Maybe, just maybe, not every old console title needs to be ported to the iPhone, especially when far superior arcade versions of the title exist. Sega has now released Virtua Fighter 2 for iOS, but not the Virtua Fighter 2 that was in the arcades, the Virtua Fighter 2 that was released for the Genesis. This would be the Virtua Fighter 2 that went with the dumbed-down 2D graphics as opposed to the arcade's 3D ones.
The reason for playing Virtua Fighter 2 in the arcades was that it looked awesome. The characters were these excellent 3D models, and while the 3D models did make it to some home systems, they didn't make it to the Genesis. No, the Genesis got 2D ones instead.
Depending on how you see the world, that may not have been a bad choice – if the Genesis couldn't handle the full graphics, why not simplify them somewhat so that the game could play on it? Not having been in the room when the project was discussed, we can't state that there was an entirely cynical discussion about simply making money even if the game had to abandon the look and feel of the arcade title (though we're sure that there are those out there who won't be so shy about venturing an opinion). What we can say is that on the iPhone, the Genesis port of Virtua Fighter 2 looks bad and is tough to control.
The straightforward fighter can be played both fullscreen with the controls over the picture or with the visuals in a smaller window with the controls below them. The latter method makes the images somewhat sharper and more pleasant to look at, but we'd still be hard-pressed to call them anything approaching "good."
The sound too is distinctly unimpressive. The voices are the same sort of harsh, indistinct, computerized ones that appear in Altered Beast and while the effects (punches, kicks, etc.) are better, they quickly grow old.
Perhaps the worst sin of the title aren't the graphics or the sound, but rather the controls. Utilizing the Genesis' D-pad and three buttons to create a multitude of moves is less than easy. The game is sluggish to respond and executing some of the more complicated attacks is exceptionally difficult. The computer, not being hampered by the controls, has no such difficulty performing moves and when you get to the higher levels you're going to need the moves in order to win. At least you can continue once you lose and be able to start off at the same level rather than having to start from the beginning again. We humbly suggest that even if you can beat the first few levels without any attacks beyond simple kicks and punches you use those levels to practice the more difficult moves.
The game does have the ability to go multiplayer with other local iPhones/iPods which adds some replay value to it, but if only the multiplayer is really enjoyable (and it's only semi-enjoyable) does that make the title worth buying? Probably not. There are better fighters available on the iPhone and your memories of this straightforward fighter are certainly better than anything that the port has to offer.
Virtua Fighter 2 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Animated Violence. This game can also be found on: PC, PS3, and Wii.
Article first published as iPhone Game Review: Virtua Fighter 2 on Blogcritics.