Sega is a company full of surprises. Sometimes the surprises pay off (Sonic the Hedgehog), while other times it leaves everybody scratching their heads (the Saturn's early launch). Last week, Sega surprised Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners with the release of three arcade fighting games. For a mere five dollar bill, you get one of three Model 2 classics -- Virtua Fighter II (1994), Fighting Vipers (1995) and Sonic the Fighters (1996).
Sega's Model 2 board is the arcade hardware that powered some of the most beloved games of all time. I'm talking about Dead or Alive, Daytona USA, Virtual On, The House of the Dead, Sega Rally, Virtua Cop 2 and more. Many of these games hit the Saturn, making it the platform of choice for arcade ports. But it's been a long time since Virtua Fighter 2 or Fighting Vipers got a proper re-release.
Do any of these games hold up? Is there even a reason to play Virtua Fighter 2 now that Final Showdown is out?? What the hell is Sonic the Fighters??? I get it, you have questions. The good news is that Defunct Games is here to help you make the right choice. Below you will find reviews for Fighting Vipers, Virtua Fighter 2 and Sonic the Fighters, three very different Model 2 arcade games. Find out now which of these games is worth your five dollars.
"Casting Call: Eccentric fighting heroes who aren't afraid to use everyday items to get the upper hand in the ring." That might as well have been the ad Sega put in the classified section, because every one of the cartoonish pugilists in Fighting Vipers comes with their own silly "weapon" of choice. Instead of choosing a machete, whip or even a gun, these fighters brought along skateboards, bicycles, roller skates and an electric guitar. Good luck keeping that "axe" in tune.
Dismissed at the time for not being Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers is one of Sega's goofiest arcade games. Forget about counting frames and memorizing convoluted combos, this minor arcade hit from 1995 is a lot more accessible than Sega's other fighters. It's easy to start seeing cool moves on your very first play, even if you don't take the time to master the small roster of characters.
Fighting Vipers adds a couple of new wrinkles to the oversaturated market. For starters, all of the stages are enclosed in a large four-sided cage. The only way to get a ring out in this game is to work up a move so powerful that it literally sends your opponent screaming through the cage wall. Speaking of barriers, you'll also need to pay close attention to your armor. Each fighter comes with his or her own protective pads, which are meant to blunt some of the damage coming your way. But this armor can break over the course of two or three rounds, ultimately leaving your combatant vulnerable.
For five dollars you get the arcade experience and not much more. There are no bonus modes, no character customization and nothing even close to resembling an art gallery. You get the short arcade mode, versus mode and that's it. You shouldn't even expect the cool extras found in the Saturn port, this is strictly an arcade package. Like the other two games reviewed, Fighting Vipers offers a barebones online mode, leaderboard support and, of course, achievements/trophies.
I'll confess, I wasn't very excited going into Fighting Vipers. Even as a big fan of Sega's fighting games, there was something about the over-the-top goofiness that kept me away. Believe it or not, I ended up having a lot of fun with Fighting Vipers. The rounds are quick, the hits feel powerful and after a while I started to get into the groove. Too bad it's over just as things are starting to get interesting. Fighting Vipers is worth five dollars ... but not much more.
Sonic the Fighters
[ Release: 1996 | Company: Sega/AM2 | Genre: Fighting ]
Sixteen years after it first beat-up Japanese arcades, Sonic the Fighters finally gets a proper North American release. Although it features some of Sega's most beloved characters, this 1996 fighter is so rare that its recent release caught some Sonic fans by surprise. Years before Super Smash Bros., Sega started the mascot fighting genre with this rock'em-sock'em arcade game. You punch, kick and block your way through a number of one-on-one scenarios, ultimately leading up to the battle with the big Eggman in the sky.
Some of the characters make sense (Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles the Echidna, Dr. Robotnik), others feel like padding (Metal Sonic, Honey the Cat, Espio the Chameleon), and some are downright weird (Fang the Sniper, Bean the Dynamite, Bark the Polar Bear). It's a motley crew that helps to accentuate the lack of interesting characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog universe.
