PS2 VF4 80% beta -- hands-on preview

Discussion in 'Console' started by feixaq, Jan 14, 2002.

  1. feixaq

    feixaq Well-Known Member

    This evening, Jason Cha and I had the opportunity to play an 80% complete beta version of VF4 for the Japanese PS2. I would like to thank the people that gave us the chance to check it out, but for now, I cannot mention any names due to confidentiality issues, so, if you happen to be reading this (you know who you are), a big THANK YOU for having us over! =)

    Rather than waste everybody's time by writing a vague and unsubstantial (excuse for a) preview, like certain game magazines do, I'll cut to the chase and focus on the stuff that matters to hardcore VFers. First, however, some background: Jason and I have both played the VF series since VF1 back in 1993, so yes, we are old-skool VFers. We've been playing VF4 since the arcade beta in August 2001, and just yesterday, Akira T., Nengli and I played for six hours straight at Sunnyvale Golfland, so I think I've a fairly good idea when it comes to comparing the gameplay/timing elements of Arcade vs. PS2 VF4.

    ---- GAMEPLAY ----
    PS2 VF4 is indeed ver.C. Sega stated this to the people who obtained the 80% beta, it's been mentioned on several newsgroups, and this would explain why Arcadia's blue book has been delayed for the second time (no point publishing a book that will be out of date in a month, so they opted to wait for ver.C instead)

    Timing-wise, gameplay is (AFAIK) identical to the arcade. Everything in the game felt "right" to me, and Jason and I had several good games going using Akira, Kage, Jacky, Vanessa, Lei Fei, and Lion. Lei's Crane d+K ~ Scorpion K ~ Scorpion PP+K ~ uf+K+G ~ df+K combo, for instance, was exactly the same as in the arcade.

    Unfortunately, we only had access to control pads in today's playtest, so I couldn't test float properties in some instances (e.g. Kage's TFT ~ Knee ~ d+P+K ~ Senbon Swipe ~ Kickflip against everyone up to Akira, or TFT ~ Knee ~ P ~ SwipePEK against heavies) because crouch dashing on dual shock controllers isn't exactly my strong suit.

    Bear in mind that some timing elements may have changed from ver.B to ver.C, so if there were any version discrepancies, it might have been intentional OR unintentional. I guess we won't know until arcade ver.C is released, but I doubt that will make its way Stateside. Plus, with only 1½ hours of playtesting the PS2 beta, we might have overlooked some glaring gameplay inconsistencies, so please don't come to me and gripe about how I lied if and when you get the final version!

    ----- VERSION C (80% BETA) COMMENTS -----
    (Many of these comments are in response to SummErs’ earlier post re: ver.C)
    - Akira's QCB+P is now throw counterable (not Px counterable though).
    - However, Akira's SDE is still not throw counterable in this 80% beta version. In controlled experiments, P or d+P beat out the throw attempt.
    - Akira's df+P+K (MC) can still be followed up with DJK (again, in this 80% beta version).
    - Forgot to test out deep bodycheck range and QCB+P ~ Dodge ~ DBC combo damage, unfortunately.
    - Didn't get the chance to test Pai. Sorry! =(
    - Jacky's elbow-backfist seemed the same to me. If blocked, Jacky is at a disadvantage, as per ver.B. Not sure if recovery has been slowed even further (we didn't test throw counterability of a blocked f+P,P).
    - Jacky's beatknuckle combo can still be executed in full even if beatknuckle is blocked.
    - Don't know if Jacky's new semicircular attack, Vanessa's new MT low throw, or Kage's new throw are for real; didn't know the commands for any of these, and didn't have the time to experiment. Bleh.
    - Kage's Jumonji PKK does not KD on normal hit. Unsure whether there's a KD opportunity on MC.
    - Kage's b,b+K+G no longer knocks down. This was the kicker that made Jason and I jump out of our seats, confirmed for us that PS2 VF4 is not ver.B, and pissed me off no end because I'm fond of using this as one of my okizeme tools (the others being b,f+K and uf+K+G).

    ----- GRAPHICS -----
    PS2 VF4 is definitely not arcade perfect, graphically-wise. (I brought along the TBZone Act 4 clips, which feature direct feed video, on a CD so I was able to make direct comparisons to the PS2 version.) I wasn’t expecting the conversion to be 100% from a graphics perspective, and really, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot to me because as far as gameplay is concerned, the conversion is awesome. Nonetheless, some graphical discrepancies are worth pointing out:

    Perhaps the most glaring issue, one that VFDC forumers have pointed out already, is that we saw no dynamic lighting for collision detections. No blue flashes on normal hits, no yellow flashes on major counters. I personally rely on instinct and sound to determine MC hits, but I can see how this might impact gameplay negatively for players who rely on the color of hit flashes. Maybe this will be fixed in the final release, maybe not… it’s definitely not in the 80% beta version.

