Review by Garbol Shora

"Its objective in the beginning was to create a realistic martial arts experience, and the objective has not changed the slightest."

Many a fighting game has been spawned off of the ever so popular Street Fighter. Many fighting games entered their fists and kicks for the fame and glory Street Fighter achieved. Games such as SNK, Mortal Kombat, Battle Arena Toshinden and so forth came from this. Then came the 3D excitement of Virtua Fighter and Tekken. And eventually, the said games grew extinct. However, Tekken and Virtua Fighter were known to be the strongest fighters, until Soul Calibur rocked the competition, also bringing in the breast-enhanced Dead or Alive. Eventually, many people bickered that Virtua Fighter lacked the beginner-friendly system of button mashing, and was much too technical. At last, the 4th installment of Virtua Fighter comes through, bringing in much more competition.

In truth, 'Virtua Fighter 4' boasts one of the most technically remarkable game, ending up to be its strongest point as well as its biggest flaw. In the end, it easily triumphs over Dead or Alive 3's sex extravaganza, and rules top over the slightly disappointing Tekken 4.

A Virtua Fighter must be chosen by commitment, taken from its raw material and molded into a vicious fighter...

With every installment of Virtua Fighter, 2 characters always seem to enter the battlefield, with their own petty motive to winning a pathetic tournament. To this date, 13 are available, minus the fat sumo-wrestler of Virtua Fighter 3. It's very reminiscent, remembering the fights of Virtua Fighter 1 and its impressive intense combat, however with its meager 8 characters (Akira, Sarah, Pai, Lau, Jacky, Kage, Jeffrey, Wolf). Yes, all the classics are back, and Pai is as fast as ever. Two new fighters, Vanessa and Lei Fei boast their newfound techniques, and make for excellent new characters to try out. The most impressive element of gameplay that holds faithful in Virtua Fighter 4 is that there is again virtually 100 techniques to learn for each character. Very impressive, and all of them come into gameplay at essential moments. Intimidating as it is, this is excellent to specially select the one character that you feel suits you best. Many hardcore gamers may return to the original 8, but many will feel intrigued by the other characters as well. Be it Aoi's parries and reversal techniques, Lau's dangerous lightning fast offense, Wolf's powerful throws or Kage's airborne flips and acrobatic feats, Virtua Fighter 4 makes for the most impressive technical gameplay. It is extremely difficult to fully master all 13 characters, all of them with speed, weight, power, defense and reversal techniques that completely vary, add the 100 per character moves, and it is truly difficult to simply take all of the characters at once. In this way, a Virtua Fighter must be chosen by commitment, taken from its raw material and molded into a vicious fighter. Virtua Fighter 4 makes sure that keeping with few characters will keep you happy and satisfied for mastering.

The basic controls of Virtua Fighter 2 are back, and the confusion of Virtua Fighter 3 gone. There is, once more, one punch and kick button, along with a guard button. While these seem overly simplistic, using combinations of them enable throws, parries, flips, charges and sabaki and various other fighting techniques. Combinations are difficult to learn and come at a cost, but it is nevertheless immensely satisfying to learn and master. Once these moves are learned, gamers can begin a large variety of combination attacks, or powerful throws, mixing and switching fighting styles to confuse the opponent. The aforementioned styles of each character are remarkably unique).

Virtua Figher 4 plays in a very sophisticated manner, where guarding, dodging and parrying becomes much more essential than simply moving onto the offensive. Fortunately, Virtua Fighter 4 goes out of its way to compensate for the difficult learning curve with a training mode! The training mode is a nice touch to the game, which allows further mastering of moves, techniques, combos, situations and getting the advantage over your opponent. Eventually, the learning curve is not so steep, with the training mode. Therefore, ultimately, Virtua Fighter 4 creates a virtual teacher, teaching beginners how to better master the character of their choice. In this respect, Virtua Fighter 4 very much deserves high respect for its way of approaching a beginner who has never played the nature of the technical fighting of Virtua Fighter 4.

What highly deserves mention, is the battle mode 'Kumite', a very innovative and refreshing idea to the fighting game genre. Directing you to create a Player File, of which you can even name your own character, your character will be pitted against an endless amount of fighters, boosting your rank and gaining items. 'Kumite' mode grants you items for every victory, and helps you customize your character. While none of these items grant you any boosters, gamers who enjoy 'alternate costumes' will be spending days on end creating the best clothes, hat, sunglasses, hair, necklace, mask and so and so for the best looking fighter out there! Truly an innovative idea, Virtua Fighter 4 creates a larger variety of character costumes with Kumite instead of the 'default 2 costumes' that are preset in many fighting games. Another notable mention is the ranks that are distributed in Kumite. As a person continues fighting, they will gain experience or fighting points, which gain the level of ranking you can achieve. Ranking goes up from the lower levels - Kyu, to the highest levels - High King and Emperor. A true challenge for the hardcore gamer to pursuit!

