Unless you even bothered to try those out, there’s a good chance Ultimate Showdown is your first brush-in with the Virtua Fighter series. How does it stack up? Read on and find out.
The Fresh Coat Of Paint
One of the biggest changes to Ultimate Showdown was its impressive new coat of paint. Characters have updated models and textures, and the game looks amazing in the Ryu Ga Gotoku engine that’s used for the Yakuza games.
Admittedly, one hilarious nitpick is just how blatantly obvious it is that the game shares an engine, since the artstyle kind of bleeds through, too. Characters have that Yakuza-esque semi-realism to them, and it shows.
Still, it’s a great effort to get people back into Virtua Fighter, because it really does look like a modern 3D fighter, almost on par with Tekken.
One thing that might sound like a backhanded compliment is that the audio sounds laughably bad, and I love it. The soundfiles sound super compressed, and give me all sorts of fond arcade memories. I can see that it would have been really tempting to get the voice actors back in the studio for higher quality recordings, but I’m glad they didn’t. It’s practically a part of the Virtua Fighter identity now, so it’s here to stay.
As an actual fighting game, Virtua Fighter is an amazingly strict time. The gameplay is wholly unchanged from Virtua Figher 5 Final Showdown- meaning it still has all that Virtua Fighter discipline to it.
Virtua Fighter uses a dial-a-combo system, meaning all your combos are going to be some combination of Punch into Punch into Kick, with minimal command inputs and no motion inputs.
The result is that the game is *really* strict about the timing and execution of these, since pressing Punch one time too many or not connecting your kick right means you’re going to get a different combo.
It even does this with the game’s quick recovery system. When you get a hard knockdown, players can press all three buttons to quick recover, freeing them from pressure. However, you only get one shot at pressing the buttons per knockdown, since if you press it too early or late it won’t count anymore and your character will be victim to whatever your opponent does next.
It’s just as strict for more advanced offense, too. Characters can do Down attacks, where you capitalize on a downed opponent for big damage. The window for these is super strict too, meaning you have to have confidence that you’re going to score a knockdown, and then immediately follow it up with the Down Attack.
Failure to do this can get you anti-aired, letting you eat a whole juggle by your opponent.
Admittedly, if you’re looking at it from the outside, Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown might seem boring since it doesn’t have things like sick air combos or even supers. But Virtua Fighter has in its place a laser focus on execution and fundamentals, since you’ll need to see your opponent’s big opening and also react to any more specific moves by using the 3D space to dodge towards safety.
If you like the mindgames element of fighting games and don’t like pretzel motions, Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is definitely the game for you.
Virtua Fighter Esports
The whole release of Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is meant to build towards the idea of Virtua Fighter Esports, and you can tell. The game has plenty of features that make it great for competitive esports- the main screen of the game shows you random matches going on, you can spectate them and even chat with other players via stickers.
SEGA also said they’d be adding tournament modes to organize your own brackets, but at the time of review this wasn’t really the case and that feature wasn’t good to go yet.
What we do have though is your standard Ranked Mode and Room Match, with the former letting you match up with random players online based on your skill and the latter letting you fight people regardless of your rank.
One bizarre design choice is that you can’t actually search or invite your friends in the Room Match, instead forcing you to scroll through all the rooms if you want to find your friends.
The other really odd choice for such an esports leaning game is that you can totally rank up using Room Matches, meaning if you were so ego driven you could just beat your friend over and over again until your level went up before getting bodied by a player who knew what they were doing.
Obligatory Netcode Nitpick
Unfortunately, Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown doesn’t use rollback netcode, despite the fact that the past year of online-only tournaments and the overwhelming popularity of Guilty Gear Strive have shown that’s really the way forward. If you’re using a wired connection in a big city with a decent connection, it won’t matter to you. But if you’re any one checkbox missing, be prepared for the game freezing, and your inputs feeling weirdly floaty as the game tries to simulate a delay to match you and your opponent up.
This is especially rough if you’re planning to play it online, since the delay gets exponentially worse once you factor other countries into the equation. This is especially weird when you consider how heavily this game wants to be the next big esport, so it baffles the mind that they didn’t follow in the footseps of games like Skullgirls or Power Rangers.
All in all, Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is a fun game, full of all the unique quirkiness that makes Virtua Fighter such a beloved series. You can buy the Legendary Edition update to get even more fun with classic Virtua Fighter models, as well as costumes for the game’s colorful roster of characters.
Yet despite that, you can tell that SEGA wanted the next fighting game esport when they okayed this, and Ultimate Showdown just falls flat in that regard. While the ability to spectate matches and chat is cool, they seem to have forgotten about the actual players playing these matches, with things like subpar netcode and bizarrely inadequate lobbies getting in the way of what would have been a home run otherwise.
It’s available for free now for PS Plus subscribers until August, or for purchase along with the Legendary Edition DLC.
Review Copy provided by SEGA. Game reviewed on PS5.
- Virtua Fighter is a good game
- The esports functionality will be great if anyone can get decent matches on it
- ...Ultimate's netcode is not
- Why with the room lobbies though