After a few decades sitting on the sidelines and watching the Virtua Fighter series grow up without me, I’ve been given a chance to see where the franchise has gone since I left Akira and friends on the SEGA Saturn.
Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown is what Virtua Fighter fans want – a competent fighter wrapped in a modern package. It’s essentially the same game that released almost a decade ago on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but with a modern lick of paint and a few tweaks to the game’s appearance. I didn’t play Virtua Fighter 5 back in its day, so I can’t say if it’s faithful or not, but I’ve given the game a quick go on PS Now and they seem to play very similarly, so if you’ve been around the block before, you won’t get lost on this return journey.
What I can say is that Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown has brought the series a long way from where I remember it. I’m old enough to remember sliding 20ps into arcade machines to make blocky people smack each other. I actually had a Virtua Fighter game for the SEGA Saturn, too, and I remember thinking the Ninja guy was cool and that the drunk old fella was funny. They return in Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown, along with a bunch of familiar faces, and if you’re an old-timer like me, some of those familiar faces will feel new, especially given that they actually look like people now, rather than Lara Croft’s violent cousins.
The characters look and move in a way that feels great when smashing the buttons and hoping for success, though there’s something about the way they speak that turns me off, especially that annoying little prick Lion. Every time his voice comes through my TV, I die a little bit. Though that could be the necrosis of my liver…
Most of my scrapping in Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown was spent in Arcade Mode against the A.I opponents. I was surprised to find that on Normal difficulty the game was really easy. I’m not a fighting game expert by any means, but I was laying the smackdown with real ease. I even passed the controller to my five-year-old boy, Charlie, and he was able to get to the bonus round fight against Dural, though his approach was far less refined and when he lost to Dural, his tantrum was much louder than mine.
The only way to get a real challenge, then, is to ramp up the difficulty or go online and fight against other humans. Sadly, for me, I wasn’t able to get much time in with the online play due to other reviewers just not being as dedicated to the job as your man Chris here. I tried over the course of a couple of days, morning, noon, and night, and sometimes so late at night, it was almost morning. I got a couple of rounds in, but that’s it. The good news is that it worked really well and although I get my arse handed to me, I can’t blame the lag for the pounding, just my own lack of skills.
Something I did find to be a bit of a disappointment was the lack of single-player modes outside of Arcade. There’s a training room where you can try to learn each character’s best moves, but I gave that up like a bad job really bloody fast – just look at the image down below of the “basic” combo. I’m at an age where putting in my pin number at the supermarket checkout is like being on a quiz show – no way am I learning those moves. I’ll make do with the simple punch, kick, grab, and smashing the buttons in desperation when I’m on my last slice of health, thank you very much.
There are unlockables if that’s your thing, but there’s not really a lot for single players. If you don’t want to go online, there is a local versus mode, but given the pandemic, my competitors were limited. I gave local versus a go with Charlie and he beat me, I beat him, and then we played the game and both had a tantrum when mummy told us to stop playing for dinner.
Even the trophies, of which there are just 13, are mostly geared towards online play. One trophy sets the goal of playing 1000 online matches. I doubt I’ll even break 100, never mind 1000. It feels like a slap in the face to fighting fans who like to play without the stresses of online, and that’s a shame because, if I remember rightly, playing against the computer was enough back in the day. What do I know? I’m just an old geezer. Right, I’m off to go and shout at some clouds.
Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown PS5, PS4 Review
Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown is more of the same, and for fans of SEGA’s long-running fighting franchise, that should be enough. For those shy of online encounters, Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown doesn’t offer much by way of single-player content.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5, PS4 Pro.