(All costume items cost extra, either $5 per character or $15 each for two sets containing about 10,000 total items, so being a big fan who loves videogame dressup, I'll be paying $45 on day one.)
A while back I was worrying that Sega would screw this up-- it's a fair thing to worry about-- but you know, they went and did every single thing I suggested. It was kind of eerie to see them all happen, one after the other. Take a look at that post, because whatever I asked for, Sega's people did it. I'll pretend they were reading. Props to them, and may it pay off.
Anyway, I've been watching the tournament streams and demonstrations, and when the question "what's so great about this game?" comes up, it's always very difficult to answer. Because like so many of the best action videogames, VF is about a feeling that doesn't really come out in words. It's about these very fast encounters in extremely close quarters where two big hits will end it. The speed, intensity, and complexity of a VF match are the game's selling points.
A lot of the fighting game's current audience came in from Street Fighter 4 and isn't necessarily familiar with the kind of thing that's going on in a 3D fighting game. Not a lot from 2D games carries over.
So how about King of Fighters XIII? This game picked up a lot of steam in fan circles because it was a game with strong fundamentals. There was no X-Factor bullshit, no advantages given for almost losing the fight. People were getting tired of this stuff. KOF was "honest," as was said. Virtua Fighter is perhaps the most honest of fighting games.
There are no super moves or fireballs or any of that kind of stuff. There is no resource management metagame. What we have instead is a really advanced, refined game that's built on and focused upon the most basic of genre elements.
Think about the game-changing gimmicks and reiterations that are added to your favorite fighting games over the years to keep interest up. Were they necessarily good for the game? Were they balanced well? Did they dominate? Were they useless? Did they ever actually break or ruin the game?
If a fun competitive game was really just a matter of having as much stuff in it as possible, then everybody would just use Mugen, or they'd never have stopped playing Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, or Smash Brothers Brawl. They don't. Yet everybody still uses number of characters as an objective measure of quality in this genre. Skullgirls has 8 characters, and it's a much better game than Marvel 3 because those characters have had much more careful work put into them. Nobody is useless.
Ever consider that SF x Tekken turned out as badly as it did because they felt obligated and rushed to put in so much stuff? Look at the way people whined about Marvel 3 because it didn't have as many characters as Marvel 2-- a "let's just throw everything in there and who cares how it comes out" design-- had.
That's why Virtua Fighter doesn't worry about throwing in more stuff at high speed. My favorite games are the ones with laser precision and sharp focus, games that do one thing very, very well. That's why I like fighting games so much. For VF, you, the other player, and the ring are enough. What it does with those elements is beautiful.
But none of that is particularly obvious when you pick it up yourself: indeed, VF is often called slow. But when strong players play it, it's clear that it's not. That doesn't help the average player, though, who is left to fumble with a long move list and no idea of which to use first. Thankfully, Final Showdown will feature tutorials. I thought I would give you my own tutorial on four moves that every character has in some capacity.
Think of a standard joystick, and three buttons. Guard, Punch. Kick. Your guy and the other guy are point blank in front of each other in the middle of the ring.
The punch button jabs. The jab is the fastest, weakest attack by itself, and if it lands, the attacker stuns the defender for a slight moment, and can use this time advantage to attack again, perhaps with a stronger attack. I'll just call this "advantage" or "disadvantage" when the player has to take time to recover. The defender can simply block this by standing and holding Guard, however, or holding Down on the stick to duck, making the attack miss entirely and opening the opponent up for an attack.
If you tap towards your opponent on the stick and the Punch button at the same time, the character usually throws out an elbow. This move is fast, but not as fast as the jab, and hits slightly harder. If the two moves are thrown at the same time, the jab will win and the attacker will be at a great advantage for his next attack because the game rewards counter hits. The elbow can be guarded while standing. However, this move will always hit the player who ducks down, guard or no. Without a counter hit, a player who lands an elbow may be at disadvantage.
If you tap down on the stick and the Kick button at the same time, you get a low kick, usually from a standing position. This move is slower than the jab or the elbow and if they are thrown out at the same time, it will lose to either. However, it will hit a player who is standing, even if they're guarding. Its damage is low and the risk is high: even if the low kick connects, for most characters it will leave them at a disadvantage even as a counter hit. If the opponent crouches and guards your low kick, you're completely screwed because you're at such a huge disadvantage that they can hit you before you can guard again.
The last move is the throw, done by tapping Punch and Guard at the same time. This is an attack that is faster than any punch or kick and does big damage, but it will only work if the opponent is guarding. If it misses, the player just goes into a "grabbing at nothing" animation that leaves them wide open. You can throw high against standing opponents or low against crouching opponents. Attacks punch right through throws.
The idea is to mix these basic attacks and play with the opponent's expectations: make them duck into an elbow when they thought a throw or a low hit was coming, or intercept their attack with the jab and turn the tables. Make your opponent freeze into defensive mode and then come in with the throw. Finish them with the low kick when their health is almost gone. It's said that you need to have a college degree or whatever and memorize seven textbooks to play VF on a basic level, but that's not really the case. These are the fundamentals of nearly every fighting game, and anybody can do the basics.
However, I leave out a lot more. Every character has hundreds of moves, each of which plays with these rules a little bit and creates all kinds of other situations... but no one character or strategy dominates because everything is built around a game of rock paper scissors. Be creative, avoid routines, be clever, feel the flow, and the possibilities are endless. That's what's so great about VF.