However, there is a stark contrast between its excellent visual presentation and its inadequate audio presentation...

In terms of visual realism, Virtua Fighter 4 creates realistic character models in terms of facial qualities. Such is said to the visual difference between Pai and Sarah, which is not just hair and eye color. Little details such as a slight pointier nose on Sarah, or the masculine qualities of Vanessa are visible. Backgrounds are much more detailed in Virtua Fighter 4 in comparison to its predecessors. Little attention to detail such as snow prints and broken tiles are existent. Falling leaves in autumn and flying birds over a wailing sea are nice touches. In terms of PS2, Virtua Fighter makes the best out of it, and creates a beautiful visually impressive environment. However, this cannot completely point out that it is perfect. In comparison to the arcade, Virtua Fighter 4 PS2 is stale and jagged. The arcade version, being smoother and sharper graphics is slightly better than the PS2 port. I also have to mention, that the backgrounds, while beautiful, begin to attain a sense of dullness to them, as the arenas are all basically identical in terms of structure and interaction to the lush backgrounds are to a minimum. Nevertheless, the graphics are exceptional on its own right. However, there is a stark contrast between its excellent visual presentation and its inadequate audio presentation.

Aurally, Virtua Fighter's music is very stale. The type of music is, once again, rock and heavy metal. But unfortunately, it simply lacks anything memorable. It is not bad that the Virtua Fighter music track is forgettable, it being a fighting game and all, but for Audio Presentation, there is not one main track that stands out from the rest, presenting something better, catchier or giving the slightest encouragement to fighting. Sound effects are, yet again, sound effects. The constant bashing sounds are welcoming and very realistic, creating a feel of atmosphere that is well-known to fighting games. It makes good use of the crushing sounds, bone-crunching, impact, contact, and different types of sounds represent different force of attack. It does a good job of it, but like the music, although to a lesser extent, is forgettable.

Voice acting plays the interesting role, and probably the highest aspect of audio. Never has a talking Japanese voice over been so interesting. Ha, I have tried countless times to repeat what Pai says in her victory pose. It is rather amusing and takes the voice acting seriously, with a new victory pose per person. But once again, this is extremely tedious with only a handful of poses. After every match, the victor would chant out their pose, and if you have been planning to master a character, you may realize that the voice acting takes a very stale ring after fighting 100 matches or so. One cannot really say much about Virtua Fighter¡¯s audio, as it has never been exceptional.

Nowadays, games have become so much more advanced, technical, exciting and intense since the godfather of Street Fighter. Virtua Fighter just may be the godfather of 3D technical fighting, who knows? Things are precise and accurately done with Virtua Fighter 4, and you'll never get sick of it once you get past the learning curve. Unfortunately, many people just can't get past this learning curve, and ultimately end up giving it a mediocre score and hating the game, missing out on the most technically advanced fighting game ever. It just may be considered a fighting simulation because of its perfect style of combat.

Its objective in the beginning was to create a realistic martial arts experience, and the objective has not changed the slightest...

Virtua Fighter 4 is the most technical fighter out there. People will always argue that Virtua Fighter has very few characters - or some may say that Virtua Fighter 4 simply will get boring after playing through the 13 characters. But Virtua Fighter is not about a diverse cast with an emphasis on creative fighting styles, it is a commitment to a character, to help him/her grow and achieve a fighting prowess others will fear. This often makes Virtua Fighter 4 a poor party game, as the game requires precise control of your characters. If not, not many of the characters will fight as smoothly or to ones satisfaction. In this way, the fighting engine in this game is an attempt to achieve perfection, and my god, Virtua Fighter 4 has truly set the standard for what gaming should be. Its objective in the beginning was to create a realistic martial arts experience, and the objective has not changed the slightest.

Gameplay Elements: 10 - An unforgettable experience. The emphasis on making one character your own makes Virtua Fighter 4 a very rewarding game, offering a multitude of fighting techniques and tactics.
Visual Presentation: 9 - Its visual presentation is good, slightly less appealing compared to the arcade version.
Audio Presentation: 6 - It is painstakingly average. It doesn't improve the experience, but makes it less interesting.
Additional Add-ons: 9 - Kumite, while it may not interest some, is excellent in terms of keeping track of improving rank and rewards.
Score Bias: 9 - It's an appealing game that kept me hooked and I believe it deserves just as well.

[8.6] ~ GREAT

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/19/02, Updated 03/10/03

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