    Aliasing has typically been an issue with PS2 3D fighting games, and VF4 is no different. You can quite clearly see the jaggies at the polygon edges (exhibiting a shimmering effect). Sometimes I felt like the characters looked pixelated a la Capcom’s CVS2 characters, but that’s probably an exaggeration. I’d say it’s not as bad as the earlier 3D fighting games, but it’s still pretty obvious to me. Texturing is noticeably lower-resolution on PS2 VF4 as well; Sony really should have stuck in more VRAM when they were designing the PS2.

    Stage lighting seems to rely more on ambient lighting and less on directional lighting. Colors look a little blander in general, particularly on Jacky’s stage. The spotlights and the helicopter searchlight are still there, but the effect isn’t as pronounced. On Lau’s stage, the reflections of characters on the stage floor have been replaced with shadows.

    PS2 VF4 stages feel a little like San Francisco in that almost every stage has volumetric fog in the background. This could be to give the game more “atmosphere†(heh), but I think it’s really to hide the lower polygonal detail of stage backgrounds. I view it as the “Tribes 2 tradeoff†– AM2 opted to add more background fog in order to eke out more frames per second. It doesn’t affect the foreground rendering at all, though, so it doesn’t affect gameplay one iota.

    Deformable stage floors are still in the game, though less pronounced. Lei’s temple still features tiles that can crack, but the sand and snow on Jeffry’s and Lion’s stages are now only one to two inches as opposed to ankle-deep. Pai’s stage still features schools of fish, although I didn’t see the big whale/dolphin/shark (I’m bad at marine biology).

    There is a new stage in the game exclusive to the PS2 (although it might appear in arcade ver.C). This stage is kind of like a three-way cross between Lion’s, Vanessa’s, and Sarah’s stages – a 12x12 arena with an unbreakable low fence, characters fight ankle-deep in water, and a backdrop that features some impressive looking old European-style buildings.

    Lest I appear to sound very negative on PS2 VF4’s graphics, let me reiterate – PS2 VF4 is, IMHO, a better conversion than VF2 for the Saturn or VF3 for the Dreamcast BY FAR, gameplay- AND graphically-wise. I just wanted to point out the differences for those of you that want to debate about Naomi 2 vs. Emotion Engine.

    ----- SOUND ------
    PS2 VF4 audio sounded identical to the arcade version. You can actually hear the details of the music better than in the arcade (e.g. the classical instruments on Lau’s stage), but that’s probably because DDR Max and Para Para Paradise aren’t blaring in the background. Bass seemed to be less prominent (e.g. Akira’s stomping), but that could just be because we used TV speakers as opposed to dedicated satellite/subwoofer units.

    ----- GAME MODES -----
    Interface: The navigation interface for PS2 VF4 is incredibly slick. If you haven’t seen it already, go check out the Tokyo Game Show 2001 PS2 VF4 Trailer to see what I mean.

    Arcade: Same as the arcade.

    Versus: Allows both players to select characters each round. You can select and upload your character info from the PS2 memory card before the match starts, though I’m unsure how the system handles multiple player configs. More specifically, I’m unsure as to whether players have to keep swapping out their own memory cards each match, or whether you can store everyone’s customizable player data on a single card and then copy out the information to individual cards at the end of a play session.

    Kumite: Play against a host of different AIs, supposedly based on the playing style of numerous Japanese players. This will allow you to level up from 10th Kyu to 10th Dan to Emperor, and obtain different clothing color schemes and special items in the process. Not sure if the ring names are actual players in Japan or merely fictitious names. I don’t know if in Japan automatically uploads all gameplay details from all connected machines to a master server to parse combo and flowchart details (I doubt it), so I’m not sure how PS2 VF4 could capture the gameplay essence of a Chibita or Kyasao.

    Training mode: There are a lot of tutorials baked into the game, ranging from beginner-level lessons on hit levels and tech rolling, to intermediate-level tidbits about how to struggle out of particular moves or down attacks. This should really help newer VF players get up to speed on the game’s fighting engine, and make it more accessible than DC VF3tb was. Free training mode is similar to DC VF3tb, with a combo damage meter, and a new hit-type meter (normal, down attack, air, or land (OTB)). Unfortunately the hit-type meter does not distinguish between the various types of KD or kip-up animations. Additionally, I don’t remember it distinguishing between normal vs. minor counter vs. major counter hits, but I might have just overlooked that. You can also enable command lists, frame input bars (shows delayability of hit strings), tweak speed settings (e.g. for slow motion mode) and enable/disable hit-level icons.

