Virtua Fighter 2 (バーチャファイター２) is a fighting game developed by Sega AM2 and published by Sega as is the direct sequel to Virtua Fighter. It is, as the name suggests, the second game in the Virtua Fighter series, and was originally released for Sega Model 2A CRX arcade hardware in 1994.
Virtua Fighter 2 was known for its breakthrough graphics and animation, rendering 3D characters and backgrounds with filtered texture mapping and introducing motion capture animation technology to the game industry.
Virtua Fighter 2 follows largely the same rules as its predecessor - it is a 3D versus fighting game with three buttons, ring-outs and potentially complex movesets. Virtua Fighter 2 builds on this however by featuring faster-paced gameplay and momentum-based damage (i.e. charging at an enemy deals more damage than attacking while standing still).
Virtua Fighter 2 pushes up the move count from roughly 700 in its predecessor, to around 2,000 (noting of course the addition of Shun and Lion). This includes the ability for some characters to sidestep attacks.
Unlike its predecessor, gravity in Virtua Fighter 2 is more nuanced, meaning characters can no longer jump the height of an average human being across most of the playfield.
Virtua Fighter 2 uses fewer polygons than the original Virtua Fighter, with detail instead being represented by textures.
Virtua Fighter 2 features all the characters of the previous game, plus two (or three) more:
In the arcade version of Virtua Fighter 2, players indirectly do battle with a character made up of letters while inputting their initials in the high score screen. In the home versions of the game, it is possible to play as this fighter. The "alphabet character", who has no official name, merely borrows movesets from other fighters. The letters making up the character change as time progresses.
Virtua Fighter 2 was developed alongside the Sega Model 2 arcade system board, which itself debuted in 1993. In order to produce the game's filtered, texture-mapped characters and backgrounds, Yu Suzuki turned to Lockheed Martin, formerly General Electric Aerial & Space, which charged $2 million to use the texture mapping chip of their flight simulation equipment that cost $32 million overall. Despite some reluctance on Sega's part, Suzuki managed to convince them to buy the chip for $2 million, and he then worked with his AM2 team to convert it for video game use.
Using the Lockheed Martin technology, his AM2 team eventually managed to create a graphics chip that could be mass-produced for $50 each. As a result, he was able to use texture mapping for the Virtua Fighter 2 characters. In order to produce better animations for the characters, the team also utilized motion capture animation technology, which had previously been limited to the healthcare industry and never used before by the video game industry.
Four new characters were originally designed for Virtua Fighter 2, however only Shun and Lion were included in the final game as the other two were deemed too similar to earlier characters. No traces of these two scrapped characters exist in the game, having never made it past the concept stage. The smaller lineup of characters was also to encourage "emotional attachments" to the fighters, which was felt might have been lost if too many were selectable.
Yu Suzuki travelled to China to learn some of the martial arts techniques in the game first hand.
Virtua Fighter 2, much like its predecessor, was very successful for Sega (particualrly in Japan), demonstrating cutting-edge graphics which made good use of Sega's Model 2 arcade platform. This hardware was able to run the game at 60 frames per second at a high resolution without slowdown, and was able to compete against the likes of Namco's Tekken and other Virtua Fighter arcade derivatives which were beginning to emerge by this point.
Upon release, the Virtua Fighter 2 video game arcade cabinet cost £6000 for arcade operators. For players, the arcade game cost £1 per play.
The Saturn version of Virtua Fighter 2 sold 1.7 million copies in Japan. In addition, it sold at least more than 500,000 copies in the United States, (200,000 selling in December 1995 alone) adding up to at least more than 2.2 million units sold in Japan and the United States.
Virtua Fighter 2 was re-released as Virta Fighter 2+1 (2.1) in Japan. This version features re-tweaked gameplay, slightly enhanced graphics and the ability to play as a newly-designed Dural. This version was also released as Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 16: Virtua Fighter 2 (with other tweaks) for the PlayStation 2. It is also possible to switch to the 2+1 gameplay mechanics in the Saturn and PC versions, but none of the other features are updated.
Virtua Fighter 2 was brought to the Sega Saturn in 1996 with extra modes and a CD soundtrack, at the expense of graphical fidelity and polygon counts. The Saturn version is widely considered to be one of the better looking games for the system, despite having to sacrifice the 3D backgrounds of its arcade counterpart. This version was the basis for a Microsoft Windows port in 1997.
Development on the Saturn version began shortly after the release of the Saturn port of Virtua Fighter in December 1994, however development on the title did not take precedence at AM2 until after the release of the Saturn Daytona USA and the Sega Graphics Library (SGL), the latter developed by AM2 to greatly assist third-party Saturn development which at this point had been struggling with the hardware. Virtua Fighter 2 was the showpiece for SGL, with a texture-mapped Pai being demonstrated on the 24th March, 1995.
AM2 compiled a rolling demo for the '95 Tokyo Toy Show in June, where animations of Lion, Shun, Pai and Lau were demonstrated running at 60FPS. A "20% complete" version appeared at ECTS Autumn 1995 and IFA 1995 over the summer, now with more characters, but noticably missing elements, such as Sarah's ponytail.
By the autumn screenshots of a new build was being circulated in the press, now with a heads-up display and more developed characters, but still lacking many features. Throws were implemented in the game, but punches and kicks would not do damage. Shun was rendered abnormally large (while also missing his bottle), and none of the characters were yet to receive shadows. A further (playable) build was demonstrated at Amusement Machine Show 1995.
1.5 million Saturn copies were pre-ordered in Japan. At launch, it was reported that Saturn console sales were beating the PlayStation at a rate of 6:1 as a result of the game's popularity.
The Saturn port allows for the arena size to be adjusted down or all the way up to 82 metres, being the only game in the series, other than Virtua Fighter Remix, that has such options. The energy meter is also adjustable (to the point where it has no meaning), leading to what some have called "sumo match" modes, where players can only win by knocking their opponent out of the ring.
Virtua Fighter 2 was considered a technical feat for its time, running at a full 704x480 resolution (704x512 in PAL regions; both more than the Model 2 version) while aiming for 60FPS. To compensate, the Saturn version features no lighting - all polygon faces are rendered with the same brightness level, although the texture work goes some way to mask the limitations (as does the fact most of the game takes place outside in the daylight). The game also still casts shadows on the floor, albeit simpler ones than its Model 2 counterpart.
The most notable omission in the Saturn (and PC) versions are the 3D backgrounds, which are now rendered in 2D similar to the original Virtua Fighter. This would be a long-standing issue in most fighting games for the Saturn and PlayStation, where polygons are hard to come by and are better utilised improving the character models instead. Later titles such as Fighting Vipers and Last Bronx would start to find ways of overcoming the problem, and many of the stages would be made more accurate in Fighters Megamix.
The decision to simplify the backgrounds leads to some notable omissions in the Saturn port. In the arcade, Shun Di's stage takes place on a large raft moving down a river, occasionally floating underneath stone bridges, while on the Saturn the arena is static and takes place on the shoreline of the river. Wolf's stage also misses the cage surrounding the arena (something re-introduced in Megamix (and to a lesser degree in Virtua Fighter Kids). The reflective floors of Dural's stage are also missing in the Saturn port.