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Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown review: Meet the real master

Forget your prejudices...

No fighting game is more misunderstood than Virtua Fighter. Often derided as complex and inaccessible, it's actually a far simpler and less demanding game than Street Fighter when played at a moderately high level.

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Part of the problem lies at the feet of poster boy Akira, a prototypical karate dude who looks like he should be a catch-all Ryu-type starting point, but is actually far more complicated and cumbersome than half of the roster. The other issue is the three-button layout, which kills button-bashing in favour of vast move lists and combos.

All it takes, though, is one play through of VF5 Final Showdown's Dojo mode as your character of choice, and then you're in business. While still essentially a five-year-old game, Showdown is the result of endless tuning and balancing from the minds at AM2, and is easily the finest example of the series so far. It's faster than VF5, with fighters that feel nimbler and more responsive, and has a newly streamlined throw system. There are two new characters: the sumo-happy Taka-Arashi and lanky karateka Jean-Kujo.

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Where Showdown shines, though, is in the purity of its combat. The Virtua Fighter series has always been faithful to the martial arts, not only replicating their movements but actually understanding their systems. Vanessa's vale-tudo is based on boxing, heavy knees and takedowns. Akira's shotokan is strong in straight lines but suffers when going backwards. Lion's irritating Mantis style kung-fu is defined by lateral rolls and short, sharp strikes. Every character is beautifully balanced and phenomenally deep. Every match uncovers a new secret.

Despite its age, Showdown is a looker. And at that price, with fully-functioning online lobbies and the sharpest netcode around, it's a no-brainer. It's time to throw away those misconceptions, wrap those hands up and get to war.

The verdict

The finest version of a 3D fighting master. Showdown is fantastic value for a marvellous scrapper, and the most accessible Virtua Fighter to date.

  • Beautifully balanced characters
  • Crazily, almost intimidatingly deep
  • Faster than Virtua Fighter 5
  • The barrier to entry will be too high for some
9.2
Format
PlayStation Network
Developer
Sega
Publisher
Sega
Genre
Beat 'em Up

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