Review by ThePatrick
"Finally, some more great fighters emerge...."
Well, since Tekken Tag back near the system's launch in Japan, I've been waiting and waiting for another truly great 3D fighter. Bloody Roar 3 was nice to look at but played horribly. Dead or Alive 2 was very nice and pretty, and fun, but it just fell a little short of something I could spend countless hours playing over and over and over again.
Virtua Fighter truly is that sort of game.
I realize that it's going to be almost impossible not to compare this game to Tekken 4, and that it's a very sensitive subject to die-hard fans of both series (unfortunately especially so on the VF side I'll admit). However, I have to say that the two games are very, very different, and that the only thing they really have in common is that they are 3D, one-on-one combat games. Set-ups, play speed, commands--they're all different. Tekken relies more on how your current condition and character break the rules of the game, and Virtua Fighter relies more on getting in the perfect-timed reversal (whether a 'catch' move, throw, or side-step). They both can be played at tournament level, and both actually have very high learning curves. Since they're trying to achieve different goals, they should be thought of as games of different styles, but are both pretty much the highest and deepest echelons of those styles.
So long story short, I won't give a 'winner' between the two, and I will be recommending both games, unless the Tekken 4 home version ends up completely changed in all the bad ways from the arcade (which it shouldn't--it's already basically a running PS2 game in an arcade box). Please no flames on this.
Virtua Fighter 4 looks wonderful. Although the backgrounds aren't super-interactive, they look pretty nice and have transparencies for walls (*ahem* hint to Maximo and other platformer staffs). More importantly than that is the characters look very nice, but their clothes and facial expressions do strange things, and some characters still just look bad like Sarah. I never, personally, understood the appeal of that character other than she's a girl.
More important than looks, the play style is great. It's basically a tinkered Virtua Fighter 2, which was one of the most celebrated titles for its deep gameplay. Still, floaty, slow juggles occur, and certain moves seem to do questionable damage. Moves' speeds also change up quite a bit, and some characters seem randomly fast or slow. These aren't bad things, necessarily, of course; it helps with fake-outs and mix-ups.
The characters showcase the previous VF cast, sans the Rikisi (unfortunately), and two new characters, a
Valetudo (sp?) striker/chute figher, and a Shaolin monk.
Vanessa, the new girl, is a nice addition to the small cast. She showcases amazingly well-sculpted muscles--almost to the point of absurdity. Although she has many nice traps and an automatic punch-catching reversal in her ''defensive'' stance, and by the way has two stances to play with, when compared to characters like Akira she's just below the upper tier maybe.
Lei Fei, the monk, is one of the strongest reasons to buy the game. He's a great character, and being a forced-stance-changing character (i.e., doing most of his moves automatically changes your stance and moves list), he's great at set-ups and mix-ups. Besides that, his moves generally look cool.
It's nice to see these additions to the roster; they move away from those strange characters with their ''old-school'' feel, such as Pai, Lau, Jackie, and Sarah. The more unique, interesting characters, the better.
Now, to complaints about the game. The most striking complaint is the lack of characters. I know that this is a bit picky, but it would be nice to play around with a few more than the 14 there are--oh, and the 14th is'nt readily available. Which leads me to my second complaint.
It is very, very time-consuming and difficult to obtain the hidden stuff in this game, and there really just isn't enough of it. Only one character to unlock, who's amazingly hard to get at that, and a bunch of items to add to the costume of a 'created character' (basically a log-in so it can keep track of your record). Although I have to admit I really like customizing my outfit, and I like a challenge.
O.K., so a list of hard-to-obtain secrets that require deep devotion to the game isn't necessarily a bad thing, I'll admit. But I would like to warn anyone who's thinking of buying the game....
The game also showcases a deep practice mode that gives you tasks a' la Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha. The difference? These tasks actually teach you about gameplay. In depth. I just wish that in Free Training mode, there were some way to see counter hits, and the command list was a bit more readily accessible.
On a final note, the menu looks amazing. I know it really doesn't matter that much, but it really does. And it's customize-able! And that's not a bad thing. It's a good thing. (DDP smile)
Here's my overall breakdown:
Replay--depends on who's playing it now doesn't it?
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/07/02, Updated 09/03/02
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