Ride The Tiger
HIGH One of the best fighting games ever, now with a modern online focus.
LOW Delay-based netcode instead of rollback can lead to some spotty matches.
WTF The retro character models sometimes don’t have their limbs attached correctly.
It’s been a little while since Sega teased their next Virtua Fighter project, but until recently nobody knew what it was destined to be. Was it Virtua Fighter 6? It couldn’t just be some shitty mobile gacha game, it’s gotta be Virtua Fighter 6. Virtua Fighter 6 is on the way, everyone! Woohoo! It had to be Virtua Fighter 6, right?
It turns out that this offering for Sega’s 60th anniversary is another version of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown with a new name, some slightly fancier graphics and an online focus which has been developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. It’s also available ‘free’ for Playstation Plus subscribers for two months post-launch, which is great.
Naturally, it can also be bought as a standalone product, but apparently Sega decided on this strategy as a gift to their PS4/5 fans, as it’s a PS exclusive. Fans on PC, Xbox and Switch can piss right off and remain giftless, which is a crying shame because if any fighter over the years ever deserved a massive audience of crazed lunatics singing its praises, it’s Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown.
The core combat is still incredible with punchy combos, devastating moves and a ton of nuance for players to discover. It certainly doesn’t have the largest roster out there, but all characters are viable and balanced incredibly well with a good selection of martial arts represented throughout, from Bajiquan to Shaolin Kung Fu. Don’t expect any fireballs mind — while the laws of physics may bend a little, it at least tries to stay rooted in reality.
Although some moves look overpowered at low levels when players can repeat certain techniques over and over for huge damage, there’s always a way of dealing with it that will punish them severely if they get predictable — just expect a bit of a learning curve to get there.
On the downside, there’s nowhere near the amount of character customization options that older versions like Final Showdown had on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Even with the optional DLC downloaded, there’s not much scope for personalizing characters in a unique manner. I’d expect that more will be added in due course, as the current offerings are simply too barren by comparison.
There also isn’t a ton of single player content to chew through. There’s an arcade mode, some pretty good training options and… that’s about it. No story mode or anything like that, just a laser-like focus on multiplayer combat. Given the title’s original Japanese title, Virtua Fighter eSports, this isn’t too much of a surprise.
So, is there anything new here? Balance changes, perhaps? New characters? Nope. It’s that same excellent game from 2012 resurrected for the modern day and given a fancy coat of paint. It looked great then, and it looks great now. Faces have been made more realistic (instead of stylized) which some players may not appreciate, but it’s hard to imagine anyone seriously complaining about it.
The only significant addition to this version is found tangentially to the fighting itself — the focus on online play. Sadly, Sega have gone with delay-based netcode instead of rollback for whatever reason, resulting in matches that can range from reasonably smooth to noticeably laggy depending on distance and connection quality.
With the new online focus, they’ve also added one incredibly awesome feature — high-level matches stream in through the main menu constantly. This is, quite honestly, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Sure, the ability to go into a menu and poke around for high level replays has been done before in many competing brawlers, but the convenience of this approach can’t be understated. No menus, no searching for good matches, no confirming data downloads — just high-level matches rolling in the background, expandable to full screen at the touch of a button. It’s a fantastic addition, and within a few days of launch I’d already learned new tactics, combos and approaches from better players than myself.
So, while this offering is missing options relating to customization and the netcode is just acceptable rather than industry leading, this is still a fighting game that has absolutely stood the test of time. It feels as fresh now as it ever has, and while it may not be Virtua Fighter 6, having an active Virtua Fighter online scene in the modern era is absolutely priceless.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and AM2 and published by Sega. It is currently available on PS4/PS5. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 1 hour of play was devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 13 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Violence. I highly doubt any kids would be freaked out by anything on display here — it’s just some martial artists doing cool moves on one another. No missing limbs or blood sprays or anything here, though Goh is rather unsporting in the way he continues beating the shit out of his opponents during his win pose.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not offer subtitles. Each character generally just says a quick line in their own language before and after a fight, so nothing of note will be missed. Aside from some short audio cues that may signify whether an attack is incoming as a roundhouse (accompanied by a ‘whoosh’ for example) all the necessary information is communicated visually. (See examples of text above and below.)
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.
The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.
The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.
Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.