Virtua Fighter is to 3D fighting games what Street Fighter is to 2D fighting games.
While Capcom’s Street Fighter 2 cemented what a competitive fighting game could be when players could only move in four directions, Virtua Fighter has the honor of laying the groundwork for how every fighting game in a fully realized 3D space functions. Though flashier 3D competitors like Tekken and Soulcalibur would emerge, the Virtua Fighter series remains on top thanks to its focus on the fundamentals of the genre.
Virtua Fighter 5 was a high note for the series as it brought the genre into HD and included the biggest cast of characters yet. Still, Sega chose to ignore the franchise outside of a few references since 2012’s Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown re-release for Xbox 360 and PS3.
It’s finally back with a remaster for PS4: Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown. If you’ve been yearning for a new 3D fighter or want to learn what the genre's basics are all about, you need to check out this game on PS Plus or PS Now.
Virtua Fighter 5 is as straightforward of a 3D fighting game as you can get. You can punch, kick, grab, dodge, and block in a 3D space, and every character has an intensive list of combos that string all of those moves together. While Tekken 7 and other 3D fighters lean into more flamboyant visuals and combos, Virtual Fighter 5 is much more focused on the fundamentals.
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It’s as satisfying to pull off a huge combo or dodge a deadly blow at the last second now as it was in 2012. The skills you learn in a game like this will also give you the basics you need to do well in other 3D fighting games like Tekken 7 and SoulCalibur VI, so it’s a solid starting point for those interested in 3D fighting games.
It has a solid tutorial for newcomers too, and we’d definitely recommend checking that out before diving into Arcade mode and online play. While the game, unfortunately, doesn’t include rollback netcode like its western peers, Inverse never ran into connection issues playing online, and Sega has included robust spectating options that will hopefully jumpstart the dormant Virtua Fighter 5 competitive scene.
If you have fond memories of the game, you should return and give it a shot, as Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown thankfully doesn’t make any drastic changes to its gameplay. In fact, it makes the UI cleaner and more understandable and brushes up the graphics to bring it up to more modern standards.
Comparing protagonist Akira’s Ultimate Showdown model to his look in the original Virtua Fighter shows just how far game visuals have come in under 20 years. It’s an approachable fighter with a good tutorial too, and what you learn here can also give you skills you can use in any 3D fighting game.
Unfortunately, this version is missing some modes from previous Virtua Fighter 5 releases, like the robust Quest and Score Attack modes. Their absence means this really isn’t the “ultimate” version of the like its title suggests. Still, all of the core components that make Virtua Fighter 5 a fantastic fighting game are here.
It’s clear that Sega had an esports focus here with the increased emphasis on the online modes and accomplished that by updating the core of Virtua Fighter 5 for a new console generation that the series has skipped out on.
The fighting game genre has gotten significantly more popular since Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown released in 2012. As such, many fighting game fans have never had the opportunity to try this series out. Whether you’re an old or new fighting game fan, you’ll find something to enjoy in Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown.
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is available via PS Plus until August 2, 2021.