Review: Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution (PS2)

Game: Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution
System: Playstation 2
Genre: Fighting
Developed By: Sega AM2
Published By: Sega
Released: 8/12/03

When it comes to the fighting game genre, there are two extreme camps: The Tekken camp, and the Virtua Fighter camp. Those who belong to the Tekken camp prefer fighting games that don’t require too much thought. Button mashers are happy because they can simple use the “dial-a-combo” feature to execute some devastating damage. Either that, or they find the two or three short combos that work for them and use them repeatedly. Those who belong in the Virtua Fighter camp prefer fighters with incredible depth. Fighters where the same combo will not work consistently, and get countered in a variety of ways. Fighters where you could take months to learn all the intricacies and strategies associated with only one character. Its fighters in this camp that I’ll gravitate towards.

So of course my jaw dropped to the floor when I heard Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution was going to be released for $19.99, as a Greatest Hits update to the original game. And after playing it for a while, I can see why Sega reached this decision. There was a lot of new stuff to constitute a whole sequel, however, much of the original VF 4 was retained. But does this combination of old and new warrant a new purchase? Read on”¦

GAMEPLAY

Fighting in the game only requires three buttons: Guard, Punch, and Kick. By using the D-Pad and different button combinations, characters can perform highly damaging moves (or chain moves together for even bigger damage). Throwing is accomplished by pressing Guard and Punch simultaneously. Evading is accomplished by quickly tapping either Up or Down. By timing it just right, you can dodge an opponent’s attack and end up on their side, which is more vulnerable. There are many other specific techniques included within the game, and all are covered extensively in the Training Mode.

For the record, all the characters from the original VF4 game have been included in this release. Fan favorites such as Akira, Pai, Wolf, Jeffry, Shun Di, and others are still here for you to play with. Each has their own, unique fighting style, ranging from Tae Kwan Do, to Ensei Ken, and even to pro wrestling The diverse set of characters, along with their fighting styles, can provide limitless strategies for you to use.


Two brand new characters have also been added to the line-up: Brad Burns and Goh Hinogami. Brad hails from Italy and uses a Muai Thai kick boxing style. Goh is a zombie-looking individual hailing from Japan, and uses Judo. These two characters are welcome additions to the line-up, and only add to the wonderful balance developed between the entire cast.

There are four main game modes to explore this time around: Arcade, V.S., Training, and Quest. However, character selection for each mode is a tiny bit different this time around. At the character select screen, each character has been assigned two default profiles. You can customize each profile to your liking in the Quest Mode, but we’ll get to that later. To switch between a character’s profiles, you’ll need to highlight that character, press Select, and choose between the two. Or, if you’re in Arcade or V.S. Mode, you can select not to use a profile and simply play as a regular character. The use of profiles is encouraged heavily in this game, and you’ll see why later.

Arcade Mode plays just like it did in the original VF4. You choose a character and take on a random set of ten opponents. Assuming you defeat all of them, you’ll take on Dural in a special “bonus match”, where you can’t continue if you lose. (For those who aren’t well versed in Virtua Fighter lore, Dural is a liquid-metal female that knows a combination of moves from each and every fighter.) There is an added twist this time around. Assuming you use a character profile, you might take part in special “Mission Match”. These appear randomly, and you don’t have to complete them to advance. The missions offered can range from “winning the match” to “throw your opponent X times” to “win the match with two Excellents'”. If you complete these missions, you’ll be rewarded with either items or money that can be used in Quest Mode. More on this later.

Versus Mode is as cut and dry as it sounds. Two players duke it out with their favorite fighters. Like Arcade Mode, it’s also possible for the two players to compete for prizes they can use in Quest Mode. Both must have profiles to do this, however.

The Training Mode is perhaps the most fleshed out, most refined, and most easy to use training mode in any fighting game ever released. And that’s saying it lightly. VF4:E’s training exercises will literally teach you how to play the game.

