This paper investigates an advanced vertical axis turbine to enhance power generation from water energy. The turbine, known as a cycloidal water turbine, is a straight-bladed type adopting a cycloidal blade system that actively controls the rotor blades for improved turbine efficiency, according to the operating conditions. These characteristics enable the turbine to self-start and produce high electric power at a low flow speed, or under complex flow conditions. A parametric study has been carried out by CFD analysis, with various characteristics including different number of blades, chord length variations, variety of tip speed ratios, various hydrofoil shapes, and changing pitch and phase angles. Optimal parameters have been determined, and the performance of the turbine has achieved approximately 70% better performance than that of a fixed pitch turbine. An experimental study has also been carried out which shows that the results correlate quite well with the theoretical predictions although the power output was reduced due to the drag forces of the mechanical devices. Another numerical optimization was carried out to improve the rotor performance by adopting an individual blade control method. Controllable pitch angles were employed to maximize the rotor performance at various operating conditions. The optimized result obtained using genetic algorithm and parallel computing, shows an improvement in performance of around 25% compared with the cycloidal motion.