FS is best enjoyed with company, particularly if they’re learning at the same pace that you are. With a sparring partner by your side, you’ll have a blast discovering the intricacies of your chosen characters, and which moves will best shut down your buddy. But without a dedicated trainee to grow with, the game can feel a bit hollow until you step into the online arena, which PS3 players will have access to at long last. The online battles have been spruced up with a much-needed lobby system, so you can study your opponents while you wait for your match. It can be awfully humbling to get decimated by a fighter who far surpasses you – but when you finally defeat them after persistent rematches, the victory will feel supremely gratifying.
Also of note is the way character items work. Virtua Fighter is celebrated in Japan partially for its near-limitless customization options, which ensure that no two fighters look alike. FS even includes a mode to highlight the wildly varied costume choices, entitled Special Sparring – but to access it, or any item, you’ll need to fork over additional cash for DLC. That’s kind of the rub here. You can play the core game for $15, but to get extra content, you’ll have to come out of pocket. There are pluses and minuses – VF5 fans more interested in the intricacies of gameplay will be fine with the core experience, but completionists may bristle at the notion of coughing up extra to customize their favorite combatants. Buying item packs for every character (excluding the unlockable Dural) will cost you $30; if you want to look unique or try out the amusing Sparring mode, you’ll have to weigh the worth of turning this budget downloadable title into a near-full-price purchased.
But the bottom line remains the same: this is a crowning achievement in fighting games, accurately simulating the dedication it takes to truly know what you and your opponent are capable of, and what they’ll do next given their style and instincts. This is, without a doubt, Virtua Fighter’s finest iteration yet. It may take more work to get good at the game than you’re used to, but striving to be at one with your chosen warrior gives Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown a deepness that far exceeds most any downloadable.