Review by SiN $tealer

"One of the best is now ready for everyone."

It's a strange thing to see Virtua Fighter on a system that doesn't belong to SEGA. Stranger still is that I had to wait in a line to buy the game. VF4 marks an incredible improvement in every area, and for once people are taking to notice. Having played and loved every Virtua Fighter that has been released (even Virtua Fighter Kids), I'm going to try a completely unbiased review for those thinking of investing in the game. For the hordes of people new to VF, invest might be a strange word. But to those that have followed the game, it fits perfectly.

Graphics: (9/10)
To put it bluntly, the graphics are a mixed bag at first. This is especially true to those who have seen it in the arcades or played DOA3 on the X-Box. But to say the graphics in VF4 are bad is unwarranted. The character detail is impressive, and the backgrounds have such an artistic quality that each and every one will make you say ''Whoa!'' (with the possible exception of Akira's). It should be noted, however, that there are jaggies on the character models. If you've been spoiled on the arcade you'll also notice that some of the lighting and texture work is not as good. What looks good completely outweighs what's bad, however. After seeing the roaming helicopter search lights in Jacky's stage or the snow deformation in Lion's, the jaggies are more than acceptable. The fluid character animations also take away from the aliasing problem. Some of the characters, especially Lei Fei, are poetry in motion. The throws are all animated beautifully as well. So by the time you've played a few games, the graphical flaws noticed at first glance are replaced by a sense of awe at everything that has been accomplished by the designers.

Sound: (8/10)
By far the weakest aspect of the game is the sound. Not that the sound is bad, but it doesn't quite hold up to the high standards set by the rest of the game. The background music is ultimately forgettable, although I do particularly like the theme to Lion's Castle. The voices range from descent to terrible. I do have to admit it is a large improvement from VF3, but that's like saying the voices in Resident Evil 2 are better than the voices in Resident Evil 1...better does not necessarily mean good. You'll still want to mute Sarah and Lion every time they win, but now it will take a few matches before you reach for the remote. The narrator is the same, which isn't really a bad thing, and the voice that accompanies the menu is well done. The sound effects are the best part of the sound, and it's great hearing the crunch when you connect. It enhances the reality of game, which is really what Virtua Fighter is all about. Now if only they made Sarah sound like a real person....

Control: (9/10)
So simple yet so hard. There's only three buttons (Punch, Kick, and Guard), yet what has to be done with them is amazingly complex. A fighting stick would be a good buy if you want to get serious, although it can be played perfectly fine with the dual shock thanks to the button combinations in the shoulder buttons and the fact everything is completely remappable. Movement can seem slow and sluggish at first, but once you practice dashing and evading, it becomes second nature. Attacks flow like they should, but you will need some practice with timing for different combos and moves. Some moves are hard no matter what you do. Sometimes I wonder if Yu Suzuki actually intended players to never be able to use Akira's Knee.

Gameplay: (10/10)
Ah yes, the heart of the game itself. The main factor behind every great game is how great it plays. It drives us to keep playing. It's what keeps games in our memory. Gran Turismo 3 would be long forgotten if it only looked shiny. And for the past decade, this is what Virtua Fighter has been all about, and now VF4 raises the bar even higher. It is the most realistic fighting game ever made. Every style is completely authentic, down to the last punch. The amount of depth contained in the game's engine is so large that no one in the world can claim to have mastered it. This is where the investment comes in (and you thought I forgot). It's been said that Virtua Fighter isn't for people who aren't hard-core fighting fans. While this was certainly true before, VF4 is far more accessible than any previous game in the series. It should be stated that more accessible does not mean this game now caters to button mashers. It still requires you to know moves and have some idea what you're doing. What it does mean is that it's now easier for new players to move past the button mashing stage and start kicking butt. That's where all the fun comes from in this game. Once you know your moves and know when to use them, the game becomes simply amazing. Every match becomes a learning experience and you'll have a great time just thinking up new strategies to use. So if you're willing to invest a little effort into learning the game and your character, you'll find that the rewards are more than worth it. And thanks to the incredible training lessons, it's easier than ever to get into the game.

Replay Value: (10/10)
Most fighting games offer unlimited replay value if you have friends who are interested in the game. My friends and I still bust out Street Fighter 2 at least once a week. But once friends leave, most fighting games get put on the shelf. VF4, however, gives you plenty of reasons to keep it spinning. The computer A.I. is remarkable, and always a blast to play. You always have the feeling that you had a chance, even when you lose, and it's great to learn against. This alone would have been good enough for a high replay mark. But what pushes it to a perfect score is the vast variety of single player modes you can mess with. Kumite mode is one of the best modes in any fighter ever made. It simulates playing VF4 at Japanese arcades, complete with unlockable items, colors, stages, and win poses. It tracks wins, loses, and win percentage, and even has some of the best players in Japan coded into the game's A.I. With over 400 items to win between the characters, it will keep you busy until VF5. The A.I. mode is also unique, though not quite the experience Kumite is. In A.I. mode you must train your own fighter, showing them moves and combos, even conditioning them when to use specific moves. You can then take them and pit them against rivals in Kumite mode, or your friends in Vs mode and see how they do. It should be said that Arcade mode offers no replay value whatsoever, especially with it's lack of endings. It can be fun to try and beat the boss, Dural, but those looking for a great story should look elsewhere. If your favorite part of Tekken is watching the cut scenes when you win, you probably won't find much use for this game.

Final Score: (10/10)
I'm sure everyone reading this wants to know whether it's better or worse than the other fighting games on the market. The only thing I'll say is that it's different. Even if you're a Tekken veteran you'll have to go through the training to adjust to the style of play. But if the thing you loved about Tekken is the gameplay, you'll fall in love with Virtua Fighter too if you give it a chance. Rent only if you aren't sure if you like fighting games in general, buy if you know you do.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/23/02, Updated 03/23/02

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