First ImpressionsVirtua Fighter 4

We play the arcade version of Sega's Virtua Fighter 4 and bring you our initial hands-on impressions.

TOKYO--Saturday, hundreds flocked to Ikebukuro GIGO, one of the largest Sega arcades in Tokyo, to witness the public location test of Virtua Fighter 4. The line stretched outside of the arcade, and there was a waiting time of more than an hour. GameSpot was on the arcade floor to bring you first impressions.

All the characters from Virtua Fighter 3--with the exception of Taka--are back once again. As reported previously, a new character has been added: a Shaolin monk named Lei-fei. The most obvious change in Virtua Fighter 4 is the absence of changes in elevation and height in the game's battle area, a feature that was introduced in Virtua Fighter 3. Though we've all been spoiled by the graphical achievements on the home console, looking back at Virtua Fighter 3, players will be convinced that Virtua Fighter 4 has made a great leap in terms of graphics. Advanced environmental effects are made possible by the high performance of the Naomi 2 board in the different stages, with such elements as falling snow and dried leaves, flocks of birds flying, and even helicopter search-lights moving about the field randomly. Other effects also include floor tiles being jarred loose as characters are abruptly struck down or piles of snow being moved as characters walk through them. The characters' animation is fluid, including smaller details like loose clothing flapping as they attack. The colors are vibrant , and there is a nice variety of environment and character costumes. Also, hits now have a flash effect, though it is not as pronounced as it is in the Tekken series. Certain throws or combos sometimes change the camera angle, zooming in closer on the characters and making it seem like the player is watching the move in a replay mode.

A limited number of the character data cards was available for purchase during the location test. Players put the card into a slot located at the right of the buttons on the arcade cabinet. Each battle is recorded onto the card, though attempting to remove it while it's writing could result in a loss of data. An identification number is located on the back of the card, and players can access their records via the i-Mode service for NTT DoCoMo cellular phones. With this feature, which is called VF.Net, users can also check out the latest news from the developer, search for arcade centers in Japan, and access a ranking mode, among other things.

Virtua Fighter 4 is scheduled for a summer release in Japan, and it's coming together very well. Expect more details on the arcade title in the future.

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