Balanced, beautiful, cheap*: Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown
VF5FS represents the most recent revision to Sega's Virtua Fighter series, Final Showdown Version A. It contains all the refinements made to the VF5 system, currently at Version C in Japanese arcades, as well as adding new characters and continuing the online play from the Xbox 360 version of VF5.
Final Showdown on the 360 brings back all the characters from VF5, including Eileen and El-Blaze, while also introducing a brand new character named Jean Kujo and re-introducing Taka-Arashi from VF3, bringing the total cast to 20 including playable boss Dural.
Taka-Arashi is a Japanese sumo warrior in the tradition of Street Fighter's E Honda and Tekken's Ganryu. He has several simple punch combos that can be strung together for high damage juggles, and slow-but-powerful kicks and throws that use his bulk to overpower opponents. Like Jean, Arashi can be a good choice for VF newbies.
Veteran characters have received many small but important changes from their vanilla VF5 iterations. Faster characters like Pai and Lion have been toned down to a degree, with some of their higher-damage combos requiring more specific spacing or timing, while slower characters have received more or better throws that work from a greater variety of stances. Overall the gameplay in Final Showdown is faster, with a greater emphasis on juggles but making down attacks riskier and even removing some characters' varieties.
Cosmetic customization was a big part of VF5, and it is present in Final Showdown but in a different form. Instead of a single-player "quest" mode where you battle AI rivals at arcades and tournaments, FS requires you to buy additional items & costumes for characters.
That's right, you have to BUY them, as in with real money/ms points. A single character's pack costs $5US/400msp, or you can purchase a 10 pack that covers half the cast for $15/1200msp. The upside of this is that you get ALL that character's customization items and costumes at once; the bad side is that you have no other option of attaining them except through purchase.
Except for Dural, each character has 5 different costume types, with each type having MANY different options. For instance, the character Pai Chan normally has medium black braids, pale skin, and a short blue Chinese smock. Through customization, I have made mine have long straight blue hair, sunglasses, white eyes, a black crop top and flared leather pants over fancy sandals. I also have another Pai I made with blue butterfly wings, sparkling eyes, and a flowing party skirt with no shoes. VF5FS has the best customization options I've seen outside of modern wrestling games.
The visuals of FS don't really seem different from VF5, which isn't a bad thing as the VF series has beautiful, bold, sharp visuals with great lighting & texture work. Final Showdown has its own soundtrack with each song doing a great job of adding interest to a stage and building energy for the fights. You can also choose to use music from any of the previous Virtua Fighter games--it's pretty neat to hear the old VF1 arcade tunes.
Feature-wise, Final Showdown is downright anemic. You get the standard Arcade mode, Score Attack, the Dojo for training, the "Terminal" for replays and customization, and then Versus play which can be on- or offline. As said before, there is no single-player Quest mode.
It loses a few points because you have to BUY the customization items and extra costumes, which means if you want the whole package you have to pay $45, and much of it is only marginally upgraded from VF5.
Achievements: VF5FS has incredibly easy Achievements, totaling 400G as per the new XBLA standard. You only have to play through Arcade mode to Dural (don't have to beat her), do 10 lessons in the licensing area, play 10 Ranked matches online (don't have to win), and then get a 5-hit combo in Score Attack mode.