Virtua Fighter 5 : Final Showdown Preview

When Sega first released Virtua Fighter 5 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it entertained the masses with its slick animation engine, quality 3D backdrops, and elegant fighting style. The 360 version came with extensive online fighting options, making it a clear-cut winner — for the time being — with players who earned their skills in the arcade.

Since that time, fighting games have moved on extensively, between Capcom’s crossover brawling affairs and Midway’s rebooted Mortal Kombat. Now Sega is eager to get back into the ring with a new version of Virtua Fighter — one that offers a number of new options and a much cheaper price. We recently got a chance to try it out at the company’s Digital Day event in San Francisco.

First off, most of the options that were in the original game are present in the Final Showdown expansion. You’ll find all the modes included, along with a Practice Dojo.

Here, you’ll attempt to complete objectives and master moves using one of the game’s numerous characters. It’s a great mode to simply pass the time with or perfect your skills before you head online to take on the world.

Yes, for the first time in the series (the original game didn’t offer it), Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown will bring online play to the PlayStation Network. (It’ll be compatible with Xbox Live Arcade as well.)

The game will introduce a great new matchmaking feature, where you won’t always be paired up against those who could thrash you in a heartbeat with the drunken Shun Di.

Instead, it carefully examines your skill level and pairs you up against someone with an equal set-up, so you stand a better chance of winning the match. You’ll still have a fight on your hands, though, so be ready.

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown’s cast of characters is quite the delight. A lot of old favorites return, including the leather-clad Sarah Bryant, still as sexy as ever; the traditional brawler Akira, who also appears in Dead Or Alive 5 (obviously, he’s much more natural here).

The crazy Shun Di, who powers up with a new move every time he takes a swig from his bottle; and the returning Taka-Arashi, a Sumo wrestler who first debuted in Virtua Fighter 3. A new character, Jean Kujo, also joins the fracas, bringing a number of charge moves that make him devastating.

For a downloadable fighter, Virtua Fighter 5 looks razor sharp. The environments are somehow better than in the previous retail version, though the animations continue to be spot on, from Sarah’s spin kick to some of Shun Di’s more ridiculous grabs.

It’s a polished engine, and the best Virtua Fighter we’ve seen to date. The audio is still what it is, with voices that either fit a character or make them sound worse (at least Sarah sounds nice) and decent background music.

But gameplay is the main draw here, and we’re happy to report it’s completely intact. During the demonstration, Sega broke out the deluxe fighting sticks to show just how dedicated the game is.

It feels just right, between setting up Sarah’s lightning kick attacks and Wolf’s crazy wrestling moves. We didn’t have a problem executing any of the moves, even in the thick of a versus battle. Granted, your performance may vary if you’re using a regular Xbox 360 controller, but fighting fans will feel right at home here.

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is yet another awesome release in Sega’s digital library, and one that fighting fans will definitely want to save some time for when it debuts this summer.

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