    AI mode: Didn’t get to try this out, unfortunately, though I have a pretty good idea of how this works. Basically you get to train a character by teaching him/her combos and flowcharts. You can then pit your “pet†character against someone else’s, much like Peter Molyneux’s Black and White. (Mine will be doing Lei’s 9-hit wall combo =P)

    ----- FINAL THOUGHTS -----
    Wow, this article is A LOT longer than I had envisioned when I started. Hope this hands-on preview was both informative and interesting. Overall, my takeaway from today’s playtest was that while the graphics may not be a perfect arcade conversion, PS2 VF4 is still visually stunning, and the gameplay looks to be the closest port of a VF game yet. (Dare I say identical to the arcade? Only time will tell…)

    I personally can’t wait for PS2 VF4 to arrive! After six months of play, I’m still as gung-ho about playing VF4 as I was when I first touched the arcade beta. (The only other games that have managed to hold my attention span for 6+ months were VF2, Virtual On, Half-Life, and Unreal Tournament.) My Japanese-style 1P+2P arcade stick set should be arriving anytime now, and I’m looking forward to throwing VF4 parties and competitions in San Francisco after the Japanese release on Jan 31!

    -- feixaq
  2. CreeD

    CreeD Well-Known Member

    Jason also said load time was an issue, and people picked the same characters as a result.. comments?

    If no hitsparks were there, do you remember the wiggling joystick icon? I'm trying to guess if they'll be added later or if they were overlooked or what.

    Any places where polygons seemed lessened or replaced with textures? I.e. in pix of vanessa's stage (Waterfront) I could swear the buildings look like one big bitmap, while in the arcade they look like modelled buildings..
  3. Rugal

    Rugal Well-Known Member

    I have some questions
    1. whats the lighting like in Wolf's stage. Is the background detail similar to the aracde version?
    2. How are the character models in terms of detail compared to the aracde?
    3. How bad is the flickering? is it worse than TTT Jap version?
    4. Is there still explosions from lightning in sarahs stage?
    Any other points of interest?
    Thanks for your time.
  4. Llanfair

    Llanfair Well-Known Member

    Creed, the wiggling stick appears in some of those PS2 pics that were at

  5. segaduck

    segaduck Well-Known Member

    Well done, Chris!!

    Your 1P+2P joystick is in my home and ready to go now. See you in the party!!!
  6. feixaq

    feixaq Well-Known Member

    Load time... well, PS2 VF4 being CD-ROM based, there's definitely some load time associated with picking new characters in vs mode, but it wasn't overly annoying or anything (seemed shorter than DC VF3tb load time, but it's been awhile since I played that).

    Wiggling joystick icon is definitely in, and also flashes green or red depending on when you can input struggle movements.

    I'm pretty sure texturing was used in place of polygons in several arenas, though not to the extent of replacing Vanessa's backdrop with one big bitmap (that would royally suck). IIRC, all the stages were polygonal, otherwise it would have been glaringly different.

    Lighting in Wolf's stage: stage seemed a little washed out, and the crowd in the background didn't seem as real or lively as in the arcade version.

    Character models have fewer polygons than arcade (especially the legs, it looked like), but they still look pretty darned good.

    Flickering vs TTT Japanese version -- no idea.

    Explosions from lightning are there, I think, but again, we were more focused on testing out gameplay this time round than admiring the background graphics.
  7. Trigger

    Trigger Active Member

    Thanks for a nice informative preview :)

    Here are some questions.

    1. "Kage's b,b+K+G no longer knocks down. This was the kicker that made Jason and I jump out of our seats, confirmed for us that PS2 VF4 is not ver.B"

    Good lord, Sega has been really hard on Kage! how about the staggering after hit. Is there any follow up guaranteed?

    2. What about the effect of the water, in which characters fight angle-deep, in the new stage?

    3. Does kumite mode work the same way as a traditional survival mode?

    4. So far, is there any mode that requires internet connection?
  8. Shadowdean

    Shadowdean Well-Known Member

    Wow, thanks sooo much for your time in writing this review...did sega mention what they are focusing in on fixing/changing/upgrading/programging for the last 20% of the game?
  9. feixaq

    feixaq Well-Known Member

    Kage's bbK+G -- yeah, I was pissed. But, I didn't get the chance to try (TT) PPHelix or (TT) P+KK or (TT) d+K. I doubt the latter two are guaranteed, but maybe PPHelix might connect or at least force a guessing game that is in Kage's favor (PPHelix gives Kage initiative even when blocked).

    Water seemed slightly reflective in the new stage. It looked pretty good, actually, a bright and cheery stage as opposed to some of the indoor environments.

