A lovely present from Sega. Released for just $20 in the States, you get a tweaked-up version of VF4, a great game in its own right, with two new fighters, improved anti-aliasing, faster load times, many new and altered stages, and a vast and ingenious quest mode that delivers an unbeatable single-player experience, as far as fighting games go. Oh yeah, and you can play all the characters and stages in original flatshaded super-low-poly VF1 style, though why you'd really want to do that for more than a few minutes out of nostalgia is beyond me.
Two things disappointed me at first: you can't turn off the silly colored lighting flashes when people get hit, as you could in the original VF4, and VF4's curious "AI" mode has been removed completely. Messing with my little AI trainee's mind and watching them learn and grow as fighters was the high point of VF4 for me: fighting-game voyeurism at its best. However, I can see how most VF fans wouldn't have been too interested in it, and it's true that the AI's save files got way too big (600K a pop), so I guess its removal is understandable. And of course it's not like I can't just load up VF4 if I want to go back to it.
Another thing I'm not a huge fan of here is that character records are all tied in to a single save file on only one memory card slot: two per character, and if you want more than that, well you'll just have to remove your memory card and stick in a different one. There's gotta be a better way they can handle that.
So let's talk about the quest mode. I really liked the "Kumite" quest mode in VF4 where you play against a pretty much endless succession of unique AI opponents, gradually going up in rank and gaining items with which to customize your fighter as you win matches. However, it's true that ranking up could be very frustrating at high levels, as losing a single match could undue hours of strenuous battles, and that just going for rank again and again and again may get a bit dull eventually (I didn't play it long enough for that to happen, thank goodness: I'd just leave my AI fighting overnight and pause to watch them whenever I happened to be going past the screen). Well, Evolution's quest mode gives you many, many more things to do. So many that just deciding where to start can be a fairly daunting task for the Evolution newb.
What things? Well, this time instead of just an endless succession of random fighters, you choose various "arcades" located around the city (Tokyo, I think). Each "arcade" is home to a bunch of VF4:Evo players, each of which has their own character and fighting style. Arcades have tournaments, but before the locals will let you sign up for them you'll have to prove your worth by fighting/winning a certain number of times. While you're working on that, you can also take on little "Quest" challenges, such as throwing your opponent a certain number of times, winning five times in a row, or beating a certain character twice. These really add spice and variety to the huge amount of battling you'll be doing to earn R-E-S-P-E-C-T among the virtual arcade elite. The tournaments, of course, are incredibly tense experiences, and winning a tourney gives you a real sense of "I kick ASS!" There are also larger all-city contests where the creme-de-la-creme of the little virtual VF4:Evo world get together for massive bracketed beat-downs.
All the while you're earning money and unlocking various prizes with which to pimp out your character. I've only just started wading through the ranks in the second arcade and already I've got my Brad Burns (one of the rather unfortunately Tekken-ish-looking but very nicely-playing new characters, with some neat K-1 moves) a massive golden mohawk, pretty much the epitome of style as far as I'm concerned. What with quests and tournaments and all-city events being announced and ranking up and winning prizes there's always multiple things going on around you in this little simulated arcade scene, creating a real sense of atmosphere--quite amazing considering that they make absolutely no attempt to render the action inside these arcades: you just see the location on the city map and then a static image of the building's facade. Maybe next time around they'll have a little picture of the scrawny, bleary-eyed 12-year-old whose Shun just whupped you for the third straight time, that would be nice. But for now this is quite, quite satisfying, and at the selling price has to be considered a public service by Sega USA. Good work, folks, and give those AM2 people a big pat on the back if you stop by Tokyo.
Remember how I mentioned that "Oh yeah, and you can play all the characters and stages in original flatshaded super-low-poly VF1 style, though why you'd really want to do that for more than a few minutes out of nostalgia is beyond me"? Well, launched from Options - Special or something like that, this is actually what was a separate, limited edition release in Japan (and a pre-order bonus disc in Europe), Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary, a combination of VF4:E's characters and move lists with VF1's style and rules. : ooo It is super smooth and removes things the VF series had acquired that I really didn't like: gone are side-stepping (VF3), hit flash FX (mandatory from VF4:E on), and ground juggles (VF4). : D
10th Anniversary's limitation of two inflexible arcade mode gauntlets--you can pick between 10 rounds of the VF1 characters, or 10 rounds vs some VF1, then later VF characters, but they always appear in the same order each time--combined with an old-school VF difficulty curve make the game feel pretty unforgiving.
On Very Easy, for instance, I can usually steamroll through all 10 rounds, and even the "Bonus Round" against Dural at the very end.