First, Training is broken down into several categories. The Command category allows you to practice each character’s moves one by one. If you’re having trouble executing one move, you can “lock” it and practice it repeatedly. Free Mode is like much of the other training modes in other fighters, allowing you to simply practice combos and such with no time limit. Then comes the Trial Mode. Trial Mode literally teaches you each and every basic, intermediate, and advanced attack that can be performed within the confines of the game. You’ll learn the Evade, the Throw Escape, the Evading Throw Escape, the Evading Throw Escape Guard, and many, many, MANY other tricks. Going through this mode will definitely improve your fighting style. You can also practice the Mission Matches you’ll encounter in the Arcade Mode here.

Now we come to the best mode in the game: Quest Mode. For those who remember Kumite Mode from the original VF4, this is a highly expanded version of it. For those who don’t remember Kumite Mode, it’s a special mode where you face hundreds of different people with varying ranks in succession. Your job was to defeat as many of them as you can in order to gain experience and gain higher ranks. You started at 10th Kyu, and every 100 points upgraded you (9th Kyu, 8th Kyu, etc.) until you reached 1st Dan. Then you had to face 10 opponents of the same rank in order to advance to the next Dan. There were other rankings above the Dans, of course, but they were hard to achieve unless you were a REALLY good player. Doing well would allow you win items to customize your character with, such as different costume colors, and accessories.

Getting back to the Quest Mode, as said earlier, it’s a complete overhaul of what Kumite was. Not only is there now a “story” for you to follow, but also the options have multiplied, and the rewards are much greater. Story-wise, you are working to compete in a nationwide Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution tournament: The W.M.A.C. II. In order to gain entry into this tournament, you’re going to have to go to arcades all over the country and compete against scores of opponents. If you fulfill the requirements at each of the arcades, you’ll be able to enter the regional tournaments. Win all eight, and the grand championship will be available to you. Do you have what it takes?

You begin Quest Mode at the first of these “arcades”. When you’re here, you’ll need to meet a specific requirement in order to be able to sign up for that arcade’s tournament. If you win the tournament, you’ll be able to move on to the next arcade. Sounds simple, right? Well, only in the beginning. Each arcade has it’s own set of ranking players. You’ll start by fighting a bunch of lowly “Kyu-ranked” people like yourself. But as you progress, you’ll start fighting the “Dan-ranked” players, and then get to the “Title-ranked” players (like Warrior, Hunter, and Destroyer) late in the game. This is to ensue that you don’t stay in one place, fight all the easy prey, and become champion right off the bat. The scary thing is, once you end up fighting the Champions at the end, they’re styles are based on real VF4:E arcade players. So beating THEM is gonna take some work.

Sega changed around the rankings a bit for this version. In VF4’s Kumite mode, you merely fought random opponent after random opponent, and depending on whom you fought and when, you might take a different ranking path than someone else. Not only that, but it took ten wins off of same-ranked opponents in order to advance to the higher ranks. Given that you only fought random people, it could take up to 20 fights at a time to find at least ONE person of the same rank. Thankfully, Sega changed things and lowered the amount of wins you need against same-rank opponents for you to advance. For example, advancing between 1st and 2nd Dan now only takes three wins off of same-ranked opponents instead of ten. The amount of wins you need seems to grow as you advance, but it’s still easier to get to the higher ranks. That, and there is only one rank path now.

As you fight wave after wave of fighters, you’ll start to notice things are VERY different when fighting them. You’ll notice that some characters have silly little icons below they’re names. These are called “Emblems”, and you can take possession of these if you win. But you better be careful, as the characters that had them can win them off you again if you face them again. Another interesting feature is that in random matches, you might be able to win a prize if you win the match. These prizes can range from items to small amounts of money. (In other words, their much better prizes than what you win in Arcade Mode.)

Along with fulfilling the requirements to enter tournaments, you can also take part in individual “Quest Orders” for each arcade. These Quest Orders are much longer missions in the same vein as the Arcade Mode’s mission matches. To complete the quest orders, you’ll need to fulfill certain requirements, such as throwing an opponent from a guaranteed throwing situation X number of times, or performing a certain number of striking attacks, or winning a match without doing a certain maneuver. Its these last types of Quest Orders that are pure genius. For example, you might have to win without guarding, or evading, or throwing, or without using back-dashes. Assuming you regularly use such methods when you fight, you’re going to have to work out entirely new strategies to win against your opponent. And as you complete these quest orders, you might find your style of fighting changed for the better. They give you new prospective on how to use your character in certain situations. In any case, completing Quest Orders will reward you with rarer items and larger amounts of money.

