Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is based on the latest Arcade build and features plenty of technical combat and customization.
It's been years since I have played Virtua Fighter 5, so when I started reviewing Final Showdown I was pleased to see how quickly I got back into form with my favorite character, Lei-Fei. Some of my favorite attack combos still felt comfortable and intuitive, which reminded me of how I always appreciated not only the accessibility of Virtua Fighter, but also it's impressive depth for serious players. With only three main buttons -- Guard, Punch, and Kick, and then modifiers of those (P+K, P+K+G, etc) assigned to other buttons, it's not hard to get started in VF5:FS, but if you want to dominate the AI on higher difficulties or go against upper ranks online, you will definitely have to fine tune your combos and counters.
Final Showdown includes nineteen playable characters with a wide variety of appearances, backgrounds, and fighting styles. From the beautiful Shaolin Kung Fu of Lei-Fei to the sumo wrestling of Taka-Arashi to Pai Chan's Mizongyi, there are plenty of empty hand disciplines available. There are also several modes of play including offline and online modes. Offline options include local versus, Arcade, Score Attack, License Challenge, and Special Sparring (which requires all DLC to be installed). The Dojo mode offers helpful practice and tutorial modes to improve your game while the Terminal lets you watch Replays and create up to 150 customized characters. The character customization packs are $5 each, or for a limited time the complete package is available on PSN for $30. The Customization packs includes hundreds of different items (although many are the same thing, just a different color). Players can equip different clothing, hair styles, and even goofy floating items above their character's head (like an animated blue halo or animated hearts). Customizable parts include the head, forehead, hair, eyes, glasses, ear, face, hands, wrists, skin, belt, pants, and others.
The customization options are welcomed, but you will spend most of your time in battle, and probably online at that. Before I hopped online, I played through the Arcade mode on Normal. There are couple of toggles you can set before starting Arcade, including difficulty and the starting health amount for you or the CPU. With the default settings, I was able to roll through the seven battles in about ten minutes. The Arcade mode does not have a story or cutscenes, it's about as barebones as it can be as far as that goes. Each match is simple a best of three and many rounds are over within ten to fifteen seconds just due to the nature of the game. Hits do a lot of damage, walking movement is pretty slow, and the arenas are pretty small. There are no mythical projectile weapons, so all attacks must come from close range, but the range of movement and arena size encourages that. While fun and challenging on higher difficulties, the Arcade mode is really just a good way to sample all nineteen (well, twenty once you unlock Dural) characters in order to give you options when you go online.
When you are ready to go online, Showdown lets you either jump into an available match or search for one. You can also limit the scope of matches you are willing to play from your region to Worldwide, nothing in between. While the number of available players was very low as of this writing (the game is literally just releasing though, so this number will definitely increase) -- I didn't experience any lag or issues at all (other than getting my ass beat most of the time :) ) in multiplayer. The matches were as smooth as if I were playing the CPU, which is about as good of a compliment as I can give for an online fighting game. As with the original VF5, there is a cool ranking system that is based on Games Played and Battle Points. You earn points even in defeat, although just a few. Players start at a 10th Kyu rank and work themselves into the Dan rankings. Moving up the ranks goes fairly quickly, especially if you are winning matches.
Virtua Fighter 5 was first released some six years ago in Japanese arcades. That it's still popular enough for Sega to update and re-release it says something about the dedicated fans and the popularity of the franchise. Final Showdown will also be at the popular EVO fighting tournament this year. Even though it's not as pretty or has as many modes and characters as your current AAA fighters, VF5 Showdown still brings a lot to the table for $15-$30 (depending on how much customization DLC you buy).