The fighting mechanics are closer to Fighting Vipers than Virtua Fighter 2. The action is fast and players are forced to pay close attention to their shield meter. This isn't as deep or involving as other Sega fighters, instead rewarding players for button mashing and just having a good time. Each of the cage matches are held in locations that come straight from the popular Genesis franchise. The moves are also appropriate for each character, allowing Sonic to spin dash and Tails to fly away.
Sega's most know-it-all fans will be quick to remind me that this is not Sonic the Fighters' first U.S. release. This 1996 rarity was packaged alongside Vectorman, Streets of Rage and Tails Adventures in Sonic Gems Collection for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube. But don't think you've proven me wrong just yet. Instead of sticking with the proper Japanese title, Sega opted to change the cabinet art to read "Sonic Championship." Perhaps we can take this fight over semantics into the Sonic the Fighters arena.
Much like Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers, Sonic the Fighters is a bare bones release. Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation 3 owners will get the original arcade mode and a stripped-down online mode. That's it. Thankfully you can select from different versions of the game and change the settings, but don't go in expecting updated graphics, bonus objectives and a robust multiplayer mode. On the other hand, this is one of Sonic's rarest games for a mere five dollars. It may not be Sega's best fighting game, but Sonic the Fighters is worth a few plays.
While Sonic the Fighters is fun novelty and Fighting Vipers is plain old goofy, Virtua Fighter 2 is the real deal. This is Yu Suzuki at his finest, delivering one of the most influential arcade games of all time. With its deep move list and diverse roster of memorable characters, it's hard to believe that Virtua Fighter 2 is closing in on its twentieth birthday.
You play one of eleven characters, each on a mission to travel around the world to fight an android woman named Dural. Fans of the 1993 original will be happy to see all nine of their favorite characters updated for Virtua Fighter 2. That includes Canadian wrestler Wolf, Sarah the college student, Jacky the race car driver and Akira the unofficial face of Virtua Fighter. New to the roster is Shun Di (a 100 year old drunken kung fu master) and Lion Rafale (a French high school student who is an expert in praying mantis kung fu).
The advantage to reviewing a game like Sonic the Fighters is that there aren't endless sequels to compare it to. Even Fighting Vipers only had one sequel, and that is well over a decade old. But Virtua Fighter is different. In the past few years I've been there for the highs (Virtua Fighter 5), the lows (Virtua Fighter 3) and everything in between (Virtua Fighter 4). These are good looking games with complicated mechanics and a large roster of characters. In comparison, this is a very small game.
But don't be fooled by Virtua Fighter 2's modest size. It may not look as good as the recently released Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, but this 1994 arcade game runs incredibly fast and smooth. The backgrounds, although simple, also pop in high definition. It's a shame Sega couldn't figure out how to make it widescreen, but even in 4 x 3 I was blown away by Shun Di's fight on the floating raft.
You get the same options and modes found in Sega's other Model 2 ports, including online play and customizable options. Don't expect to any bells and whistles from Virtua Fighter 2. At five dollars it's hard to say no. Even if recent sequels have done this formula better, Virtua Fighter 2 is still an incredibly addictive fighting game with a surprising amount of depth. It may have taken them eighteen years, but Sega has finally delivered the ultimate console version of Virtua Fighter 2.
While not the most consistent package, there are strong reasons to get all three of these Sega Model 2 fighters. If all you want to do is spend five dollars, then your best bet is Virtua Fighter 2. Gamers looking for something rare and easily accessible should check out Sonic the Fighters. And even the weakest game in the set, Fighting Vipers, has a lot of fight left in it. None of these are bad fighting games, even if some of them aren't great. Even with the lack of bonus modes and extras, all three of these games offer a lot of replay. Five dollars is a good price and I can't wait to see what else Sega has in store in the coming year.