Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown first look preview

Here’s an obvious fact: There’s a whole lot of fighting games slated to release in the next year, including quite a few big names and sequels. Sega recently threw its hat into this increasingly crowded ring with the announcement of Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

You have no doubt heard of Virtua Fighter as a revolutionary, genre-defining series, but odds are that, even if you’re a major fighting game fan, you’ve never really sat down to dig into why reviewers and fans of the game extol its virtues at every opportunity. Indeed, it can be very hard to jump headfirst into VF’s very distinct brand of combat when other fighting games offer immediate familiarity. But Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is going to give you some damn good reasons to take the plunge and explore the fierce, technical combat the series has to offer.

Players might be saying, “wait, didn’t Virtua Fighter 5 already release quite some time ago?” You would be correct – the PS3 version released in early 2007, while the online-enabled 360 version released later that same year. Between then and now, however, the game has seen several major revisions in Japanese arcades. Virtua Fighter 5 R released in 2008, and not only added a new character, silver-haired karateka Jean Kujo, but also featured the return of sumo wrestler Taka-arashi, who had been MIA since VF3.

Final Showdown released in 2011 and featured substantial combat engine overhauls designed to create a more accessible and interesting game for new players and vets alike. Commands for throws and throw escapes were simplified, confusing systems like throw clash were eliminated, movelists and attack properties were further revamped and tweaked for all characters, animations and subtle effects were given more emphasis to help played judge and react to hits, counters, and blocks, and additional priority was put on flashy, highly damaging combos.

Final Showdown is a game changer, to say the least, and even veterans of Virtua Fighter 5 will be surprised at just how drastically different and fresh the game feels. Newcomers, meanwhile, will find a title that blows away the stereotype that VF is beautiful and technical but wholly inaccessible to normal players.

Sega brought a pair of specially modified Final Showdown arcade machines – the only ones outside of Japan – to PAX for showgoers to test, and they drew a crowd of curious players eager to see what all the fuss was about and just how different the game felt. Sega representatives were also on hand to answer questions about the game and the console version, which will be available to download in summer of 2012 with online versus play on both PS3 and 360.

While specifics about what sort of game modes besides the obvious single-player and local/online versus modes will be in the port were sparse, Sega expressed a keen interest in hearing what fans of the series would like to see. Many players at the event expressed a desire to see an in-depth tutorial akin to the excellent mode seen in Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, while others were keen on seeing a fully fleshed out single player campaign. One of the big draws to Virtua Fighter is the extensive character customization and the ability to earn items and baubles to dress up your fighter of choice with, so some players expressed a concern that Sega might go too far with paid item DLC – concerns which were quickly put to rest by the staff on hand. And while the game may yet see a few more balance tweaks and revisions in Japan before its console release, Sega assures us that the game we get will be the most up-to-date version, and will feature the capability for further upgrades if need arises.

In-depth reveals of gameplay modes and bonus features are scheduled to be rolled out gradually over the title’s promotional period, akin to what you see happen with other fighting games on the horizon. In the meantime, however, the VF5FS machines will be finding a home base at Sega’s San Francisco headquarters, and will be making special appearances at various events and promotions between now and the game’s release next year - so fear not if you missed them at PAX, as you may likely have an opportunity to try them out in the near future. Sega is also keen on hearing what you want to see in the port, so if you have feedback or ideas for VF5FS, get them out there – post in forums, Twitter, Facebook, wherever – because your voice is being listened to. 2012 is already a banner year for fighters, and now with one of the genre’s kings making a reappearance, the hype is only going to flow even harder.

Aug 30, 2011

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