Nostalgia really sucks sometimes. The memories we associate with parts of our childhood are often remembered much more fondly than the actual products. This is never more true than when it concerns video games. Who doesn’t remember spending days obsessing over that one special game, only to dust it off years later to find that it really hasn’t aged well? Flashbacks to nights spent with friends playing through it still exist, but the game itself is just not up to snuff.
When you were a kid, if you were lucky, you had friends with every gaming system. I had the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, one buddy had a Dreamcast, and another had the Sega Saturn. Whenever we would get together to play, there was always one game we would break out to see who was the best amongst us: Virtua Fighter 2. Kids everywhere spent days pummeling each other, and the graphics at the time were lauded as achievements in the gaming field.
But now, 18 years after its original arcade incarnation was released, how does this classic fighter stand up? To put it bluntly, the only things keeping Virtua Fighter 2 from being a total waste of a port is the affordable price tag and nostalgia it carries with it. Fans of the original will have glimpses of their childhood come flying past their eyes, and reliving classic battles with friends will be a blast…for a time. But now that video games are miles above where they were twenty years ago, it’s much easier to see the flaws that we paid no attention to as children.
Let’s start on a positive note, though. The original line-up is still intact, complete with codes that unlock certain characters. All of the stages that were in the original remain as well, and the looks actually hold up quite well. Fights might not be as fluid as they are now, but the look is welcome to wash all the grittiness of current games out. To be fair to SEGA, this is one of the better ports they have released, as the new additions to the classic game are actually welcome. Perhaps the niftiest feature is the ability to switch between versions 2.0 and 2.1 of Virtua Fighter 2. Version 2.1 was only ever released in Japan and fixed a few bugs here and there, so the differences aren’t too noticeable. But for the fan who has always wanted to get their hands on it, now is the time to do so.
The price tag for this port is also more than fair, resting at only $4.99 on the PlayStation Store. It’s amazing to see a game that is actually fairly priced for the content it contains, making it that much easier to recommend to fans. An online mode has also been added, so in addition to facing off locally with friends, it’s now possible to take the fight worldwide. It doesn’t seem like there are any rules as to how players are matched up, however, so if you’re looking to shake off the rust, you may be facing someone with 600 victories your first time through. Achievements and trophies are also present, although they’re all fairly simple and take less than hour to collect.
If you’re already a fan of the series, then by this point you’ve already been sold on the idea. But for those of us who failed to continue loving the series, the gameplay leaves much to be desired. Obviously, it wouldn’t be fair to compare an older game to the current generation of fighters, but it’s impossible not to remember in the back of your head that there are better fighters out there. The controls feel sloppy and unresponsive, and enemies can pummel you to less than half of your health in one flurry of moves. Virtua Fighter 2 is unforgiving to those who haven’t mastered it, and the lack of a practice mode makes practicing that much more of a pain.
Gameplay is the exact same as it originally was, meaning the gravity-defying leaps are still intact, making some fights look like they required wires and a Hollywood director to pull off. Despite the variety of combatants available to players, none of them are distinctive from each other. Sure, some moves are different, but there’s no feeling of diversity between any of them.
Although Virtua Fighter 2 definitely holds a spot in history and the hearts of many gamers, the fact that it just doesn’t stand on its own knocks it off its feet. Even other fighting games from that generation (Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, etc.) play better than this, and both are also available to fans of fighters. Despite all of this, the low price is enough to make it an obvious choice for fans of the series. Memories of childhood fights with friends will give this release more than enough steam, but if you can’t remember even a single member of the roster, then give this a pass.
This review is based on an XBOX 360 copy of the game that we were provided with.