter 5 which already came out with a disk release on both PS3 and X360, but this has new attacks, new arenas and two new characters. It is more like a sequel to Virtua Fighter 5 then say a simple expansion pack.
“What do I get by buying the item packs?”
You can dress your character with dozens of different outfits and items. For example the character Vanessa normally appears in fatigues, I have her in several different setups, one with flowing hair, masquerade mask, and a trenchcoat with a rapier, and a completely different setup that I like to call “Psycho Vanessa” with a hockey mask faded jeans, and huge knives. She is pretty terrifying.
Items do not change attack power or speed, nor can you use the weapons during a fight, they are purely aesthetic and optional. You can see other players outfits online, only if you bought the item pack that includes the character you are fighting against. For example one of the item packs covers half the cast, if you fight against someone from the other half, you will not see their outfits until you purchase the second half.
Buying the complete item packs will also give you a special sparring single player mode where you fight against AI character with crazy outfits. Nothing really special, but fun.
[Editor’s Note: Here is a video of some of the outfits, showing that many of the items aren’t just pallet changes, but they actually are encorporated into the game/win poses:]
“Do I have to buy the item packs? And why is it set up like this? That’s stupid.”
No, you don’t have to buy the packs. If you just want the game it only costs 15 dollars. The item packs are purely optional. It was set up like this because of the size limits on xbox live, and because this is a game series that has always had a disk release, and quite frankly is worth the price of a disk release.
“Is this game any good? I have played some Street Fighter, is it like that?”
Back in 1993 the first Virtua Fighter came out and caused a split in the fighting game genre. Virtua Fighter has no super moves, no fireballs, no power meters. Just punches, kicks, throws and a healthbar. Characters reel and stagger from attacks, and momentum pushes attackers forward, and it just feels different in movement from the example. It is not better than street fighter, but it is a completely different approach to the combat. This philosophy was continued in successive VF games, as well as other 3D fighting games like Tekken and Dead or Alive. The series is the father of a subgenre and continues to be one of the best, if not the best in the field.
In addition to the lack of crazy moves, the game has no story mode, no character endings. The closest thing the series has ever had to a story mode was quest mode in the original release of Virtua Fighter 5, where your quest was not related to the game at all, but rather about travelling to different arcades in Japan playing Virtua Fighter. The game is purely about the fighting, and that is where it excels. If these other aspects are important to you, you won’t get much satisfaction for them in this game.
“I haven’t played many fighting games, is this a decent one to start with?”
You could do worse. Virtua Fighter has a reputation for being very difficult, but this game has an extensive training mode, that not only teaches you all the moves for each character, but teaches you the specifics of the fighting system such as evades, throw escapes and the like. If you aren’t used to the genre it is going to be a bit of an adjustment, but the game does the best it can to teach you.
In addition the game only uses a total of three buttons for all moves. Block, punch and kick, and combinations of these.
“Each character has literally dozens of moves! How I am supposed to remember all these and know when to use them in a fight?”
You don’t need to remember them all. No one remembers them all. I have been playing the game since 1995, and I don’t know all the moves for my main characters. More important is to learn the rhythm and flow of the game, to understand what kind of move should be used in a situation(mid vs low for example), and generally just play play play. As you play you will find moves that work for you and how you play, rather then trying to use a move and fit your playing around it.
After you have played a while then go back into training mode, and find one or two moves to add to your fighting, then play some more. See when they appear to work, and they will eventually become part of your style. I still am learning new moves with my characters. Most importantly, fit moves into how you play, do not form how you play around moves. This is good advice for any fighting game.
“Do I need an arcade stick to play this game properly?”
No. It is kind of a misconception that you need to get an arcade stick to properly play fighting games, a misconception that seems to be constantly used by fighting game players themselves. Virtua Fighter uses 3 buttons and simple inputs. It works fine on a pad with the exception of at most 5 moves, which as mentioned above, should never be the absolute focus of your style or a reason for you to win.
And on a more general note, I have never played a fighting game where I felt I was held by back by a gamepad. The main obstacle to winning is reaction and skill level. Perhaps at some very very high level of play there is a point where an arcade stick is a slight advantage, but I don’t ever expect to reach such a level, and frankly you shouldn’t either.
“I don’t really like fighting games, will I like this one?”
Honestly, probably not. And not enjoying fighting games is understandable, but in my view rather sad. Fighting games is an old genre, one that has been refined constantly and in ways quite different from other genres. In addition it is one of the pure skill based and purely competitive types of games left. There is no leveling up, no equipment, it is you vs the other person, and the only thing holding you back from winning is your own skill, skill in reading your opponent, skill in manipulating your opponent, your reaction time and your knowledge of your character and the opponent’s character just to name a few.
I think it would be unfortunate to be a fan of the medium (video games), and completely not enjoy an entire genre with such a long and important history. Within fighting games you see the philosophy of arcade skill based design, pure competition, and much of the iconic imagery associated with this hobby. Who can deny that a shoryuken is an iconic and immediately recognizable action? In addition, ideas from the genre sometimes seep out into other genres, such as Ninja Gaiden or Tales of Phantasia. If your first instinct is that you hate fighting games, I would urge you to return to them on occasion and just be sure that there is nothing in there that you can’t enjoy.
Editor’s Addendum: I bought this game at the behest of Paris. He always trounces me in fighting games (And VF is his specialty!) so I bought it to appease him. And I mean, $15!
But then I saw some of the things you could do with the costumes and fell in love. I bought both add-ons and then started dressing up the characters. I enjoy that most of the costumes aren’t just pieces of string (NSFW) and they aren’t just copy/paste of others. The physics seem to work rather well with them too! Here is a gallery of some of Paris and my own characters.