Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed) | PS3
Developer: SEGA AM2
With great power comes great responsibility. Nobody should know that better than Sega, especially as they’ve recently been commissioning HD updates of their vast catalogue of games for the downloadable market, the latest of which are a trio of fighting games for their Model 2 arcade system. You might wonder why we've bunched the three of them together in a mega-review. Well, it's pretty simple: they're all based off of the exact same engine, and play virtually identically to one another.
The control scheme for all of these games are pretty much similar, designated punch, kick and block buttons as standard, plus the shoulder buttons/triggers are for easy access to button combos. Simple enough, really. The games themselves haven’t changed at all from their initial counterparts, barring the inclusion of online play and achievements/trophies. In some cases, it’s a good thing, but with a basic arcade mode and multiplayer, it can get tedious very quickly.
The three games have very meagre rosters, which are understandable considering the age of the games, but the gameplay modes leave much to be desired as there are only arcade and online/local multiplayer available for you to sink your teeth into, which is quite disappointing. Especially in a world with almost endless gauntlet modes, and the like (although since the rosters are indeed very small, this would get tiring quickly too).
Sonic the Fighters
Before Super Smash Brothers came Sonic The Fighters, a legitimate fighting game featuring Sega’s mascot and his band of cohorts, some of whom are instantly recognizable and others who aren’t. This isn’t Super Smash Brothers at all, this is a 100% bona-fide Sonic repaint of Virtua Fighter, but with animations related to Sonic.
You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of this game before, as it was a limited release in America because it wasn’t as child friendly as people were expecting. It did get a brief comeback as part of a Sonic game collection a few years ago, but other than that it was largely glossed over.
Considering how much we've deplored the characters of Sonic's wider universe on this site, the roster is even more staggeringly disappointing. You have Sonic himself, Tails, and Knuckles the Echidna….oh, and Fang the Sniper. Then there's a whole bunch of lazily created anthropomorphic critters, none of whom will stick in the memory due to the fact that they all play identically.
The thing about this game is that it doesn’t seem arcadey enough to be a fighting game under the Sonic franchise. It’s pretty slow and slow isn’t exactly what you’d associate with a Sonic game. Mix that in with the fact that the selection of moves isn’t exactly grand, especially considering the engine they’re running this game on. Sadly, this makes for a massive disappointment, whether you’re a fan of Sonic, or fighting games in general.
Virtua Fighter 2
This is the granddaddy of fighting games, boasting impressive graphics for its time and running at a smooth 60 frames per second, this was one of the most impressive fighting games for its day. However, that was then and this is now.
First thing is the very wonky jumping mechanic; it’s only acceptable if the game was staged on the moon. The height and the slowness mean that it’s truly awkward to watch. The AI is another challenge, as even on the easiest difficulty, the computer opponent can be a tough son of a gun. This is either a damning appraisal on how easy fighting games have become or just simply a damning appraisal on how unpolished my fighting game skills are. Finally the hit detection can be a bit hit and miss, especially if you’ve felt your attack should have connected but it didn’t because your opponent is standing just a little bit away from you on the 3D plane.
Despite being one of the games that influenced the future generations of fighting games, it doesn’t hold up well which is a great shame. Best served as a museum piece, rather than a serious source of enjoyment.
Fighting Vipers is a bit of a goofy take on the Virtua Fighter style, featuring a cast of fighters that seem to be taken from the mid-90s “radical” phase of skateboarders, in-line skaters and rockers, with certain characters actually using their guitars or skateboards to unleash devastating attacks.
Sadly, there isn’t much more to add to this section about the game because it’s very similar to the previous two games, which is a massive let down. The AI remains an issue, which leads me to believe it’s my shoddy fighting game skills that are holding me back.
Online multiplayer for all three seems very sparse. As of the time of this review being written, there are only 330 ranked players for Fighting Vipers, not exactly an example of a thriving multiplayer community within the game, which is disappointing. It would break up the monotony of fighting against the abysmal AI.
* * *
What it comes down to is the fact that most of the time nostalgia sucks. Sure, it’s great in theory but in practice, you’re much better off with your memories. Offering little to appeal to SEGA/Sonic fans or fighting fans alike, a lack of a decent roster on all three games, crude controls and archaic systems, the problem are compounded by the fact that all three games feel like each other and, though understandable in context, why would anyone spend 1200 MSP on three games that feel identical.
To be fair to Sega (as this review has been largely negative) maybe I as a consumer would have enjoyed the games more if it were bundled as a triple treat of fighting games, rather than three individual games. 400 MSP a pop might not sound like that much, but when there's so much quality to be found elsewhere for that amount, it's difficult not to feel shortchanged.
- Good way to see how far fighting games have come.
- Good for scoring very easy achievements (If you care for that kind of thing)
- Very challenging for new players and veterans alike.
- Repetition is the order of the day.
- AI can be tough as nails.
- Collision detection is a bit janky.
The Short Version: Laziness is the word of the moment for these three re-releases. Not only are the three games almost identical in form and function (save for the rosters), but so little has been done to improve or update them for a modern showing that it rather makes a mockery of the system. When there are significantly better fighting games out there on XBLA and PSNfloating around the same sort of price, it renders releases like this abjectly redundant. Chances are, if you're enough of a die-hard SEGA fanboy to value these games, you'll already have found some way of owning them.