Tournaments are in abundance in this game. Not only are there individual tournaments each arcade has, but there are also a special set of tournaments you can take part in at any time. Such tournaments have special rules to them, such as knockdowns do more damage, or each person gets 1,000 health and one round to win, or something of the like. Losing in these special tournaments do not impact your standings in any way, but they do allow you win money and rare items. To top in all off, if you win every special tournament, you get to unlock something special in the Options menu.

Finally, to manage your profile, all you need to do is press Start. In this menu, you can edit your character’s looks using items you purchased / won, buy items, costume changes, and other assorted goodies in the Shop with the money you accumulate, look at all the opponents you defeated, check the tournaments you’ve won, and most importantly, save your game. The scary thing is you could get lost in HERE for a half-hour looking at character profiles, browsing your Emblems, and customizing your character.

Let me just say this to cap off the Quest Mode: if you manage to get to the end and win the W.M.A.C. II tournament”¦consider yourself one hell of a Virtua Fighter player.

GRAPHICS

The game’s graphics look remarkably similar to the ones used in the original VF4, but that’s to expected, considering this is only an update. The character models look cleaned up quite a bit, though. There are also less “jaggies” to the characters when you see them up close. That is a definite plus.


The fighting arenas that appeared within the last game all make reappearances, however, each stage now has an alternate version. For example, Jeffry’s beach stage now has a morning, and a sunset to view. Lau’s alternate castle stage has you fighting in the rain. Plus, other alternate stages that used to be completely enclosed now have their corners removed so you can score ring-outs in them. These alternate stages were done very well, and are a pleasure to look at.

I did notice that during some loading screens, the image will jump slightly. However, this does not happen all the time, and can easily be ignored.

SOUND

Much like the graphics, the music and sound from the last game reappear in their near-entirety, and with much more added to it. Each of the alternate stages mentioned above have new musical tracks to go with them, and for the most part, flows with the game beautifully. The voices for the new characters, Brad and Goh, are also well done.

FUN FACTOR

The Quest Mode will provide practically unlimited hours of playtime. The quest to fight every last opponent, win in all the tournaments, complete all the Quest Orders, collect all the emblems, win or buy all the items, collect all the orbs”¦there is so much to do in this mode alone that you’ll be playing the game for weeks. And this will probably be for ONE CHARACTER. To go through this mode with ALL the characters”¦it’s official. This game has the longest shelf life of any fighter on the planet.

Customizing your character in your profile is also a very rewarding experience. There’s over 1,500 items to win for all the characters. Not only costume changes, or additional accessories/jewelry to equip, but also hair changes, hats, and other things to distinguish one player from another. Want to give Pai short hair? Well, you can! Want to play through as a balding Lau? Go for it! Want to give Lei-Fei a samurai haircut, or cut all of Wolf’s hair off? It’s all up to you! I guarantee that with all the variations you can make with two different costumes, no two fighters will ever look exactly alike.


Another interesting feature is the fact you can save replays of your favorite fights onto the memory card and view them later. However, I’d suggest you check out a set of replays included on the DVD first. Included on the disc are dozens of reenactments of fights between champions in Japan. This is how you’re SUPPOSED to play the game.

One of the greatest extras in my opinion is the “Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary” option. You’ll need to go into the options menu to activate it, but what you’ll see will take you back to the early days of Virtua Fighter. EVERY character will be rendered like they were in VF1! (The newer editions have been modeled accordingly.) They even included the VF1 stages, life bars, victory music, and the original order of characters you faced in the arcade mode. And remember the high, floater jumps you could do ten years ago? Well, they’re BACK, baby! You can now float in the air with the best of them! Why this isn’t called “Virtua Fighter 1 Re-Remix” is only because the announcer, the character select screen and each individual move-set were taken from VF4. Yes, you can perform all the moves from VF4 as polygonated characters. This is a hilarious diversion from the main game, and sure to provide hours of fun.

The only thing that seems to be missing is the mode from the original VF4 where you could train your own fighter and send them through Arcade or Kumite modes. Oh well, I guess some sacrifices had to be made in this case.

Ratings
Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Fun Factor: 9