Last week saw the XBLA release of three classic SEGA fighting games, all of which were originally created by their legendary AM2 team. Being a bit of a veteran when it comes to gaming of this nature, I’ll be looking at each one in turn, a virtual lament to an era of classic gaming, now overtaken by fast-paced first-person shooters and realistic football games. I’ll be kicking this off with Virtua Fighter 2.
Ah, a little trip back down memory lane for me. After slinging myself back in time for the Arcade Origins review earlier his month, I’ve been given the opportunity to hurl myself back in time again with the XBLA release of Virtua Fighter 2. Originally the game popped into the arcades in 1994, I remember relentlessly feeding this cabinet with loose change. So how does this translate to the Xbox 360?
Well, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s a small download, less than 64MB. Does this mean they’ve left things out, or have the polygon-based 3D graphics been sacrificed?
Thankfully, the graphics seem to be perfectly ported. This is going to be a little bit of a culture shock for some. Yes, they’re 3D polygon-based graphics, really quite revolutionary for the time, sadly, they are starting to look a little dated, but this is not to the game’s detriment. The graphics simply compliment the gameplay and the gameplay itself is faithfully recreated from the original arcade release. From the animated backdrops, to the fluid fighting movements of the characters, the team at SEGA have taken the original and bolted on some extras in a way that doesn’t ruin the appeal that the arcade version oozed. Even the smaller graphical features haven’t been overlooked, like parts of the fighters’ costumes being beaten from them to land on the arena floor.
The opening menus are functional rather than lavish and let you choose the type of game you want, Arcade, Offline Versus or Xbox Live Battle mode, with each mode allowing you to choose various other options, such as difficulty, the number of rounds, the amount of health you start with and the time limit. One feature I was pleased to see was the option to switch between V2.0 and v2.1 of the arcade system. This can affect some achievements you can earn, so it’s worth trying them both.
The fighters all sound exactly as they should, especially as this is a faithful port, right down to their crackly voices if you win or lose. It fits the game well, in keeping with its arcade-original feel and would also have saved the development team from having the remaster them, which would have spoiled the whole feel of the game. Everything feels just right in the audio.
As with most games from this era, gameplay is all important and it’s hard to see how they’ve managed to cram this all into 64MB on the console. The fighting moves have been translated well to the Xbox controller, with the moves being as frantic as I remember from the arcade. Complete the first 5 rounds and you’ll be rewarded with the grateful addition of achievements. These are few, quite easy to obtain but are well explained, all being given in the Arcade mode.
So, will Virtua Fighter 2 give you that durability once you’ve beaten the arcade mode? Well, the offline versus mode allows you to invite some friends around and have some round-robin tournaments. This would make it an ideal excuse to have a party and see how good you are at this after a few drinks.
If you’re not party-minded, there is also the Xbox Live Battle mode. These introduce you to fighting the best of the best online and should lead you to come back to this time and again.
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.