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 internet functionality and persistent character customization in Japanese arcades.
Along with adding two new fighters to the roster (monk Lei-Fei and security guard Vanessa Lewis), the game expands on the predecessor's evasion mechanics (removing the dedicated Evade button while having mis-timed dodges leaving the fighter vulnerable) and stage layouts (reverting back to flat, squared arenas of different sizes while 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 (the "Evolution" and "Final Tuned" updates), 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 (for the Japanese version only).
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. Along with normal game modes and an advanced training mode (which provide gameplay tips and recommended character combos), the game also emulates the character customization and stat-tracking of the Japanese arcade version (while adding a "Kumite" mode that emulates being challenged by an endless stream of fake players). 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, adding a new single-player campaign (known as "Quest Mode") where players fight to become the highest-ranked of numerous fictional arcades.
- Lei-Fei (Monk from China, fights with Shaolin kung fu)
- Vanessa Lewis (Security guard with an unknown origin, fights with both vale tudo and muay thai, though this was later changed to strictly vale tudo in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution)
- Brad Burns (Kickboxer from Italy, fights with muay thai, added in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution)
- Goh Hinogami (Assassin from Japan, fights with judo, added in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution)
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)