TGS 2001 Fall: First look: Virtua Fighter 4

Yu Suzuki demonstrates AM2's arcade brawler on the PlayStation 2.

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Famed game developer Yu Suzuki took to the stage in Sega's booth today to demo Virtua Fighter 4, the latest fighter to come from his acclaimed development team, Sega AM2. Developed on Sega's Naomi 2 arcade hardware, the game will be the first Sega arcade fighter to be brought to the PlayStation 2. As announced earlier this year, it appears VF4 will be exclusive to Sony's console.

Following a short movie that gave a brief overview of the series and a look at the PS2 version's modes, Suzuki gave the audience a taste of how the PS2 version of the game will improve on its arcade counterpart by showing off its front-end menus. VF4 for the PS2 will feature arcade, versus, survival, training, AI system, character edit, and replay modes. The arcade, versus, survival, and training are all fairly self-explanatory. The AI system mode allows players to develop their own character by teaching it moves. Once they've developed it enough, they can sit back and watch it duel other fighters.

While the home version of the game will not feature support for the VF Net cards players buy to track their stats in the arcades in Japan, it looks as though it will be possible get some of the extra items players can use to decorate their character with in the character edit mode, which will allow players to customize their characters' look with sunglasses, earrings, and other trinkets. Of the modes shown, the training mode was especially impressive due to the number of training options--in addition to practicing the standard moves, players will be able to brush up on their timing and combos with in-depth multipart tutorials that can even be slowed down to allow them to perfect their timing for combos, reversals, and ring movement.

After going through the PS2 extras, Suzuki fired up a build of the PS2 version and invited a member of the audience to take it for a spin. The demo featured VF staple Jacky and newcomer Vanessa Lewis in the underground cave level. While still early, the game looked fairly faithful to the arcade version. Some background and lighting elements weren't quite right, but since the game is still a ways off from release, we won't be too harsh on the graphics. The character models look fairly close to their arcade counterparts, although they're not quite as developed yet. One area that is already quite impressive is the game's frame rate. During the demo, it appeared that the game was already moving at a solid 60 frames per second and retained the sense of speed from the arcade version. Make no mistake, in spite of some rough spots, the game certainly looks like it's on the right track for its PS2 debut.

The biggest hurdle for the game will likely be direct comparisons between the arcade and home versions. While the PS2 version was only shown at Suzuki's presentation and was not playable on the show floor, Sega had a number of arcade VF4 machines in its booth promoting the game and VF Net. Looking at the level of graphical quality and clarity of the arcade version, it's going to be interesting to see how close to arcade perfection AM2 will be able to get the PS2 version.

Virtua Fighter 4 will be released for the PS2 in Japan on January 31, 2002. No official date has been set for the US release.

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