Vtuber fighting game Idol Showdown caught me off-guard. With the Street Fighter 6 release date still a little way off, I’ve been hankering to deliver a beatdown, but I’ve already sampled most of the best fighting games on PC. So to stumble across Idol Showdown in the new releases, realise it’s free, and then actually be impressed by just how good this Marvel vs Capcom and Guilty Gear style 2D fighter is has been a real treat today.
Idol Showdown is an unofficial fan-made project based on some of the biggest vtubers (that’s virtual youtubers, or people who stream themselves using an animated avatar) from Hololive, one of the most prominent vtuber agencies. Developer Besto Game Team says that the project has been in the works for two years, and it’s out now as a free Steam game.
Jumping in, I’m already impressed by the game’s catchy pixel art style and soundtrack. I hop into the game’s tutorial mode and am immediately struck by its comprehensive instructions, responsive feel, and overall mechanical depth. While Idol Showdown will feel familiar to Street Fighter fans with its quarter-circle motions and super meters (called the “superchat” meter after the name for donations sent by fans during streams), it bears closer resemblance to the likes of Marvel vs Capcom and Guilty Gear.
You get a light, medium, and heavy attack, along with a special button. Normal moves can be comboed into same-strength or increasingly strong attacks, or into specials. Those who prefer to keep mechanical execution to a minimum can use directional inputs with the specials to pull off the game’s coolest moves, or you can use double-tap and quarter-circle motions along with varying attack strengths to manually dial in the attack you want.
The roster will be immediately recognisable to Hololive fans: while more names are on the way, the initial playable characters are Korone, Ayame, Botan, Fubuki, Suisei, Sora, Akirose, and fan-favourite retired dragon Kiryu Coco. Each has a selection of alternate colour schemes based on members they’re often associated with; so one of Coco’s palettes resembles Kanata, while Korone can dress up as her partner in crime Okayu.
The combat itself feels sharp and responsive, with animations and soundbites that will immediately put a smile on the face of fans. From Korone firing out ‘Yubis’ at her opponents or thwacking them with a baseball bat, to Suisei’s iconic “Hi, honey” when you select her on the character screen, it’s clear what a top-to-bottom labour of love Idol Showdown is.
Other favourites make their way in with the partner system; you choose a “collab partner” who can be called in mid-fight for attacks, much like the assists in MvC. These include Marine, Mio, Kanata, Iroha, Risu, Roboco, Miko, and English talent Takanashi Kiara and Amelia Watson – Ame, for example, can come in for a ground pound attack, or spend more metre for her stronger time slow ability. Other names can be found elsewhere: Mumei runs an in-game shop, while fan-turned-star Ollie shows up regularly in the post-game “live chat” that appears at the end of rounds.
Pretty much everything you’d expect from an anime fighter is in here – on top of the basic feel of the combat, there are dashes and runs, grabs, overheads, recovery air techs and bursts, parry-style just guards to reward perfectly timed blocks, and even more beyond. This is no simple knock-off; the time and care that’s gone into Idol Showdown is immediately apparent.
You can play the game in offline 1v1 against a human or AI player, take on a series of Arcade mode-style fights, or try the Virtual Frontier, a mode where you travel through areas fighting and collecting items. There’s a training room and the previously mentioned tutorial, and there’s also the option to create and join online lobbies, which is in beta but uses the popular rollback netcode for a smooth experience.
So, whether you’re a Hololive fan, a fighting game aficionado, or (even better) both of those things, I really can’t recommend Idol Showdown enough. Idol Showdown is out now on Steam for free, so head over there and try it out – at that price, what have you got to lose?
If you’re looking for more great freebies, we’ve got the best free PC games for plenty more picks. Otherwise, be sure to brush up on the Street Fighter 6 roster and read what we made of the Street Fighter 6 World Tour mode in our hands-on gameplay preview.