Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution
In recent years fighting games have taken a back seat to more popular genres like first-person shooters and horror action games, and for good reason too'fighting games for the past few years have been weak imitations of the same old game repackaged over and over again with new faces and weak plots. Fortunately, the Virtua Fighter franchise has long stood apart from the crowd and Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution once more takes a few steps from the pack, showing that fighting games can still be original, fun and vastly replayable.
Evolution isn't a huge leap from the previous editions of the game, but the addition of a few new characters and the inclusion of everything that made past versions so fun, makes this game the ultimate in Virtua Fighting. Better still, Sega and Sony made the wise decision to release Evolution as a Greatest Hit from the get go, meaning you can pick up this fantastic fighter for $19.95.
Like all Virtua Fighter games, Evolution relies on tapping the D-pad to move your character around, something that takes a little bit of getting used to. But once you master the basics of Virtua Fighting, you'll find that the levels of intricacy included in the game are vastly superior to any other fighter out there.
While you can play the game in Arcade and versus mode, the most enjoyable way to go through Evolution is in Quest mode. In Quest you play a person trying to become a Virtua Fighter Arcade champion, fighting your way through a ton of different arcades in a city to become the top dog. To play a tournament in a given arcade you have to first meet their qualifications by doing thinks like winning so many rounds or remaining undefeated for a given period of time. Once you enter a tournament you can't lose against a single player if you expect to take the cup. Win a tournament and you get to go on to the next arcade. You also end up winning cash and unlocking secrets like player movies or screen savers. You can use the cash to buy items that modify the look of your character.
What I found most enjoyable about Quest mode and the game in general is the myriad of AIs used to control your opponents. Not only are there a huge variety of skill levels represented, but each player has their own style of playing. Keep in mind that there quite a few more players in the games than characters. So what you are left with is a feeling that you are actually playing against a human being who learns from their mistakes and, depending on how good they are, adjusts to the way you play. This rids Virtua of the biggest problem most fighting games have, making single player play as fun as taking on a friend in the game.
On top of the 13 characters from the previous version of the game, Evolution comes with two more: Brad Burns and Goh Hinogami. Burns' kickboxing style and Hinogami's judo add a much-needed bit of backstreet thugery to the typically artistic fighting style of the games original characters.
The graphics and sounds are still beautiful, though if you're up for some low-res nostalgia you can play the game in original Virtua Fighter mode circa 1993. Man, have graphics and sound improved in ten years.
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution succeeds as a fighting game in so many ways it nearly redefines what makes this genre so much fun. No longer do you have to rely on your buddies to have a good time with a fighter, and finally technique and strategy count more than button mashing. Evolution is just that'the beginning of something new and wonderful in the world of fighting games. And all for under $20.