There are several reasons why fighting games continue to dominate arcades around the world, and Sega's Virtua Fighter 2 is one of these reasons. What began as a revolutionary 3D fighter in 1993 culminated the following year in a graphically astonishing sequel that took Japan, the United States, and everywhere in between by storm. And now, years later, one of the most successful arcade games in history has hit the PC in full stride. And the good news is, Virtua Fighter 2 still packs a big punch.
Virtua Fighter 2 boasts some of the most detailed 3D characters ever seen on the PC. All ten fighters are expertly motion-captured and texture-mapped in great detail. You can even watch their facial expressions change and their loose clothing rustle in the wind, lending a strikingly realistic look to the game that easily outclasses any and all competition. And speaking of class, Virtua Fighter 2 takes itself seriously; you won't see any blood spilled or bones busted. Just fast, furious, lifelike, hand-to-hand fighting.
Think your computer's the baddest polygon pusher on the block? Just toggle all of Virtua Fighter 2's graphics settings to maximum and watch your sorry machine groan in virtual agony. Even a top-of-the-line MMX-powered Pentium can't deal with everything Virtua Fighter 2 has to offer. Granted, this PC conversion theoretically allows you to recreate the arcade game (powered by Sega's mighty Lockheed Martin-powered proprietary Model 2 hardware) in full detail. And while it would be great to play the unadulterated arcade game at home, these high-level graphics options simply aren't practical and aren't even available unless you go for the whole-hog full install that demands upwards of 300 megabytes of disk space. Fortunately, if you set your sights a little lower, you'll be able to find a perfect middle ground between graphic detail and playability. If you set background detail to a minimum, you can play in high resolution and still witness the action at nearly 60 frames per second even on a low-end Pentium. Every sound sample and music track from the arcade translates intact to the PC version, but the arcade didn't sound particularly special in the first place - unless you want to count the mysteriously inappropriate English ("I'm faster than lightning!" exclaims Jacky Bryant) spoken by the non-Asian characters in the game.
Virtua Fighter 2's play mechanics translate perfectly to the PC, though you'll need a good gamepad to take full advantage of the precise control. The easy-to-learn punch/kick/guard button scheme belies the depth of Virtua Fighter 2. Each of the ten characters has dozens of different moves and combinations, including throws, counters, pursuit attacks, parries, and reversals. Most of these aren't difficult to accomplish, but the trick is rather to keep all of them in mind and to know when to use what. Fights typically consist of a best-of-three-rounds game, where you win either by beating the stuffing out of your opponent or shoving him out of the ring. Mastering but a single character is no easy feat, and chances are you'll want to master them all - Virtua Fighter 2 is a remarkably well-balanced fighting game where any of the ten characters can be deadly if used properly. Several new gameplay modes exist in the PC conversion, most notably Internet-ready multiplayer support. Like any good fighting game, Virtua Fighter 2 is at its best when two expert players battle it out against each other, but the computer opponent is no pushover and offers a great challenge in the meantime. The computer learns your tricks and patterns and won't hesitate to show you a thing or two of its own if you're not careful. Other goodies, including a sound test and an art gallery for each character, help pass the time when you're not duking it out.
Virtua Fighter 2 is unquestionably the best fighting game on the PC, and certainly one of the finest fighting games of all time. Those who enjoyed the arcade game will be more than pleased with the near-perfect PC conversion, which rivals even the excellent Sega Saturn console port. Otherwise, those who don't have as much experience with the coin-op will discover that Virtua Fighter 2 is hardly a mindless action game but rather a highly technical and totally fast-paced battle of wits. If you're a fighting game fan or if you're wondering what the fuss is all about, don't pass it up.