Review by MagicalChimpanZ
"A game that you just can't Shun, but not as easy as Pai (har har)"
Like many have done before me, I have come to glorify Virtua Figher 4 in all of its greatness - gameplay depth, graphics, sound, etc. etc. etc., - which make this game the very top of the fighting heap (if you have a PS2, forget Soul Calibur.)
VF4's graphics are nothing short of beautiful. First off, the character models are incredibly detailed, with Akira's gi wrinkling and Vanessa's armor shining. Everybody's hair moves fluidly, and it fits perfectly with the amount of wind in the levels. Might I add that this all runs at a blazing 60fps, with no slowdown whatsoever. The backgrounds go quite a ways, and in the few seconds before the astonishing A.I. pounds you to the ground, you'll be able to gawk at the whales swimming in Pai's aquarium, or the leaves fluttering in Kage's garden. On top of all this, the particle effects are very well done, with water splashing and rippling realistically, snow molding from where your character stepped on it, and sands sifting in the wind. There is one graphical flaw in VF4 that keeps this score from being a 10: this game has jaggies galore - as much as in most launch games.
Most people are put off by this game's cheesy metal-ish soundtrack, but I dug it enough not to turn the volume down during fights. Though nothing special, the punches and kicks all sound authentic and fit right in with the intense environment. The character voices are the norm, and just what you'd expect from the character's looks (Shun Di has a cracking, bumbling drunk voice, while Aoi's voicework is soft and timid). The only voice that's really weird is Lion's, who sounds sort of like a robotic female newscaster from CNN mixed with Leonardo DiCaprio if he was castrated. But what do I care about sound in a fighting game, unless it's that strange, smooth-jazz score from Marvel vs. Capcom 2?
The gameplay and controls of this game are absolutely perfect. Control is responsive, fast, and silky-smooth. With only 3 attack buttons as opposed to Street Fighter's 6, the combo system may seem shallow at first, but it is actually INCREDIBLY deep. You can string together many long combos if you master a character (especially Akira), and oftentimes characters have stances in which buttons will perform different moves than normal. The game is also very tough; its A.I. learns from your every move and adapts to defend against your fighting style, so you must be spontaneous. It is very unforgiving to button mashers, as the computer will simply block and reverse your moves every time. This difficulty makes VF4 require a lot of patience; if you get frustrated easily, create a player sign-on and use the excellent Practice Mode first to get acquainted with your character's many combos.
Replay Value: 10/10
Now I bring to you my final point: once you get past the slightly steep difficulty curve, VF4 becomes extremely addictive. In the Kumite Mode (Koo-mee-tay), which is the bulk of the game, you fight loads of enemies one-by-one to advance your rank. You start out at 10th ''Kyu'' (the beginner rank) and must work your way up to 1st Kyu, and then 1st ''Dan'' (the expert league) and above. It is very satisfying to beat the difficult opponents and gain new items, and the ''disgrace'' items when you lose too much add some humor to the game. Once you beat Kumite, go to a local game store and announce that you did so to have the other customers stare at you like a god. (I still haven't beaten it.) Then you can go back home and train your own A.I. fighter that learns from your fighting style and utilizes it against your opponents. You can pit it against the Kumite fighters and encourage it when it does something good, or scold it when it does something bad. There's just so much stuff to do (yet little in the way of character unlockables.)
Rent or Buy: Buy now. If you don't have the money, rent now, just to play it. If you don't have a PS2 (yes, both of you), play it in the arcade.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/08/02, Updated 06/08/02
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