In the endless sea of fighting games that populated arcades in the early '90s, one stood out with its amazing 3D graphics and hard to master combos. This was Virtua Fighter by Sega and it set a standard that many other 3D fighters followed or copied. A few years later, Sega struck gold again with a stellar sequel and finally after a few watered down home ports, Virtua Fighter 2 comes home via Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.
To cut to the chase, this isn’t a port of the game we all fondly remember from the arcades. Sega chose to port over the half-assed 2-D version of the game that was released on Sega Genesis in 1996. That means missing characters, no 3-D arenas, incomplete move sets, and very limited customization options. It’s disappointing to say the least, but we’re going to review the game we have instead of the game we wish we did.
It’s pretty much standard fare here, as all of the punch, kicks and blocks return in their original form. Just as they did back in 1995, the controls feel fast and immediately responsive. Trying to piece together a combo consisting of more than just a few hits is still just as much of a challenge as it was back then; and the dominating player will be the one that has learned to juggle their opponent the best. Jumping feels a bit off, because simply pressing up will usually send your character skyward in such a way it is unbelievable still, and the floaty gravity usually results in meeting a foot to the face upon landing.
Just as it was back in the day, Virtua Fighter 2 continues to be an absolutely great fighting game. Sadly, finding an opponent online took ages, and when I did find one the connection (mine or his) made it a touch difficult to have an engaging battle. As such, I fully recommend playing this with a friend on the couch (as it was meant to be) as opposed to trying to give this new-fangled internet a try.
Online or Dorito-munching couch buddy, the fighting is still fast and simple. Each round can be won in one of three ways: health depletion, time out or, my personal favorite, the ring out. Sending your opponent helplessly flying through the air with half of their health left only to know that you’ve sealed the deal by knocking them out of the ring is a satisfaction rarely encountered in many fighters these days (aside from the other Virtua games, or even the Soul Calibur line).
There are plenty of options to customize your gameplay, such as round count, time limit and the amount of health each player starts with. You can also pick between 2.0 and 2.1 versions; the difference being slightly tweaked combat speed and visuals are cleaned up just a tad.
Overall, Virtua Fighter 2 is a faithful recreation of the ground-breaking arcade fighter from yesteryear. It’s easy to pick up and play, and is instantly addictive. The addition of leaderboards, achievements and online and offline multiplayer will give you hours of fun. It even got me to the point where I found it oddly satisfying to beat a drunken old man to a dazed pulp.