I figure this can be a thread for discussion of the whole series, given we’re expecting something to be happening this year with VF 5 Ultimate Showdown, VF x eSports or VF6. But initially, I want to talk a little about Virtua Fighter 2.
A little backstory since i like that kind of thing… I don’t think I ever saw the first VF in arcades, only in a Timezone (Australian arcade) magazine, but being at the height of fighting game popularity, i was very interested. And also looking forward to the next gen at the time, VF was getting a lot of coverage and I hoped to get a Saturn! But i ended up with a PS1 after seeing both, and it wasn’t until VF2 came out in arcades that I actually got to play the series. I liked ninjas, so i tried Kage and proceeded to die in quick fashion, and swore off 3D fighters for a good while as a result!
The series always had some kind of allure though, so many years after Saturn was off the market, I picked up a used console with the game. I don’t think i spent any considerable time with it then either, preferring to play Sega Rally. At some point I played VF4 on PS2 at a Toys R Us for an hour or so against some random guy and the back and forth with him was when the game and series seemed to click for me. Much much later I got a Japanese Saturn and VF2 again and that’s what i’ve been playing recently, along with the version on PS3 (get it while you can!)
I kind of know now why I died with Kage so quick back then - this game is arcade coin guzzler like nobodies business. I prefer Akira today and - opening myself up for all manner of “you suck” and “git gud”, it takes me over an hour to beat the game on Normal. The only solace is that i refuse to “cheese” the AI with repeated attacks or other things they consistently fall for. No fun in that. I’m kind of curious how long everyone else would take so please add to the thread if you can play!
The AI is what i’d deem utterly transparent in its input reading ability. This thing doesn’t just read your inputs, it reacts to them with no delay, which they could have added to at least simulate a real human, who has to see the attack before they can respond! It gets progressively harder to the point where it seems the AI is just a % setting of how often it will respond with the perfect counter to your input. Around the 5th character in is when it starts to get bullshit, and particularly with the grappler characters, who can often kill you in a throw and stomp in less than 5 seconds if you make a “mistake” - ie, you kick lol. If it’s high, it ducks and hits low, if you duck, they mid kick, if you block for a fraction of second, you get thrown. If you release block they do their fastest hit. It’s beyond infuriating!
Maybe because i’m old and stubborn, I still try and see it through to the final demoralizing defeat at the hands of Dural. Part of me wants to be able to beat it at its own game. By virtue of it almost always doing the same thing, the feeling of “just one more go, I know what it’ll do!” is very strong (also thanks to near instant rematches). The idea that if I can attain faster than CPU response time is part of the attraction I think. In that sense, is it actually a good thing that the AI is training you to become faster and faster and faster? It’s kind of funny, as a kid I remember early 3D fighters as being very sluggish, but in reality VF probably demands the fastest inputs of any fighting game and as a result, it feels near instantaneous when you’re actually playing. I have no friends around to play with anymore (and even if there was someone to play online, I wouldn’t want to suffer through that). But I think playing against the AI probably improves at least some skills you’d need against another human, which I don’t think is often the case for fighting games.
The game also has a simplicity that is attractive nowadays, where fighting games have so many moves and mechanics that it’s hard to remember them all. With a fairly limited amount of tools at your disposal, there’s not much redundancy, their usefulness seems more apparent, and you’re forced to make the most of everything. In a way, despite the later games improving considerably, nothing really feels like it’s missing from VF2. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect mechanically, just that you don’t really seem to think about the limitations of it’s systems. They all seem to be designed around this game or excluded intentionally if that makes sense. An obvious example is the lack of side-stepping - surprisingly I don’t find myself wanting it for it here, even though it’s a major improvement introduced later in the series.
That does apply to a lot of fighting games I think, or at least that’s why I feel I can enjoy older entries still; They can sometimes remain unique and developed enough in their own right, that they’re not made completely obsolete by their sequels. That’ll have to do for my conclusion