But on Normal or even Very Hard or whatever it is, the first at least two fights are *still* me steamrolling--which is to say, they're extremely boring, and feel like a waste of time, not even a warm-up--followed pretty much immediately by a fight in which *I* am suddenly the one being steamrolled; I have not yet managed to find a good difficulty zone of even one fight at about parity with my (fairly low) skill level that I can really sink my teeth into and have some good battles.
And, because the order of opponents is fixed in each of the two gauntlets, at a given skill level setting you will hit the first--and quite possibly the last--meaningful fight, where the AI level crosses your own, against the same AI character each time; for instance, playing Lau in the "Evolution" gauntlet at Normal difficulty, I find rounds 1 through 5 (that's vs Akira, Shun, Lion, Aoi, and Lei-Fei, in that order) way too easy, basically a waste of those characters as opponents; then in round 6 I'm suddenly up against Vanessa, who is suddenly catching or blocking the vast majority of my attacks, and thus creams me.
Now, the old-school gameplay would be pumping (now virtual) quarters into Vanessa until I learn whatever trick I need to beat her--then repeat the process against the next opponent, Brad, who will probably feel completely unbeatable by any normal means, at least at first.
And that's how it was in the old days. But it's much less appealing to me than just being able to play a variety of opponents at a reasonably challenging level. So, I find myself inclined to ditch 10ths two mean gauntlets for the grayer seas of Kumite / Quest Mode / Special Sparring in the more modern VF games.
Also, I'll admit that, while I do not like newfangled VF things like dodge/evade and ground juggles, they do give the games that have them a wild, loose, flowing that 10th and VF2 do not have--these "old" VF games feel unforgiving and smothering by comparison.
Forgot to mention, while the life meters in 10th Anniversary are the old-timey green and red of the early games, someone added in a new, very rapidly flashing yellow effect when life is lost. It's pretty awful, and my photosensitivity just hates it. If I'm in the right zone I can pretty much ignore it, up there at the top corners of the screen, but sometimes I can't seem to stop seeing it.
At least it's so fast that it seems to be near the right frequency for a pair of polarized, glare-resistant sunglasses to minimize. BP
These sunglasses are also pretty good against Evo's hit flash FX, and the little flash that happens when a round win marker lights up. So, maybe I'll just play Quest Mode. %_%
If you go to the city stadium in VF4:Evo's Quest mode, you find an "Underground fight arena" hosting high-rank tournaments (I felt a little outclassed as a newbie 10th kyu, but they let me in--and it doesn't track wins or anything here, it's off the grid man) with weird rules, like walls or falls doing more damage, or fights being a single, gruelingly long round--those didn't do much for me, but I did find the "Hyper Action Battle" mode fun: in this tournament, you can cancel pretty near any move into another, meaning just about anything can combo; it even adds a big fancy combo counter to each side of the screen, and you just go HAM on each other; I wouldn't want to fight that way normally because you can kinda just spam launchers and dangerous moves, canceling them into each other or whatever, but it is wacky fun and a very different way to experience VF!:
What's interesting is the battles in those tournaments are first-to-three rounds--like most fights in Kumite in 4, and Quest in 5--but regular fights, and even individual arcade tournaments in Evo's Quest mode are only first-to-two, which still feels way too fast.
The VF series has some quite good to even great video game music--but not so much VF4:Evolution. Some of it is just grindingly dull, but the track that's particularly aggravating me so far is the one for the now under-construction underwater observation room, where they're playing with stereo and cutting out one stereo channel at certain times, making it feel like my headphones are malfunctioning. UGH.
Also, the colors in a lot of the old stages have been amplified/altered/boosted to try to give them moody or atmospheric lighting effects; in some like Shrine this worked well and gives the stage more depth and definition--but in more of them, it feels overdone, and puts a weird dark or colored cast over the whole area; for those stages, it's refreshing to go back to their lighter, simpler VF4 lighting.
In Quest, you can buy colored items like different hair colors or even eye colors--but then, AFTER PURCHASING, these tell you they're limited to 50 uses (fights, I think). !! Grr. And they aren't items you can equip in the editor, they just go on and stay until they wear off...except that when I bought an eye color one, my purchased hair color disappeared (!!)...and the eye color didn't even show up. Rip. Off.
Also, you can buy the low-poly "VF1 model" versions of characters pretty cheaply in the Quest store--but the description there says they only work in Arcade and VS modes. So...you couldn't use it in Quest? I've been too chicken to risk my 3000 moneys to see yet.
