Among the group I’m known to be the one who’s more well-versed in fighting games. I played a lot of them, street fighter 2, rival schools, Capcom VS SNK, Street Fighter vs Xmen and everything that followed, and probably 90% of the guilty gear franchise. I even had hundreds and hundreds of matches with my brother on Tekken 3. So you know, I was fairly sure that Virtua Fighter was something that I can acclimate to quite easily.
I was wrong.
It’s kind of strange that I never really tried to pick up Virtua Fighter considering it started back at ‘93, where I started understanding the concept of videogames and my hatred of the dog from Duck Hunt began. But here we are. I did catch it in arcades but I never tried playing it for some reason, as if I was afraid of it. And turns out my instincts were right.
IT COULD LOOK BETTER
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown does look like it’s given itself immense effort in looking on par with its modern contemporaries. Models are distinct, look detailed particularly for the faces, and generally look smooth. It’s quite a far-cry away from how Tekken looks but sometimes less is more, as the performance is consistent all throughout. Loading times even on a PlayStation 4 is rather quick, allowing you to jump into the action without any real downtime.
Unfortunately they may have made the look a little too simple, as I would have appreciated maybe some dust and hit effects here and there to at least make the combat a bit more impressive to look at. The UI also leaves much to be desired as they look very basic. Life bars, timers and other elements have taken to a very a minimalist approach which I wish could have had more effort put into it. I think it would’ve helped get it much further if it was better animated or at least shared a unified look. I can’t help but think that some of the UI is carryover materials from ‘developer art.’ Where developers would use stand-in assets just so that they can test their game builds properly.
A GAME WITH THREE BUTTONS SHOULD BE SIMPLE, RIGHT?
Punch, kick, guard. These are the three buttons that Virtua Fighter gives you to play with. You’d think that this would make it a simple game to play, making the translation to a gamepad controller easy. But I couldn’t be more wrong. The input style is closest to what I would describe as Tekken, where a directional, or a motion plus a button, or two, or three, lead to a special action. However, in Virtua Fighter, to be able to do combos or do follow-throughs for certain moves, you have to time the inputs correctly. You can buffer the input but you have to time the activation at the right time, where most of the timing windows are small.
Considering how most of the more interesting moves require multiple button inputs, it’s hard to say that this game has been friendly to a PS4 controller. Though my difficulty with game inputs got easier as I customized the button layout, the default layout simply didn’t feel natural and wasn’t a good fit for me specially for pressing three buttons.
Some moves are meant also to work as a winding sweep, either to cover a certain side or completely round them, which reminds me of Soul Calibur. This makes the footsies game a bigger deal, as you’re no longer just thinking about forward and back motions, there’s the sides to consider as well.
Finally, ring layouts aren’t uniform. How you’ll be employing your tactics of either beating down your opponent or trying to pull a reversal in a corner to a ring-out will vary. This is a strategy you’ll have to constantly challenge yourself on for every stage you end up fighting on
SO, IS IT FUN?
This game is pretty hard. More than other mainstream fighters like Street Fighter, Tekken, or Mortal Kombat. The reason for this is that the speed you have to make decisions is really fast. You don’t guard by default, so getting caught by extra hits that could’ve been blocked is easy. Even on evasion or offense, there are very specific motions or inputs to do a certain action. So knowing what to do and how to do it are two separate matters that a player of this game needs to be aware of.
Getting through the arcade mode of Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown wasn’t too difficult, that is if you’re okay with just using skin deep strategies and likely abusing the continue function a bunch of times. Getting to play this online was a bit of a challenge given that it’ll perform well if Google loves you enough. But there’s a lot to discover here if you want to challenge yourself on a genre that really has a lot more going on that it lets on, and if you have a friend who’s willing to rewire their fighting game knowledge and get this to work.