Tycho and I hit our local EBX this morning over at the Redmond mall. I picked up Virtua Fighter 4 and he grabbed Gunvalkyrie. We spent all afternoon playing VF4 and my official opinion of it is "Shit Damn!" This game is about as close to perfect as a fighting game can get. Like Tycho said, we are normally Tekken fans. We have been since Tekken 1 on the PSX. While our opinions differ on Tekken 4 (I think it's great and he is an idiot) we still consider ourselves fans of the series. On the other hand we never really got into the VF games. I mean sure we played VF1 just like everyone else but when they dropped two on us Tycho and I where knee deep is Samurai Showdown two. We could look over and see the VF2 machine sitting there looking all cool but nothing was gonna pull us away from the glory that was SS2. Then three came out and our local arcade decided they should charge a $1.00 to play it. Needless to say it didn't get much play. Rather than drop the price they decided to sell it and that was the last we ever saw of VF3. So we loaded up VF4 not really knowing what to expect. What we got was a fighting experience that totally blows everything else out of the water. We picked up the strategy guide along with the game and I have to say I highly recommend it. This game is fucking deep. You could spend weeks just trying to get good at one or two characters.
Like any other fighting game we messed around with all the players a bit then we each picked one that would be "our character." I assume this is a common practice among fighting game players. Sure you may eventually get to the point where you are proficient with any character but it is that first one you pick that will always be "your character" So when some guy on the street says "Hey, who do you play as in Tekken 3?" You can be all like "I play as Paul man." Anyway I decided on Pai Chan since I am a fan of small quick characters. Tycho picked Lei Fei since he is a fan of kicking my ass. Lei Fei is certainly the star of this show. His flashy Shaolin moves link together in ways that are truly amazing to watch. Fights in VF4 play out like well choreographed action sequences from some block buster martial arts flick staring that guy who did all those other movies. Evading, reversals, counters, deflecting, throws and throw escapes it's all there. As if the multiplayer aspects weren't enough VF4 has a single player mode called Kumite. This mode allows you to play through multiple computer controlled opponents as though you where fighting in a tournament. It keeps track of your win/loss record as well as your ranking and wins percentage. Not only that but certain characters you fight will have special items that you can use to customize your character like rings, glasses or toys.
As far as the visuals are concerned it looks damn nice. It suffers from a mild case of the jaggies like any other PS2 game but it doesn't detract from your enjoyment of the game. The backgrounds are all fantastic and environmental effects like moving snow and leaves are certainly a treat. I thought about how it might be cool to see it on another of the next generation systems but when I imagine playing it with the Game Cube or Xbox controllers my stomach turns. I think the PS2 is the right place for this title.
I am hesitant to compare it to Tekken 4 since my only experience with that game has been in the arcade. Once I have a chance to sit down with it at home with the strategy guide I'll get a better feeling for how they compare. There is no question though that it is far superior to other games like Dead or Alive 3 or Bloody Roar.
I would love to write more about it but I think I'll just go back and play it some more instead.