While Virtua Fighter has gotten attention in other games, such as guest characters in Dead or Alive 5 and as minigames in various Yakuza titles, the once-venerated 3D fighter seemed to be forgotten for a very long time. But with Virtua Fighter 5 once again revamped and re-released, does this star of the fighting game world still shine as brightly? Yes… but, speaking as a veteran Virtua Fighter fan, there are a few issues that keep Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown from claiming its crown as an all-time champion.
Considered the granddaddy of 3D fighting games, Virtua Fighter sparked revolutions in visuals and gameplay and, even now, it holds a great deal of respect among fighting game fans. Its simple three-button control scheme and comparatively small character roster hides an incredibly complex and rewarding game–provided you’re willing to put in the time to learn and improve at it. Some games in the series–such as the excellent Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution–are known for amazing tutorials and learning tools, along with engaging and replayable single-player modes. Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, however, eschews that to focus on competition, and more specifically, online competition.
Gameplay-wise, Ultimate Showdown will feel very familiar to veteran Virtua Fighter players. The base fighting engine is based around the earlier Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, with all of the moves, characters, and stages carried over from that game. There are a few minuscule changes, such as different colors of hit flashes to indicate normal and counter hits, but the overwhelming majority of the gameplay is unchanged. And that’s perfectly fine–VF5FS had some of the best fighting action you could find anywhere, with incredible depth of gameplay that has kept many playing for years on end. What is new, however, are the graphics and music, which have been completely redone in the Dragon Engine that Sega’s RGG Studio has been using for its Yakuza series. Character models and stages have been rebuilt from the ground up, and it all shines with a visual polish that has Virtua Fighter looking better than ever.