- Fluid framerate
- Surprisingly good online
- Decent background visuals
- Severely lacking in modes
- Ridiculously overpowered attacks
- Brutally difficult AI
- Lack of characters and moves
When Virtua Fighter 2 was released 18 years ago for the Sega Saturn it was seen as a stunning technical achievement. From its fully polygonal 3D graphics to its lightning- fast 60 frames per second gameplay it was widely regarded as the first great 3D fighting game.
Having never experienced it during its hayday I jumped at the chance to discover a lost fighting classic and eagerly booted up my nostalgia-free copy of the game.
The first thing you will notice when loading up this game is that the menu contains just the bare bones of the original’s content – no Survival mode, time attack or even training modes to be found here. Given its arcade origins this is understandable – but the measly 11 characters you have to play with means you aren’t really getting a lot of content here. It’s the gameplay that counts though, right?
Virtua Fighter is a basic one-on-one ‘realistic’ fighter, with characters supposedly created around a specific fighting style rather than a whacky story or archetype. This means you would expect the limited amount of characters to have highly fleshed out and complex move sets – but apparently SEGA didn’t get the memo. What you find when trudging through arcade mode is an incredibly simplistic brawler with brutally unforgiving AI. Again this comes down to the game’s arcade origins (what better way to make money than make the game coin-guzzlingly difficult?) The attacks are also extremely overpowered – when you can kill someone with three kicks in a beat ‘em up, you know that something is deeply wrong with the core mechanics of the game.
Veterans may argue that Virtua Fighter is catering for a more realistic fighting experience and intentionally keeps things simple, but that is much harder to swallow when the jumping physics let you perform drop kicks from 20 feet into the air. SEGA’s HD treatment means the visuals have aged far better than the cumbersome gameplay. For a game that came out 18 years ago the environments still look sharp and have a simplistic charm to them, moving stages like the raft stage especially shine.
Unfortunately SEGA have bizarrely left out the option to display this game in 16:9, which means you either play it in its native resolution with boxes around the screen or play it in full screen with comically out of proportion characters. The major new feature that has been added to this remake is a surprisingly robust online mode –who’s netcode puts some recent fighters to shame ( I’m looking at you MVC3) .
This version also contains the option to switch between the 2.0 and 2.1 less buggy version of the game which never made it out of Japan, which will obviously please die hard fans. There are also some incredibly easy achievements to be had here, and at 400 Microsoft points for 400G I can see many gamerscore addicts jumping at the chance to get this game (especially when you can unlock all 400 g in about 25 minutes).
When it comes to classic fighting games, whether it’s the 2D sprites of Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat or the pure character of Tekken – what matters the most is that they still play beautifully. Sadly Virtua Fighter 2 just doesn’t. The combat is incredibly simplistic if admittedly fairly responsive, but with only a limited amount of moves to master and such a small character roster VF2 feels incredibly lacking in depth. This coupled with the frustratingly hard AI, overpowered attacks and incredibly dated physics make it hard to recommend other than to the most nostalgic of fighting game fans or the most rabid achievement hunters. If you didn’t spend your childhood cursing Dural’s name in the arcades then your money is better spent elsewhere.