    Kumite mode just simulates players in Japan challenging you. So it's not like you have one lifebar and see how long you can last. (If Kumite mode uses real players' names, I'd hate to be the 10th Kyu player with a 10% win ratio!)

    Don't know about Internet connection, but you're unlikely to see it in the US release.

    Shadowdean -- nope, no idea what's in the remaining 20%. Hopefully hit sparks and better antialiasing. I'm guessing they're still tweaking gameplay for ver.C for both PS2 and arcade release.
  10. SummAh

    SummAh Well-Known Member

    At least..tell me u n jase saw fishes in pai's background..
    n tell me what u saw were ten times better that the pics that have been posted in the media section of VFDC~ :)
  11. LAU Abuser

    LAU Abuser Well-Known Member

    Maybe MicroSoft shd takeover VF4 production for Home Entertainment... Sega and PS sucks!!! (joking)
  12. Mr. Bungle

    Mr. Bungle Well-Known Member

    > Kage's b,b+K+G no longer knocks down

    WTF are those assholes at Sega on? Jesus motherfucking Christ.

    I get the feeling rev C will be like VF2.1, where the pig characters take some hits, but since the lesser characters get assraped even more, the pigs end up even more powerful than they were in the first place.
  13. Shang

    Shang Well-Known Member

    >> Kage's b,b+K+G no longer knocks down
    > WTF are those assholes at Sega on? Jesus motherfucking Christ.

    Don't jump to conclusion so fast rich. Maybe Sega made bb+kg > deep d+k > d/f+k does 100 point damage like Akira's QCB+P. 8)
  14. ice-9

    ice-9 Well-Known Member

    Well, I wrote this big ass response, about arcade vendors, Ver. C, etc., but I closed my browser by accident and the whole thing obviously disappeared. !@#$.

    As for Kage's b,b+K+G, I'm actually glad it's been toned down. b,b+K+G -> headbutt pounce is really annoying! Anyway, would you know if it always staggers/stuns or does will it knock down on MC?

    P.S. Thanks for the preview! Yours and Bryan's are by far better than all the other previews written by those "professional" journalists...
  15. LAU Abuser

    LAU Abuser Well-Known Member

    Kage's b,b+K+G is quite annoying when con't wif headbutt pounce... But isn't annoyance a good strategy to get 'hot headed' opponents losing their cool? Many silly things happens when one is not concentrating and why not take advantage n punish 'em?
  16. Yamcha

    Yamcha Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the report. Still not quite sure what to think about the graphics since they've obivously been dumbed down, but everyone still says it looks nice.
  17. feixaq

    feixaq Well-Known Member

    As for Kage's b,b+K+G, I'm actually glad it's been toned down. b,b+K+G -> headbutt pounce is really annoying! Anyway, would you know if it always staggers/stuns or does will it knock down on MC?

    Well, I used it to punish a high rising attack midway through execution, and it didn't knock down, but I don't know if MC'ing a rising attack is different from MC'ing a regular attack. I used it a couple of times to when I *think* Jason was in the midst of a move, but it didn't knock down, but it might or might not have been MC.
  18. Trigger

    Trigger Active Member

    "If Kumite mode uses real players' names, I'd hate to be the 10th Kyu player with a 10% win ratio!"

    Ha ha.. Well, you could sue Sega for that. It's humiliating!
  19. CreeD

    CreeD Well-Known Member

    Don't jump to conclusion so fast rich. Maybe Sega made bb+kg > deep d+k > d/f+k does 100 point damage like Akira's QCB+P. 8)

    Or maybe it stuns long enough for a free PP-helix ... somehow I doubt that though, I think jason cha was saying that it causes the same sort of animation as aoi's d+K+G or pai's d/b+K+G with no counter (so they're forced to a crouch for a very short time).

    While I think Kage needs help in VF4, it always struck me as sort of goofy that he had a sweep that did about 25-30% damage and knocked down, while everyone else's sweep sucks completely and doesn't knock down (which isn't to say there are no good low attacks for the other characters). It'd be nice if he got his old elbow back in compensation for this change, or maybe some other subtle improvements.

    Something that'd be neat but isn't going to happen: Being able to play version A, B, or C from the options menu. I'd like to see all those back throw escape animations, e.g. Aoi's or Lion's.
  20. feixaq

    feixaq Well-Known Member

    Being able to play version A, B, or C from the options menu. I'd like to see all those back throw escape animations, e.g. Aoi's or Lion's.

    The animation for escaping Wolf's back throw was the most hilarious by far... back in VF4test, I did Kage's df+K+G, Wolf went for the back throw, I pressed P+G, and voila -- steamy man-on-man action at an arcade near you.

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