Evo's Quest is pretty much halfway between 4's Kumite and 5's Quest (except for the weirdness of fights only being 2 rounds to win): once you enter an arcade, you just fight and fight, like Kumite; but you can switch arcades to fight different ranges of enemy ranks, and they're much different per arcade than in 5, where each arcade actually has AIs of most ranks in it, despite some calling themselves Beginner or Elite. But in Evo, you can't pick any arcade off the bat like you can in 5 (you have to fight in it until you meet a certain criterion, like # of wins, or completion %, at which point you get an arcade-wide tournament, where you have to place--at least for the first one--in the top 3, or try it again), and you can't pick from 3 opponents; like Kumite, you just go in blind. But in 5, each arcade seems to have 80 (or thereabouts) opponents, whereas in Evo it can vary: the first arcade has only 22 AIs in it, but the second arcade as somewhere around 36.
Evo's Quest mode also throws "Missions" at you: just challenges to do certain things you would probably do anyway, eventually, like beating a certain character x times, or evading x times; you can see 3 of these at once per arcade, and you pick one to have active; completing it gives you some money. ... I find these annoying (and in other games with similar things, like the PS3 version of 3rd Strike--but you can turn those off). Don't tell me how to fight. : P They did not make a return in 5. ; )
I think this is my favorite Jacky! In earlier VFs he felt stiff to me, and in later ones he felt awkward (5) or too on-rails (FS); here he just feels nice and effective and reactive, with loads of good, intuitive striking options. : )
Also good to learn you do unlock longer, first-to-three battles--the first-to-two (ie the winner is the first two win two rounds) just feel too quick, without enough time for adjustments and come-backs.
And I had no idea there were more "Underground fighting arena" battle types to unlock; Seesaw Game is a pretty cool mode, how it can go back and forth...although I suppose if you had two pretty even opponents you'd end up with a lot of time-outs. And man I forgot how crazy high level the AIs in the arena are--good thing the battles are off the record so my undefeated record remained intact after Destroyer womped me. ; D (Sentinel-ranked "Destroyer" was a really cool looking Vanessa!)
Darn that 15 match win streak quest--and that it resets if you go to the same arcade's tournament. : P Anyway Jacky is super-fun to play in VF4:E, and maybe it's telling that my toughest opposition has been other Jackys. ; )
You know, upon reflection I think I'll stop pursuing quests for their own sake: mostly they aren't that fun and not really why I play Virtua Fighter in the first place, don't you know. Some get downright grindy! : o I did want the dough to get that nifty Silver color though so I guess there was that. Oh temptation!
Anyway so this was a full beefy session of me grinding out quests in Quest mode of Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution with that Muay Thai miscreant of flying knee mayhem, Brad "The Burn" Burns, from 3rd dan rank! On PS2, of course.
dfK did huge work in this outing! The AI--at least at this middling rank--seems to have a blind spot to it a lot of the time--particularly as they keep trying to crouch--and you can just hit them with it repeatedly!
And then the dfP little low uppercut, and fP elbow follow-up, or whatever they are--you can often loop those repeatedly for really fast chunks of big damage.
* Turns out a "guaranteed throw situation" is just throwing the opponent after they've whiffed (or been blocked in) a big move and are still recovering their balance
***** For one quest, I needed 80% completion, was already at 95.7% completion for the arcade! So it completed automatically after round 1 of the first fight after taking it. ; )
****** Tanktop (black) is an interesting item since it shows that in VF4:E an item can totally replace a major section of the regular costume--raises the potential for further transformative costume items! Too bad it doesn't adopt the (silver) color. : P This one might not be bad with black shorts if I had them, though.
So, I've reached Club Sega Plant Area, the fourth virtual arcade with kick boxer Brad Burns in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution's "Quest" mode on PS2, and now it's saying it won't let me get to the tournament to unlock the next arcade until I complete four quests--and half of the ones it shows me are things I don't want to do, combat evasions or complicated (or high damage, anyway) combos. ; P Why's the game gotta tell me how to fight?
One was *not* doing evasions, which was fine and dandy. ; ) The other was a "quest" to fight four Kage-Maru AIs of 4th dan rank or higher--and then the game didn't give me an AI meeting that description until I'd fought for about an hour and a half. ; P
Just one more high rank Kage to find now, but man, what a way to make a game frustrating. I just hope completing that one unlocks some *less* annoying "quest," because if I have to do those combat evasion or combo ones to get out of this arcade and on to the next...it's not gonna happen, I'll just stick with VF5's Quest mode, which gives you free access to all the virtual arcades from the start, and doesn't have silly little "quests" with their arbitrary "fight this way" rules. ; PPP I don't play fighting games to get told what buttons I have to hit, maaaaan.
