Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution impressions

We check out the latest installment in Sega's arcade fighting series.

We recently had a chance to spend some time with the latest arcade version of Virtua Fighter 4, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, which has hit arcades in Japan. Unlike the revised versions of the earlier games in the Virtua Fighter series, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution offers makes a number of significant changes and additions to Virtua Fighter 4. While the B and C versions of Virtua Fighter 4 just offered tweaks to the game's fighting system, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution does some serious work to the game. Our time with the game left us mostly satisfied, although some of the changes made to our favorite characters left us a bit uncomfortable.

The most obvious additions are the two new characters, Brad Burns and Goh Hinogami. Brad is a Muay Thai kickboxer with a style that makes him look like he could be a Backstreet Boy. Fellow newcomer Goh, a judo fighter, doesn't look quite as disturbing, although he does look a bit insane. The two new additions bring the game's roster of characters up to 15, and they may also impact the magnetic card system developer AM2 implemented in the arcade game. From the looks of things, Japanese players will have to invest in a new card in order to properly store data on the new characters.

The next serious change Evolution makes can be found in its graphics. In a rather surprising move, AM2 has revisited Virtua Fighter 4 and freshened the game's graphics. The character models for the fighters have been tightened up, and many of the original levels in the game have seen some serious additions and changes. In some cases, Brad and Goh outshine the original cast with highly detailed outfits and moving clothing. However, the existing cast has been updated to ensure they still look cool. In terms of the changes and additions made to the original stages, you'll find that a little bit more of everything has been included. You'll see more lighting on Jacky's roof and Jeffrey's beach stages, which is now set at sunset. A different layout and more snow in the castle stage are readily apparent as well. The aquarium stage appears to be under repairs and now includes scaffolding around the fighting arena, which makes it a little difficult to watch the sea life swim by. You'll even see that Lau's Great Wall stage is being rained on. The new graphical additions add some visual variety to keep things interesting as you work your way through all the fighters.

In terms of gameplay, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution feels like a very different game thanks to the nips, tucks, and additions that it makes. As with each new incarnation of the series there's quite a bit to relearn and master. While the challenge of familiarizing yourself with the fighting system is cool, some players may have issues with the changes that have been made to their favorite characters. Some characters have gained moves, while others have lost them. Another change made by Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution is the addition of a mission mode that crops up during the single-player game. From the looks of things, the mode will provide you with mission goals that you'll have to satisfy. Clearing challenges in the mission mode also unlocks new swag for your character that you can wear if you activate your magnetic card using a cell phone or the Web.

Judging from what we've seen so far, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution is is a pleasant surprise from AM2, which doesn't usually offer such meaty upgrades to its games. In some ways, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution feels like a new game, as it'll be a major challenge to master Brad and Goh and learn how to use the returning characters who have changed a lot, such as Aoi. We expect Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution to hit US arcades sometime in the future. At the moment, there's no word on when or if the game will come to a console.

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