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Virtua Fighter 2

For: iPhone

3D or not 3D? That is the question

Product: Virtua Fighter 2 | Developer: Sega Mobile | Publisher: Sega | Format: iPhone | Genre: Conversion, Fighting | Players: 1-2 | Networking: Bluetooth | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Virtua Fighter 2 iPhone, thumbnail 1
Playing a game like Virtua Fighter 2 on iPhone is akin to excitedly opening a present at Christmas.

As you tear open the gaily-coloured wrapping, you catch a glimpse of a logo that teases what awaits inside the box, only to remove the rest of the paper to find it's actually a lot less impressive than expected.

Instead of gifting fighting fans with a loyal conversion of the much-loved 3D coin-op brawler - something that the hardware is perfectly capable of handling - SEGA has merely ported over the less impressive 16-bit Mega Drive version: a watered-down 2D game that received a lukewarm reception when it was released in 1996.

Not what we asked for

This flimsy facsimile of the arcade classic attempts to transpose the impossibly deep and nuanced gameplay into a flat and featureless 2D realm. The results are predictably disappointing.

Firstly, the visual impact of the arcade version is entirely absent. The cardboard cut-out characters betray the personality and zest that coursed through its coin-guzzling forerunner.

It's not as though iPhone and iPod touch can't handle a 3D arcade game from 15 years ago. What it comes down to is laziness. SEGA decided to plop out this port using their Genesis emulator rather than going through the effort of tailoring the superior coin-op version.

The gameplay has suffered equally in the transition, but its deficiencies are compounded by the switch from the Mega Drive's responsive joypad to the less-than-ideal touchscreen.


The tap control method - in stark contrast to Capcom's Street Fighter 2 which relies more on smooth quarter and half-circle motions - is translated with middling success; the virtual controls lack the precision required for hectic fighting.

Despite the surfeit of moves available (each combatant has around 25 to exploit), Virtua Fighter 2 never feels engaging or exciting. Although it adopts the same viewpoint as the aforementioned Street Fighter 2, this port doesn’t have any fancy projectile moves and instead relies on subtle combination attacks, most of which are based on authentic martial arts moves.

These bone-crunching manoeuvres looked brilliant in the 3D arcade version, but the 2D sprites used here can’t convey the same sense of weight and animation. Experts on the coin-op edition can observe the animations of the characters and predict incoming blows, countering them with astonishing accuracy and dexterity – such skill simply isn’t possible in this clumsy, stilted port.

Wax on, wax off

Playing Virtua Figher 2 on your own quickly becomes an exercise in frustration, as the computer opponent isn’t hamstrung by the same interface limitations as you. Playing against a friend is far preferable, although SEGA has only included Bluetooth local multiplayer, rather than online via Game Center or OpenFeint.

Even the prospect of playing with a pal can’t save Virtua Fighter 2 from the scrapheap. The stodgy controls and crippling lack of entertainment are more than enough to ensure you duke out a couple of rounds, but no more.

It's a missed opportunity for SEGA. Rather than give gamers what they really wanted – a handheld version of one of the finest 3D fighting games of all time – it's rehashed a conversion that by rights should never have happened in the first place, even way back in the dim and distant days of 1996.
Virtua Fighter 2
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 27 January 2011
Virtual Fighter 2 is an inferior 2D fighting game whose flaws are all the more glaring in this clumsy iOS adaptation
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