You say you want an evolution...
As a short, skinny, rakishly handsome kid who all the girls secretly wanted but only told their diaries, I constantly had to be on the lookout for dumber, uglier kids who wanted to ruin my good looks and pummel my huge brain to the point that I would become an ugly simian like themselves.
So, I took martial arts, lots of martial arts. Some seemed really practical. For example, a sensei at one Karate studio told me the best weapon to learn was the tonfa, as it was easily taken away from cops. His favorite weapon was the hatchet and he kept it on himself at all times.
Others were fun but useless, like the Shao Lin Gung Fu I took from a crackhead limo driver. He would dress up in pads and we would beat the crap out of him all day while perfecting our í¢â‚¬Å“Silk Windí¢â‚¬? techniques and fatal í¢â‚¬Å“Fat Dragon Sits Downí¢â‚¬? maneuvers.
Ií¢â‚¬â„¢ve also played a lot of fighting games, and I have to say Segaí¢â‚¬â„¢s new Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution is even more fun than Gung Fu taught by a crackhead limo driver, and as deep and demanding as Jujitsu.
Virtua Fighter 4, pre-evolution, placed the emphasis on adaptation. Sure, there are tough special moves and ultra-damaging combos, but every combo in the game can be eluded and every move can be dodged or reversed. The key to VF 4 is learning, and as a result, the game is constantly changing. You adapt to your opponent, they adapt to your adaptation, and so on. This was a refreshing change of pace from the crop of bland 3D fighters and the abundance of repetitive 2D fighters, like Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, where all that was required to create a nearly insurmountable poo-storm was Dr. Doom, Mega Man, Cable and some button-mashing.
So VF 4 was a great game. However, VF 4: Evolution builds upon its predecessor by adding a great single-player element, the best Training mode ever, and a bargain price tag.
For the most part, this is just an upgrade to VF 4. The graphics have improved a little thanks to smoother anti-aliasing and the gameplay is largely the same, which is a good thing. Two new fighters also make an appearance: Brad the kickboxer and Goh the judo slob. Neither are particularly interesting.
Where the game really shines is in its two new modes: Training Mode and Quest Mode. These work together perfectly to make VF4: Evolution the best VF4 to date, and the most solid, playable hand-to-hand fighter on the market.
Training Mode contains what you would expect, but also contains a walkthrough of all the VF 4 basics. You'll learn every single move and technique for each character. In other games, the ubiquitous moves are the least valuable; in VF 4, they are invaluable. Countering and exploiting your opponent's weaknesses is the name of the game, and the Training mode supplies you with all the tools you'll need to exploit pretty much anyone's soft spot.
It is in the Training Mode that you really get a taste of what separates the VF series from the rest of the pack, and what it means to play VF 4 as opposed to Tekken, for example, which is a much simpler game.
Training Mode's usefulness also ties in with the new Quest Mode, which expands upon the Kumite mode in VF 4. You essentially become a virtual-fighting gamer and travel around to various arcades to defeat different opponents under occasionally strange conditions. If you win, you unlock neat bonuses, most of which are cosmetic, but some of which are pretty outstanding. However, if you lose, you can go back and browse the Training mode for moves or ideas that'll help you defeat an opponent who seems to have your number.
This is possible because most of your opponents in Quest Mode have distinctive styles. Their responses have patterns that you can learn and exploit to your advantage, sort of like a human player. The AI in VF 4 was no slouch, and that excellence is upheld in Evolution.
And amazingly, this all comes at the ridiculously low price of 20 bucks, as VF 4: Evolution is technically sold as a "PS2 Greatest Hits' game. It almost feels bad dropping so little money on such a worthy game. Almost.
The main problem with Virtua Fighter has always been its relative inaccessibility, and VF 4: Evolution clearly represents an effort to introduce new gamers to the franchise. Those who already feel comfortable with VF 4 would probably prefer an online component as opposed to a realistic single-player game with a great training mode, and hopefully that is in the works.
But for all you woebegone Street Fighters and burned out Tekkeneers and general lamenters of the fighting game genre (as I am myself), not only has Sega brought you a game worthy of your attention and time, it has brought you a game that effectively teaches you how to enjoy its finest elements. So pick it up and start enjoying.