Fate put us in the ring together.
Why don't I just put my cards on the table right now. I'll always have a special place in my heart for computer generated action-heroines. Geek that I am, I find the hyperreality of Lara Croft and others like her incredibly appealing. But before Lara, there was Pai Chan, the nineteen year old Chinese uber-babe and star (well, in my book) of Virtua Fighter 2. I spent many a quarter in the arcade controlling Pai and attacking all her less intriguing opponents. You can probably imagine how excited I was when given the chance to take Ms. Chan home on CD-ROM for a mere forty dollars.
When Sega first announced the release of the original Virtua Fighter on the PC last year, I was as skeptical as everyone else. With crummy fighting ports like CAPCOM's Streetfighter 2 on my hard drive, I didn't think it was possible for a PC to replicate the graphics, control, and playability of the arcade. Well, every PC fighting enthusiast knows that Sega's Virtua Fighter PC was great stuff and as a direct result, I had great expectations for Virtua Fighter 2. Could Sega do it again? The answer is yes!
With a fighting game you gotta have three basic things: speed, graphics and control. Virtua Fighter 2 is a winner in all three departments, if you have the hardware to make it happen. Though unable to match the 60 frames per second of the arcade game, my reasonably fast Diamond Stealth 3000 and P200 MMX provided a decent pace and a nice looking fight. If you're system shudders at the mention of Winbench, you can turn off the backgrounds, choose the interlace mode (it doesn't look half bad), select the 3:1 frame drop (the moves become a little less smooth) or play in a smaller sized window. The other piece of hardware you'll want is a gamepad. Though Virtua Fighter 2 has the best keyboard control I've experienced on any PC fighter, nothing can match the feel of that Coke and Snickers-stained little buddy.
One of the things I loved about the arcade Virtua Fighter 2 (in addition to Pai Chan) was the elegant, realistic motion-captured moves and the absence of unrealistic weapons. Don't tell me about Mortal Kombat or Tekken 2. OK, OK, you can tell me about Soul Blade, but that's not the point. The point is, Virtua Fighter 2 is all about good-old, down-and-dirty martial arts. Fortunately, Sega didn't mess with the formula. All 1,200 of the arcade's punches, kicks, holds and throws (no I didn't actually count them, I'm taking the PR guy's word) have found their way into the PC port. Since I was able to remember and immediately use all my arcade Pai Chan moves, I think Sega is actually telling the truth. Any Akira experts out there with an opinion?
Sega even managed to add a few little bonuses to the game without ruining it. Not only can you enter a sort of practice mode on the high score screen, save replays to disk, challenge or control two new fighters, adjust difficulty levels, and select the ring size, but you'll also be able to look at character profiles previously available only on the Japanese Saturn picture discs. Yep, that's right: ten hi-res shots of Pai Chan (oh, and the other fighters as well) in different outfits and real-world scenarios.
We've seen some pretty mediocre and even terrible fighting games for the PC this year (The Crow: City of the Angels, FX Fighter Turbo, Perfect Weapon, Time Warriors and X-Men: Children of the Atom) so the only real PC competition for Virtua Fighter 2 is the recently released HEAT.NET online game, Net Fighter. Since Net Fighter is still in its infancy (just two fighters, no real single player support) Virtua Fighter 2 is currently the reigning champion in the PC fighting genre. The only things wrong with this game are the lack of 3D hardware accelerator support (a patch is due in January), the extremely high system requirements, the hideous manual and menu interface, and Pai Chan's continual failure to pay any more attention to me than she did in the arcade. It seems that our new living arrangements haven't changed a thing.