Sega Ages: Virtua Fighter 2 Import Preview

We check out the latest entry in Sega's nostalgia series in Japan, which brings the second entry in the Virtua Fighter series to the PlayStation 2.

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Sega Ages: Virtua Fighter 2 is the 16th entry in the Sega Ages series, which has focused on the classic titles in Sega's robust back catalog. Previous entries in the series have included such fan favorites as Golden Axe, Fantasy Zone, Phantasy Star, After Burner II, and Space Harrier. Sega Ages: Virtua Fighter 2 brings the second entry in Sega's acclaimed Virtua Fighter series to the PlayStation 2. While this sounds like the sort of news that would spur you to run, not walk, to your nearest importer (or begin a flurry of e-mail petitions to Sega to bring it to the US), we've played the import, and would advise you to not be quite so hasty.

No, not everyone's a winner in this sad port.
No, not everyone's a winner in this sad port.

Theoretically speaking, Sega Ages: Virtua Fighter 2 was our best chance to have an arcade-perfect VF2 experience at home, short of buying the original arcade cabinet. Unfortunately, this isn't quite how things turned out. We got an inkling that trouble was afoot when we played a build of the game at this year's Tokyo Game Show and were underwhelmed by what we saw. While some of the problems we came across were fixable, it looks like Sega didn't take the time to do so, and the result is a lackluster conversion of one of its crown jewels.

You'll find three game modes in VF2: arcade, versus, and ranking. Arcade brings you the challenge of fighting your way to the game's ultimate boss, the metallic, busty Dural. Versus lets you take on a friend in one-on-one combat. Finally, ranking judges your performance, letting you fight until you're defeated and then offering up an evaluation of your skills. The options menu will let you toggle a few options, including which version of VF2 you're playing--the original 2.0, or the 2.1 update that was originally released only in Japan.

If you're a fan of VF2, you'll find that showing off your skills will take a bit of adjustment--the game's control isn't as tight and responsive as it could be with the PlayStation 2 controller. You can alleviate this somewhat by getting your hands on one of Hori's arcade sticks for the PS2, but the game's frame rate requires you to tweak your moves anyway, especially if you honed your skills on the Sega Saturn game.

Pai faces off against her ugly twin in an arena that we may as well call The Courtyard of the Blurry Texture.
Pai faces off against her ugly twin in an arena that we may as well call The Courtyard of the Blurry Texture.

The graphics in the game are a disappointing attempt to reproduce the crisp and colorful visuals of the original arcade game, which ran on Sega's Model 2 arcade hardware. The texture quality is all over the map, the color lacks the richness of the arcade version, and the frame rate hasn't gotten any better since we saw it last. The characters are rough approximations of the arcade originals, and we mean rough. The combination of the inconsistent texture quality and the bland color results in a washed-out look for the VF crew. Still, the fighters fare the best when compared with the backgrounds, which are a roller coaster ride that's long on the lows and short on the highs. One of the main points of interest of this version of VF2 was the chance for the original's fully 3D backgrounds, which were nipped and tucked from the conversion for the Saturn, to finally be done some justice. Unfortunately, what you get are some poorly done 3D elements stapled onto the bland backgrounds with some nasty 2D bitmaps thrown in. End result? The graphical equivalent of seeing an old friend who's hit hard times sleeping on the street somewhere.

Pai sits down after deciding she can no longer fight in these conditions.
Pai sits down after deciding she can no longer fight in these conditions.

The audio in the game fares a bit better. All the sound samples, tunes, and sound effects are in, even if they don't always pop up where they should. You'll have the option to toggle between the arranged or original versions of VF2's tunes, both of which rank among the best in the series.

All told, Sega Ages: Virtua Fighter 2 is a definite bummer for VF purists. Not only is the game ugly, but the control also isn't what it should be, and we're still scratching our heads over why the PlayStation 2 couldn't reproduce the graphics of a 10-year-old game. While the game is essentially a budget title, that's not much of an excuse when it comes to a gem like VF2. Like most fighting games, Sega Ages: Virtua Fighter 2 is as import-friendly as it gets, but given the poor conversion, fighting purists would probably be better off digging up the Saturn game or just tracking down the original game in an arcade. Yes, we're serious.

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