My history with Sega’s Virtua Fighter franchise has always been a shaky one. I normally have an aversion to 3D fighting games, but recently I’ve been trying to get myself more and more comfortable with them. You see, I desperately want to begin enjoying 3D fighting games as much as I enjoy most 2D genre titles. Would Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, an updated version of Virtua Fighter 5 be the game to do just that for me?

I’ve always been apprehensive about trying to become proficient in competitive 3D fighting games like Virtua Fighter, since I’ve always stuck to two dimensions when it comes to taking a game seriously. I’ve always had a hard time finding enjoyment in the distinct style of the 3D fighting genre. However, I also have a great deal of respect for the game due to hearing stories and reading articles on its complexity, as well as the fact that it was the first ever 3D fighting game to hit the market way back in 1993. I was eager to see whether or not the latest installment of Virtua Fighter would be able to get me hooked on 3D fighting games, and before I get into the thick of the review, I’ll admit that it definitely has me invested.

The first thing you’ll be presented with upon loading the game and getting to the main menu are the basic options. All of the standard settings are present, of course. Multiple single player modes, an offline and online versus mode that features both ranked and unranked matches, and your standard training mode are all there. However, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown also has a lot of added features that are nice touches and complement the rest of the package.

The great thing about this level is that hitting an opponent into one of those walls can cause it to break, allowing you to knock your opponent out of the ring for an instant win.

License Challenge gives you a set of related challenges to perform across a series of five matches against a computer controlled opponent.  Beating enough of these puts you at a higher ranking as a player, although I couldn’t find any real significance to this. It isn’t ever displayed anywhere other than on the screen in this mode. The actual challenges are a nice touch, and having a ranking system attached to learning the game makes putting effort in and making progress feel more rewarding than I thought it would. Completing each set of challenges was more fun than if I were just sitting in training mode with a computer controlled opponent.

A lot of the tasks I came across revolved around getting a set number of strikes in, getting counter hits, and blocking attacks, but some were also just a simple case of winning a round against my opponent. I was originally having a lot of trouble getting used to the blocking in the game, but after doing some of the license challenges focused on that skill, I started to feel more comfortable discerning which attacks needed which type of blocking.

There are other single player modes such as a generic score attack, but there’s also a “special sparring” mode, which pits you in a series of fights against typically 7 to 8 opponents, each with special costumes. I don’t know if there was any added benefit to beating them as there was with completing the license challenges, but the mode seemed to be more lighthearted and focused on showing off the versatility of the character customization.

Speaking of which, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown features a pretty interesting character customization mode, with content that can be bought separately from the core game to alter a characters appearance on a per-character basis, although there is an option that lets you can spend a bit of extra money and have it bundled all bundled together. To be honest, the character customization feels a bit limited. Perhaps it was the result of me hoping it to compare to something along the lines of Soul Calibur V’s character creation mode, but each character has specific clothes that they can wear as opposed to having a large pool of items that you can assign to any character. It doesn’t really hurt the game, but I do wish that it was a bit more robust. However, it isn’t without its charms. Although I have yet to access them myself, there are specific end of round animations and win quotes that occur if you have certain pieces of clothing equipped on a character.

Final Showdown’s training modes are actually a nice take on a feature now becoming standard in fighting games. While the basic training mode is present under the name “Free Training,” Final Showdown also features something called “Command Training.” This tasks players with working through the entirety of a character’s movelist as well as some sample combos against a training dummy. It’s a nice way to get introduced to a character, and the game won’t progress to the next move until you get the current one correct. It’s a great way of figuring out if you’re executing the commands correctly.

I ran through command training with two characters, and it definitely helped me feel a bit more confident in playing as them. While certain characters are going to have more moves than others, I’d say it took me about 10 to 15 minutes in order to fully complete a single character’s command training, although that may vary from player to player. Since I personally have little experience with 3D fighters, having a training mode that felt like it really held my hand while I learned the basics was very comforting.