One might think it's just another part of a formerly successfull video game, nicely improved graphics, one or two new faces among the fighting crew and some complicated moves -motivation enough for a few hours of playing, but nothing special alltogether.
Honestly, I thought so too, in the beginning:
The first impression, the option menu, is kept very traditionally, menu points listed up at the left side of the screen, a monoton voice reading them aloud, supported me and my prejudieces.
However my attitude towards Virtua Fighter 4 changed drastically after getting a little deeper involved...
Arcade, Versus and Kumite
Next to the traditional modes Arcade, Versus etc. Virtua Fighter offers a new highly interesting option: Kumite
The way of creating a character serves probably best to describe the meaning of Kumite.
After choosing and naming your favourite character from the large pool of fighters, it is your turn to fight a huge number of opponents (whooo, who did expect this??).
Winning will be rewarded not only with highscorelists but also with new accesoire and outfit.
This funny little feature makes it easy for you to give the formerly rather steril charcter an individual touch and reminded much on the Gran Turismo principle of winning races in order to tune up your machine.
Among fighting games this feature is unique and adds very much to the motivation aspect!
Commands are executed by a simple three-button system, Kick, Punch and Guard, which makes it easy for even a novice to get familiar with the game in hardly any time.
Regarding the simplicity of control it is highly surprising that this fighting game offers a sheer unlimited list of different moves and combos to perform.
When choosing "training" on the main option screen, it is possible for you to learn all of your character's abilities step by step, starting off with simple punch-kick combinations and ending up in more than 7 hit combos.
Once you'll get deeper into gameplay, unlike in other fighting games, this training section really provides highly necessary help by improving your fighting style and knowledge of your character's special physical advantages.
Although button bashing is still a pretty effective way of winning and actually beating the game, Virtua Fighter 4, like all the other parts of the serie, emphazises on individual technique and perfect control.
This aspect is supported by an unique learning option which makes training not a boring have-to-do but a challenging and highly entertaining want-to-do.
"Ouvre l'oeuil, et le bon!"
Graphically speaking Virtua Fighter surely offers splendid, not overwhelming, but still, up-to-date visual enjoyment.
Character animation is smooth and highly realistic.
Very detailed costumes and facial expression as well as the individual way different characters behave on court - for example Lei Fei, a Shaolin monk, who remains absolutely motionless until he strikes a devastating blow - add very much to the gameplay and provide a clear, not only visual, destinction between the huge crowd of fighting candidates.
Background design is solid, yet makes clear that the game's emphazise lies upon realistic character animation, for there is absolutely nothing new about it.
Although the enviromental variety, ranging from ancient ruins to dark pits, is quite impressive, background areas count to Virtua Fighter 4's weaknesses rather than to its strong points.
"Could you PLEASE turn down the volume?!?"
One is being offered a similar impression when it comes to background music and sound effects.Music is neither especially memorable nor extraordinary different.
Since this "problem" is shared by so many other fighting games one could call Virtua Fighter 4's lack of audio innovation "very traditionally kept".
Sound effects appear quite realistic and suit perfectly to the rest of the game.
Still voice acting contains some weaknesses, like the lack of variation, or the sometimes pretty stupid outcries of very destinct characters.
In comparision to Tecmo's Dead or Alive 3 on Microsoft's X-freezer Virtua Fighter 4, surely loses ground in terms of graphics and sound effects, but these are not what Virtua Fighter is famous for.
The possibility of giving each fighter your persoanl note, not only by acquiering new outfits, but also by learning new moves and special techniques, make Virtua Fighter 4 unique among others.
Virtua Fighter 4 is at the same time a very entertaining game for novices and, sophisticatd in handling, the ideal game for more advanced players, who desperatley seek a new challenge on the current market.
So if you have much time to spend -far more time than you've ever spent playing a fighting game- go and get yourself a copy of Virtua Fighter 4, it will surely serve the purpose!