Review by robbiedbee

"Wow, and I thought Virtua Fighter 2 was good."

Many moon ago, AM2 gave the world the Virtua Fighter series. In the beginning, there was Virtua Fighter, a game that arguably revolutionized the beat ‘em up genre. Then, there was Virtua Fighter 2. Regarded by many as the finest in the series. It was Virtua Fighter, but with many extras, such as Team Battle and Ranking modes. It became the first beat ‘em up to really involve skill, in a more advanced way. The characters’ were all very unique in the way of attributes, and only with careful analysis of the frame rates and so on could one really consider himself or herself a master. Then came Virtua Fighter 3: Team Battle. Despite the quality exhibited by AM2 in previous titles, the game wasn’t really a hit. The power of the Dreamcast didn’t really take the series onto bigger or better things. It was good, sure, but why buy that as supposed to buying the ever-dying Dreamcast and Virtua Fighter 3: Team Battle? Exactly. Arguably, there were very few reasons. I am sure many people weren’t expecting another sequel, I for one wasn’t. But 2002 saw the release of Virtua Fighter 4, armed with the power that the PS2 provided.

Story 6/10

Okay, it’s a fighting game, and the story would certainly not be the most important aspect regarding a game. But still, its nice to know why you’re fighting, if you know what I mean. Some of the fighters’ motives to fight are very cliché, and if not cliché then just plain cheesy. You have Akira Yuki, you’re stereotypical karate master, only young. After defeat in the previous tournament, he isolated himself on a mountain and trained. Then, you have Sarah Bryant, fighting to get revenge on her older brother. Then you have the ninja, Kage Maru. Chasing an organization to help save his dying mother. Now the cheesy motives. There is Jeffry McWild. An Australian fisherman who wants the prize money so he can research and build a boat so he is capable of capturing a legendary fish <gasp>. Then there is Jacky Bryant, older brother of Sarah, who joined just because a bunch of people told him to.

Graphics 8/10

For the first time, the fighters in VF4 lost their blocky appearance in favour of a smooth, well-textured look. Some of the animations on the characters are superb, they flow very well. There is very little in the way of unrealistic, far-fetched maneuvers, like games like Tekken provide. I didn’t really like that trait in Tekken. The in-game backgrounds are quite good too. Most of which are interactive. Some have fences and walls that you can throw your opponent against, or use to gain a leverage advantage over them. Some of these walls can be broken, and a ring-out is possible from there. Some of the environments have snow in them; you leave large body marks where you go slammed by your opponent. There is also a pond that you may fight in. I can’t for the life of me understand why two of the worlds best combatants would want to fight in a fountain just because some tournament guy said so. Back to the point, the splashed and such like in the scene are quite good. One thing that may not be important at all to some people, but the main menu is superb. Despite the cheesy Japanese accent narration, it looks great. It gave me a good first impression of the game.

Gameplay 8/10

Another good score for Virtua Fighter 4. The movesets are very diverse and take time to master, you could say it’s a good or bad thing I suppose. My theory is however, that those who are familiar with the series already will know what that’s like though. The controls are a little difficult to grasp at first, but again, that could be a double-edged sword as it paves the way to longevity. There are a few game modes to choose from; Arcade, your average fighting game mode; Vs, in which you take on another human player; all-new Kumite mode in which you design your own character and fight in progressively harder matches, achieving grades as you would in martial arts. (8th Kyu, 7th Kyu, 1st Dan, 2nd Dan etc.) Reading some of the other reviews it becomes evident that many consider this mode rather monotonous and tedious. I’m fairly sure that a player new to Virtua Fighter would enjoy this mode providing they enjoy the game itself. Its quite interesting seeing yourself beat opponents you never used to be able to touch. Whilst playing this mode, you unlock many different clothes and accessories for your fighter. An interesting mode is AI mode, in which you train your own AI fighter. It seems great at first but it does get a tad boring afterwards. Then there is the training mode, now routine in most fighting games. There are some interesting features involving training. You can analyze your performance by slowing the game down, and using graphs to measure how fast you punch and so on. Also, you can program striking or defending combinations into your sparring partner for you to evade or overcome.

Sound 4/10

A flaw In my opinion, not too major, but it’s still a flaw. The in game music is that average guitar-like noise that lots of fighting games adopt. You must know what I mean, that fast-paced stuff that’s supposed to make a game appear cool to a possible target audience. The voice acting is, in a word – terrible. Just before some moves, you could get a feeble “take that” to accompany it. The old end of match victory poses are equally as daft. There is a limit to how many times you can hear the phrase “I’ve got hands of lightning”.

Life Span 9/10

This is not the kind of game that could be the only game you play for about 2 weeks. It is more of a game that you would play in small pieces over a 6 month period before you get bored of it. Even then, a 3 month absence easily rejuvenates your desire to play it.

Replay Value 4/10

This ties in with life span a bit. After you have accomplished pretty much all the game has to offer, you wouldn’t really want to do it again. However, if you have a friend or some friends that consider themselves Virtua Fighter Masters, then you will want to get a spot of training in before you show them what you’re made of. This game, like many others is much better in a two player situation. Some games recently have had really good substitutes for multiplayer, despite the multiplayer being the best mode (take TimeSplitters 2 for example)

To Rent or Buy?

Unless you are a long term fan of the series, I recommend renting this game before you buy it. Some people will not want to play the game until they reach mastery, and a 4 or 5 day loan spell would be ideal.

Final Score I’d love to say 7.5 but for the sake of a whole number I’ll say 8. You should check the alternatives too, (Tekken, Dead or Alive etc.)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/09/03, Updated 07/09/03

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