Virtua Fighter 4 is a 3D fighting game developed by Sega-AM2 and released by Sega for arcades (running their Dreamcast-based Sega NAOMI 2 hardware) on August 2001.
The fourth main installment of the Virtua Fighter series, Virtua Fighter 4 continues the trend of using the most powerful arcade hardware at the time for highly-detailed graphics. It also streamlines the series' gameplay mechanics while spearheading both internet functionality and persistent character costume customization in Japanese arcades.
Along with adding two new fighters to the roster (monk Lei-Fei and security guard Vanessa Lewis), the game revamps two game mechanics added in Virtua Fighter 3: evasion (by changing the dedicated Evade button to side-dashes and having mis-timed dodges leave the fighter vulnerable) and stage layouts (by reverting back to flat, squared arenas, now including those of different sizes, and improving on the use of walled stages).
The game is best known for introducing online connectivity to arcade games, allowing Japanese arcade operators to connect their machines to Sega's VF.NET servers. This is combined with dedicated card readers (reading special "VF4 Character Access Cards") and cellular phones (connecting through the i-mode service) to allow players to track their stats, customize the appearance of the character linked to the card (by earning items through completing and winning matches), and rank up against all other players nationwide. Players can also use VF.NET to browse information about arcades that support it (including their player rankings and current machine status).
Along with major game revisions (Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution and Virtua Fighter 4: Final Tuned), the game also received two ports for the PlayStation 2 (one based on the original and one based on the "Evolution" update).
Updates & Ports
Along with some minor arcade revisions (including separate versions for the GD-ROM upgrade), the game also included two major named updates: Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution (on August 2002) and Virtua Fighter 4: Final Tuned (exclusively in Japan on July 2004). Along with an updated roster (introducing kickboxer Brad Burns and assassin Goh Hinogami), these updates alter the movelists of each fighter, updates all stages (while adding new types of walled stages), and adds new character customization options. Final Tuned also adds a new single-player "Challenge Mode" (where players affect their progression by clearing special challenges) and adds the ability to assign a technique to a specific command input.
The game also received a port to the PlayStation 2 in Japan on January 31, 2002, in North America on March 17, 2002, and in Europe on May 10, 2002. It features an advanced training mode (which provide gameplay tips and recommended character combos), the inclusion of character customization and stat-tracking from the arcade version, an A.I. learning functionality (where players can create an A.I. opponent that matches their techniques by sparring with them), and a special single-player ranked mode called "Kumite" (which has players challenged by an endless amount of computer-controlled opponents, each with custom appearances and A.I., made to resemble being challenged in a Japanese arcade).
The Evolution version of the game also received a PlayStation 2 port in Japan on March 13, 2003, in Europe on June 30, 2003, and in North America on August 13, 2003. While it no longer includes an A.I. learning functionality, it revamps the "Kumite" mode into a fully-fledged campaign (known as "Quest" mode), where players rank up in numerous arcades in a fictional city, earn currency to purchase costume pieces, and attempt to win tournaments. This port was later digitally re-released for the PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network exclusively in Europe on February 22, 2012. A special version of this port, known as Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary, was included in the North American version of the game (and was released separately in Japan).
The only fighter to not make a return is Taka-Arashi, with the development team claiming that his large stature could not work with the game's engine.
- Akira Yuki (Martial arts teacher from Japan, fights with "Eight Extremities Fist" kung fu)
- Kage-Maru (Ninja from Japan, fights with jujutsu)
- Jacky Bryant (Indy car driver from the United States, fights with jeet kune do)
- Sarah Bryant (College student from the United States, fights with hybrid martial arts)
- Pai Chan (Movie star from Hong Kong, fights with "Lost Track Fist" kung fu)
- Lau Chan (Cook from China, fights with "Tiger-Swallow Fist" kung fu)
- Wolf Hawkfield (Professional wrestler from Canada, fights with professional wrestling)
- Jeffry McWild (Fisherman from Australia, fights with pancratium)
- Shun-Di (Herbal doctor from China, fights with "Drunken Fist" kung fu)
- Lion Rafale (College student from France, fights with "Praying Mantis Fist" kung fu)
- Aoi Umenokoji (College student from Japan, fights with aiki-jujutsu)
- Dural (Mysterious gynoid and the game's bonus boss using techniques from all other fighters, only playable as an unlockable in the PS2 versions)
Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary
To celebrate the series' 10th anniversary, Sega developed a special version of the PS2 version of Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution to make it resemble the original 1993 Virtua Fighter. It was included as a bonus add-on in the North American PS2 version of Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, while in Japan it was sold as a separate release disc (as Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary).
The Japanese version of the game was originally sold on November 28, 2003 and included a supplemental book (Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary: Memory of Decade) and interview DVD. This version was later re-released on February 8, 2007 as a pre-order bonus for the PlayStation 3 version of Virtua Fighter 5.
The gameplay is nearly identical to that from Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, with some differences:
- Each character uses a low-polygonal model, with those from the original Virtua Fighter nearly identical to their original appearance.
- All stages are identical to their original Virtua Fighter counterparts, and thus the game only uses one stage layout (with no walls). All music, as well as the in-game display, are also from the original Virtua Fighter.
- Only Arcade and Vs. modes are included. For Arcade, it includes two arcade progression routes, one based on the original Virtua Fighter route (Jacky, Jeffry, Sarah, Kage, Pai, Wolf, Lau, Akira) and one using all remaining characters in order of their first appearance (Akira, Lion, Shun, Aoi, Lei-Fei, Vanessa, Brad, Goh). The latter route uses the same stage and soundtrack progression as the former.
- The in-game credits list all games in their release order.