Also, the music in a lot of these reworked stages kind of blows. And something like only 1 out of 4 of the item matches I got gave me an actual item, instead of a meager amount of in-game money--not that there's anything that seems worth buying in the customization "shop," anyway. And the one item was a tattoo. ; PPP
The fighting itself was mostly fine--felt good about some of the Brad moves I had going, and right at the end I finally went into Free Training and found a higher damage throw to do (df, df GP), so that'll be useful. Went up three dan ranks, too! To what, 6th dan or something. The ranking up has been going surprisingly quickly, but I suppose it'll slow down if I get stuck in this artcade for much longer, since it only has AIs up to 7th dan. (In fact, it looks like even here it slowed down significantly since I got to 6th dan.)
Tried doing some leaping attacks (up-forward punch) on downed opponents, but those mostly didn't work because there's a significant delay in getting them off in this game--they're much faster in VF5.
Unlocked a surprisingly number of wallpapers in this session, so that was kind of neat.
0:00 - start 0:56 - story 1:36 - Status 5:02 - fighting in Sega World West 20:27 - Short Hair! 31:09 - Beginner's Cup (Sega World West tournament) 37:10 - fighting in Club Sega Bay Area 47:39 - "Blue"! 1:00:10 - Orange! 1:07:57 - wrap-up & what's next!
I like Sarah in VF4:E. = o She doesn't feel stiff like she did in 4, and compared to 5 she maybe feels like she's got a bit more of a ground game outside of her "Flamingo" stance--which is good because here even like 10th kyu AI were crouch jabbing me out of my silly Flamingo kick spam to punch spam, which the AI in 5 didn't figure out until like 9th dan.
Playing Jacky Bryant in Quest mode of Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution on PS2, on Hard (or whatever it's called--the harder one) difficulty, from 5th dan rank!
0:00 - Training--a better Jacky throw? 13:50 - Club Sega Plant Area: 4th dan+ Jeffry quest 32:10 - promoted to 6th dan! 53:55 - Quests--looking up "Evading throw escapes" 1:01:35 - "No guarding" quest 'p' 1'21"09 - Counter hit quest 1:35:15 - Wrap-up & what's next!
1'11"56 & 1'12"15 - 3rd dan Kage "Masked Man," near death, picks me up and drops me exactly on the edge of the ring, where my wake-up animation causes me to flop out for a Ring Out--two rounds in a row!! 1'13"02 - Went from 1/2 to 0/2 completion on the "No guarding" quest after getting KOed : ooo---oh man I hadn't even realized until I'm typing this up the next day that a key part of the Quest "order" "Win 2 matches on a row without guarding" was "in a row." In a row??? Jeeeeeeez I hate quests.
I'd been doing Jacky's default neutral stick position (or forward, but he has no forward throw so it would use neutral), Guard+Punch throw, but he does have much more damaging throws; nGP does 25 damage, but down-forward does eh 42 or something; he's also got double-movement-input throws: forward, forward; forward, back; down-forward, down-forward; fb I think did 55, and dfdf did 60, or something. It seemed like a lot of damage. In Evo though, as opposed to VF5, those double-input motions feel like they really make throw take too long to come out, and I had trouble landing them in a lot of situations, so I should probably concentrate on just getting used to doing his dfGP.
At one point I was trying to remember if I'd gone back and played Jacky in VF5. I didn't. And the system throw change I was trying to remember was this change between 4 (and Evo?) and 5, I think:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtua_Fighter_5#Gameplay - "Throw speed has been reduced, from 8 frames to 12 frames. In addition, "Instant", or 0-frame throws re-appear from Virtua Fighter 3 in guaranteed throw situations (such as during an evade)."
So they made throws take longer to execute, in 5. But they're also waaaaay easier to land on AIs in 5's Quest mode than they are in 4's. Like, they're just kind of broken in 5 and there isn't much reason to do anything else *except* use your strongest throw at almost all times, it's just way safer than trying punches and kicks, at least once you get to about 9th dan; maybe if you're a wiz with combos there might be some reason to do those, but eh well I guess I'm not, and throws work way better. It's ridiculous; I'm not really good at VF and I'm playing 6 characters at once in VF5's Quest mode and I'm beating named rank AIs with throws--with, like, Sarah and Pai. ; )
So I'm realizing 5's Quest mode, at least, is kind of broken, because throws are too easy there. Doesn't seem to be the case at all in 4--fortunately...I guess. ; )
(https://forums.shoryuken.com/t/virtua-fighter-5-final-showdown-console-thread/132425/162 - User "EmX" says VF5FS goes back to VF4-style throw system. That could help explain why throws were re-animated between 5 and FS. This makes me think it's quite possible that FS fixed throws being too easy vs the AI; doesn't particularly matter if they did through because in FS, *strikes* are broken vs the AI: you can just spam and break down the toughest AI in FS with fairly simple punch or kick moves.)
