March 25, 2002
Virtua Fighter 4 - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Rating Players Price

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Background detail is exquisite.
There was a time not so long ago when Virtua Fighter ruled the arcades, although it never reached that success that it deserved due to the failure of both the Saturn and Dreamcast. The original Virtua Fighter was only the second game in the arcades to use polygons to create the graphics (Virtua Racing was the first) and it drew in huge crowds. A couple of years later Virtua Fighter 2 wowed the arcades with some gorgeous texture mapped fighters. Virtua Fighter 3 (and the Team Battle version) were generally applauded, but not as revered as the previous games. The problem with the third title was the release of two other high profiled titles from Namco, namely Tekken (and it's subsequent sequels) and the magnificent Soul Blade and Soul Calibur. While the debate still rages as to which series is the best, there can be little doubt as to the quality of each.

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Texture mapping is also superb.
After waiting for almost 5 years gamers will finally get a new Virtua Fighter game in the arcades in late 2001. The big surprise however is AM2's announcement that the game will be developed exclusively for the Playstation 2 at home. Powered by the Naomi 2 chipset in the arcades the game is a visual treat with some stunning backgrounds to some of the most exciting fighting ever seen in a video game. Yu Suzuki has stated that he will be removing some of the additions made for Virtua Fighter 3. Gone is the evade/escape button from the third game and the three button (punch, kick, guard) controls return. The game also includes a new parrying system, which should keep the fights brisk as well as an 8-way directional control.

As well as the returning newcomers such as Sarah Bryant, Lion Rafale and Shun Di AM2 are adding 2 new fighters to the mix. The young female is Vanessa Lewis while the male, Lei Fei, is a Shaolin monk. These characters bring the total cast in Virtua Fighter 4 to 13.

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Characters never looked this good?
This isn't a straight port of the arcade game however. Sega have taken a leaf out of Namco's home conversion book and have added in many features to VF4 for Playstation 2 owners beside the arcade game itself. The first addition is the training mode where beginners can learn the basics of the game while experts can fine turn their skills to perfection. AM2 have also included an original mode which, as Sega have stated, is basically and "A.I. mode" that can be enjoyable for those with little skill with action games. Sega are also including the grade system, which unlocks a few hundred popular items from the arcade version, and are reconstructing these elements on the PS2, using the memory card.

As you can tell from the surrounding screenshots Virtua Fighter 4 is simply gorgeous, and yes, according to those who have seen early builds, pretty much arcade perfect. With snowflakes falling and birds flying around the levels the detail is superb. The levels are set in a variety of areas from the classic palm shaded beach (island) to ancient Greek ruins and even an aquarium full of fish.

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Quick, get some aspirin.
Don't think that Sega will have everything to themselves however. Namco are already hard at work on Tekken 4 as well as Soul Calibur 2, both of which should be released around the same time as Vritua Fighter 4 in the arcades. AM2 love this game series dearly and they won't be rushing the title to the arcades, or to the homes of gamers. In fact they aren't even rushing it in time for Christmas with a Japanese release date of January 31, 2002. One thing is certain though; Virtua Fighter 4 will be worth the wait. To think that there is almost 6 months of development time prior to a PAL release is astounding, especially considering the detail already offered here.