Round Two. Let the action begin. - Review By RaptoR
If you didn't own a Sega Saturn, you could be forgiven for not knowing about the original Fighting Vipers. The game remains Sega's least known arcade 3-D fighter, and many gamers just saw it as a poor parody of Virtua Fighter 2. However, its lack of fame didn't stop it from being a good game. Gamers who spent time with Fighting Vipers saw it as a welcome break from Virtua Fighter 2. It delivered high-speed action along with fun characters, impressive graphics, and a new kind of fighting system. Instead of having an open area to battle it out, the original Fighting Vipers pitted players against each other in a caged arena, the walls of which would smash open during particular brutal final blows. FV also offered an armor system. First you had to damage your opponents upper or lower armor by process of... well... hitting it very hard, and then finish it off with a powerful attack. This added a whole new dimension to the fighting genre.
Of course, none of this mattered as the arcade game received an extremely limited release in the US. Thankfully, Sega ported the game to its Saturn, and gamers who would not have cared about the game otherwise gave it a look. Many gamers' first exposure to Fighting Vipers was not of the arcade but of the Saturn port and Sega's Fighters Megamix, arguably one of the best fighting games of all time. (Fighters Megamix is basically a mixture of Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers along with a host of additions, and the two games combined create a winning formula.)
That's all well and good, but what about Fighting Vipers 2? Can same formula still cut the proverbial mustard after five years of near obscurity?
Sanman is even more of a walking trash heap this round. What does Candy see in him?
The first thing that struck me about Fighting Vipers 2 is its shameless Japanese anime style. This makes a refreshing change from the harsh realism that we've seen in fighters such as Soul Calibur. Even the game's box is covered with cartoons of the FV2 characters. On loading the game up, I was greeted with the customary introduction, featuring the game's characters, and three mysterious-looking helicopters. I'll be damned if I could work out what it all meant, but it looked interesting nonetheless. After that, I was straight into arcade mode. The fighters' models look much more simplistic than some of the ultra-realistic skins seen in Soul Calibur. The characters' armor is normally only textured with one color, adding to the games style. The graphics looked crisp and detailed, and ran at a nice high 40-50fps. There's only one let-down in the graphics department, but we'll leave that for later.
You'll find all your favourite Vipers from the original game here, including Candy, Bahn, Picky, and Mahler. AM2 have also added four more characters, the most memorable being the twelve-year-old Emi, who wears a blue teddy bear rocket pack, and Charlie, who attacks others with a BMX bike. Yes, some characters do attack with objects other than their bare fists, and if you thought Raxel's flying-V guitar was outrageous, wait until you get smacked around with a bike. The character designs are a mixed bag and are definitely an acquired taste. While the characters aren't as stylish as the fighters in Virtua Fighter 3 or as pretty as those in Dead or Alive 2, they do have a certain flair about them.
Even in the "Hanger of the Dark Royal," the fight between rollarblading Grace and kid Emi seems silly.
While other games may have caught up with Fighting Vipers' speed, the sequel still retains that fast and furious gaming style that made its predecessor so much fun to play. Unlike Soul Calibur, random button bashing isn't enough. You really have to a certain master each characters strongest moves and delevelop a good fighting strategy to win on higher difficulty settings. Each player also has one or two power-attacks. Performed by holding back and pressing punch or kick, these attacks have a tendency to knock your opponent to the other side of the ring at great speed, causing massive damage. Another feature worth mentioning is the game's Super-KO feature. To perform this, you must first lose all your armor. Once you've done that, press back, followed by punch, kick and guard. Your player will spring into an ultra-powerful attack that is worth two KO points. Thankfully this moves' difficulty outweighs its power.
As should be expected from AM2, they're not happy simply giving us a spot-on arcade conversion. Several new features have been implemented, including the standard versus battle, time attack, and survival modes. While they're nothing special, they allow you to hone your skills against AI opponents or even (shock) other humans!
Next: More Good, The Bad, and The Final Word