Despite being the oldest out of the three SEGA fighting games released on November 28th, 2012, Virtua Fighter 2
has aged very well and when looking at all three games together, it's clear that the simple design philosophy at the heart of the Virtua Fighter
franchise is the difference. When the original Virtua Fighter
burst onto the arcade scene, it was mind-blowing thanks to the fully 3D character models. By working within the confines of their hardware instead of trying to push it too hard, SEGA's AM2 team created a simple, elegant fighting game with a focus on real-world martial arts and nothing else. No clunky meters, no projectiles, no wild animations, just two virtual martial artists coming to blows until one is left standing.
When you first enter arcade mode, the simple design philosophy is clear at first glance. Every character model was designed around a particular fighting style, instead of a personality archetype, which results in realistic, timeless character designs. There is no EXTREME~! Sportsdude using a skateboard as a weapon to be found here, instead the most outlandish character is a newcomer to the franchise with this title, Shun Di the Drunken Master. I suppose Kage, the blue ninja, is also a bit outlandish but there is nothing here actively bad or that seems wildly out of place.
The sleek, efficient designs carry over into the gameplay, which has remained mostly unchanged throughout the franchise's history. As this title came out before Fighting Vipers
, every stage is flat with no walls, which makes the ring-outs a fairly common occurrence. The tradeoff is that a few of the stages have interesting background elements, such as the bridge you fight under during the raft level or Jeffery's stage, which is a small deserted island. Nothing distracts from the combat, not the backgrounds and not the character designs either, which is something that games with complicated models, such as the aforementioned Fighting Vipers
, suffered from in comparison to the older Virtua Fighter 2
In action, the character models have rough edges with the textures in particular looking a bit laughable these days. Wolf stands out as looking like someone airbrushed his muscles. Regardless, the animation is superb with rapid-fire exchanges that looked elegant back in the day and remain so even today. The exception is whenever a character jumps, as that floaty, wildly unrealistic jump has also stuck out in the Virtua Fighter
titles. I always imagined that was done to force people to stay on the ground and fight that way instead of trying to make this game resemble the aerial combat of Street Fighter
Speaking of the combat itself, you won't have much time to judge the graphics during a round, as the combat is fast and exceedingly lethal. One combo can remove half of a character's lifebar and a throw from Jeffery or Wolf can knock off 75%. On the bright side, every character is capable of incredibly damaging combos, making the fights about jockeying for position and trying to find an opening before diving in for the kill. The franchise standard of only three buttons, punch, kick and guard holds true, with just those buttons resulting in a command list for each character that was at the time, perhaps the longest list ever.
With no fireballs, no flashy armor breaks and no moves that render your opponent as flat as a pancake, it's odd just how exciting the special moves can be in action. Sarah's flash kick, Jeffery's back-breaker and Akira's Stun Punch of Doom will always elicit some sort of reaction if done in front of an audience because the sense of impact is right on the money. Individual fighting styles lend themselves to variations of moves from character to character that seem big, such as comparing Wolf to Lau, or small in the case of Pai to Lau. Those cases still include enough differences to make everyone fight differently, control a bit differently and it all makes sense in a way that is easily intuitive.
I was able to take Virtua Fighter 2
online, playing a trio of ranked matches and then a number of player matches, amassing a win/loss record that I will lie about, and say is heavy on the wins. There has always been a community for Virtua Fighter 2
, which speaks to how well designed and balanced the game is, but also means that Xbox LIVE is now crawling with people that will destroy you in 10 seconds. Unless of course, you practice and improve with a character, doesn't matter much who, as all of them are viable. There was no lag while I was playing online and while I did run into a jerk that would disconnect each time I went up 1 round, the game keeps track of those disconnects and adjusts the icon next to your gamertag from green (for no disconnects) to yellow (for some disconnects) and red (for the scarlet mark of shame because you can't handle the Wolf).
Now because this site is TrueAchievements, let's take a moment and discuss how Virtua Fighter 2
is an easy completion. As with the other SEGA AM2 fighting games released on the same day, there is no need to finish arcade mode. In this case, that's a blessing as Dural remains one of the hardest bosses in fighting game history. Select her as a character though, and that's another achievement as is activating the various game modes, getting a ring-out and earning a perfect victory. The only odd achievement is that way because it involves switching the version of the game you are playing, which is nothing more than adjusting an option from the settings menu. SEGA still decided to include both Version 2.0 and Version 2.1 of Virtua Fighter 2
, which to me, showed no difference but I am certain there is a long laundry list of balance changes between the two that can be found on the Internet.
Completing the achievement list, of which the previous paragraph is basically a complete game walkthrough, nets you 12 achievements worth 400 GS. While that's not bad for only 400 MSP, the game itself holds up amazingly well, provided you either have an interest in classic fighters or enjoy the Virtua Fighter
franchise. One of the hurdles facing this game is that while it is only 400 MSP, you can spend 800 MSP more and download a copy of Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown
, the latest game in the franchise.
Ultimately, the only people that will really enjoy this game are die-hard fighting game fans, old-school SEGA fans or gamers that enjoy Virtua Fighter
but missed out on the earlier entries. For those groups of gamers, Virtua Fighter 2
is the best of the AM2 fighting games released on November 27th, and if you only buy one, the gameplay of Virtua Fighter 2
will provide the most bang for your buck. If you don't fall into any of those categories, and you don't want to purchase the title for easy GS, then you are better served purchasing Virtua Figher 5: Final Showdown
or saving your money. Virtua Fighter 2
is a shining example of how a clear, well-executed design philosophy rescues a game from simply being old, and makes it a classic.
The reviewer spent just under 3 hours playing the game in all of its modes, including online play. He's not sure if it's simply the polygon count or what, but Dural looked extra creepy in action and gave him some very odd nightmares.