Well, I was worried but I did finally get through the "complete 4 quests" requirement to get to the tournament for Club Sega Plant Area; man that "win two matches in a row without blocking" quest was a real pain, though! And kind of ruined my ability to block for about three matches afterward. ; P UGHHH. But at least I didn't have to try the evade quests, especially that one about doing evade throw escape buffering (apparently a big way smart people can escape throws is to do an evade move, which won't dodge a throw, but to cover that angle you input different throw movement commands while evading. : o Oh man I hope I never ever ever have to do that as a quest. Or for any reason whatsoever.) Sigh. Just let me fight the AIs how I want, doggonit!
(I'm especially a little worried about this sort of thing because what with throws looking quite likely to have kind of broken VF5's Quest mode--okay I'm only max of Warrior rank there but I've beaten near top rank AIs with my throw nonsense--it's looking ever more like at some point I'll just get tired of throw dominance and drop 5, leaving me with 3tb's arcade mode--which is amazing as far as I can tell so far--and 4e's Quest mode...which seems good up to now EXCEPT for the ding-dong-danged quests. I mean, I guess there's also 4e's Arcade mode, or maybe just messing around in Quest mode's funky Fight Club.)
Okay well since I broke VF5's Quest mode, here I am concentrating on Jacky Bryant in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution's Quest mode. Hopefully it won't break and neither will I and it'll just be a good time forever! : D Anyway here I go, my Jacky just got to 6th dan last time and opened up the tournament to get out of Club Sega Plant Area, which was a pain because it required completing four quests, and I had to for instance win two fights in a row without blocking ; P.
Got off to a slow start and eh some demotion matches. Would I be able to win through???
0:00 - start 0:50 - Battle on the EDGE (Club Sega Plant Area) 12:35 - Combo Contest (Underground Fighting Arena) 19:05 - Sega Arena Midtown 50:11 - demotion match 'o' 1:08:47 - demotion match -o- 1:29:27 - promoted to 7th dan! 1:51:04 - promoted to 8th dan 1:59:34 - wrap-up & what's next!
It was a good thing I got promoted because right after that I ran into 6th dan Brad "blacksheep," who I couldn't beat. : oo But because only matches against those of your own rank affect your movement toward promotion or demotion, facing 6th dan blacksheep as a 7th dan meant it didn't matter he beat me three matches in row--aside from pride and all that of course. : P
Sega Arena Midtown was intense for promotion/demotion for me because it seems to have a ton of 6th and 7th dan opponents, and that was my own exact level range. Took me just six wins to go from 7th to 8th dan! Four of those being against 7th dan AIs; if I had lost to one that probably would have made it require one more win against a 7th dan in order to get promoted. Kind of surprised it only takes four straight rank-matched wins at 7th dan!
That was as opposed to my blowing a lot of 6th dan matches when I was 6th dan, and so ping-ponging up and down in the promotion/demotion rollercoaster there for a while. : P Sheesh! I felt like I was getting back to being a bit better of a Jacky toward the end of the session, but there's still basic stuff I have to work out, like how to follow up certain hits (back+P+P comes to mind : P--oh and just P+P+P : ppp...heck and K,K or f,f+K), when to do the backflip, when to try punches against certain characters, and how some cool-looking moves actually come out. ; ) How much longer will I be able to put off doing Jacky's 4e command training? : P Well this playing one Quest character instead of 6-8 thing will be interesting, in my magical optimistic mind it will just miraculously imbue me with deep Jacky insight and intuition and everything will just flow. ; ) But eh it'll probably take work or something. : P
Oh and I found that while dfG+P is a better damage throw than the regular (f)G+P (and the high damage df,dfG+P works well after blocking Akira), you can follow up the regular throw with Jacky's df+K ground attack pretty reliably, so in the end it works out to about the same damage as the df throw.
The "Combo Contest" fight club mode I unlocked seems like the most normal one so far. And had the least high-ranked opponents, I think! Hm but I dunno if these Event Square "Underground fighting arena" tournaments scale at all to your own rank; kind of seems like they don't, which would mean that it wouldn't really last as just an alternative to Arcade mode if I get stuck on sum dumb quest requirement in the main Quest mode or something.
Oh huh I should just rename my Jacky to "smbhax 2000" so people can tell which one I am easier. : P