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Virtua Fighter Kids - Sega/AM2

by Douglas L. Erickson (douglas@mailhost.ecn.uoknor.edu)

Lowdown:

    The only thing that could turn the casual gamer off is the graphic style - it may be too kooky for folk who like their fighters SERIOUS (insert pouty face here). VF2 freaks may be unhappy with the decreassed range and Tekken-like (Glurk!) "Kids" mode, but bugger that - this really ain't VF2. Me, I can't believe that they made such a dry game so entertaining - this game had me rolling. However, this IS a game that requires a very weird sense of humor, so I'll state unequivocally that you probably should rent this game first if you aren't amused by anime-style antics and self-deprecating treatment of more serious games. However, you'll find a very well put together game, which, in the "Kids" more, takes the flashy, easy-to-do comboes and merges them with the trickier VF2 style of play. As I've said, there 're no losers here.

I'm really not sure what possessed me to buy this title. Although I owned VF2, having picked it up on a liquidation sale at Sears, and not enjoyed it that much, some foul craving to engage in fisticuffs 'atwixt hyperencephalitic juveniles drove me the five miles into the mall to trade VF2 in and get the newly-released "Kids" version.

Let me state off the bat that I am sure VF2 is a deep and wonderful game, chock full of intriguing and myriad strategies to spawn whole news- -groups of jargon-spouting fanatics. (I *still* don't know what a SPoD is - I think you use it to clean broccoli or something) Still, it did absolutely nothing for me. The creepy floating ring, the low-poly-count characters, the bad sound, and atrocious voice clips really made me question my $20 purchase.

So why did I buy _VF Kids_? Profound introspection yields only one answer: I'm a KOOKY son-of-a-bitch. And I like _VF Kids_. A *lot*. The comboes are now MUCH easier, the characters are FAR more detailed, and the sound is fixed. The ring still floats, but the good finally outweighs the bad enough to make this one of the best looking games on 32-bit hardware. I'd venture to say that it is closer to the "Dial-a-Combo" strings of Tekken in terms of combination play than the precision maneuvers of its original form, and for me, that's a GOOD thing. However, I'll elaborate on this later in the review.

Graphics, IMHO, supersede VF2, despite a higher degree of clipping errors. The poly count is MUCH higher, yet the high-res graphics and 60 fps frame rate of the original Saturn VF2 are retained. There is also a wide variety of facial textures for each of the individual characters, allowing a hilarious degree of expressiveness. Head tracking and evasion animation makes the fights *look* deeper and more well-animated, as do the variety of textured facial responses, such as Lau's mutant grins, or Pai's disgustingly kawaii smirks of contentment. The responses from your friends (especially those who believe themself possessed of a greater grasp on sanity then the rest) upon seeing the huge crania of the fighters bobbing about in what looks like some sort of mating dance between shipping buoys is *priceless*. The backgrounds are still scaled parallaxing 2-D fields, but are now drawn with a coloring-book feel, chock full of pink horsies and bug-eyed sharks. Uh, yeah. I could write volumes on the wide variety of comical elements of this game; it's recommended you experience the game for yourself. If you don't laugh upon the horrified expressions of 1P game combatants interrupted by a challenger, or the "chases" that result when a player facing the wrong way attempts to dash and the 2P player follows, then yer a dull sod who deserves, nay, DEMANDS an immediate and painful drubbing with a heavy stack of Gamest V2.1 mooks. Connecting strikes are augmented with a little burst which is more of a SF2-style star than a Tekken-style puffball. Those who take their VF2 seriously will hate this little introduction, but look at the GAME - it fits perfectly with the atmosphere.

Sound quality is DRASTICALLY improved over the original VF2. Gone is the low-Hz sampled voice clips and fuzzy music, replaced with much higher quality tracks and chipmunk-ified sound bites. The retarded end-of-round sayings such as Sarah's "Better run home to momma now" or Lion's "What a knucklehead" are actually entertaining now that they sound like they were sampled from a castrato smurf on acid. I still want to strangle Jacky, but with his new battery of simpering squeals it's MUCH more tolerable.

Play is NOT the same as VF2, although the moves are (VF2 geeks back me up here, 'kay?) the same, plus some new ones. First, the range is completely different, requiring one to close to a *much* shorter distance with his opponent. No more Lau cheapness with the sweeps - ha! Throws also seem a little awkward, with the movements being almost completely obscured by the grotesque noggins. Second, the moves are MUCH easier to link in "Kids" mode, giving the game a more Tekken-esque (I'm *praying* that's not a real word) feel. If yer a VF2 purist, you can play it in "Normal" mode, but most of us non-techie wusses prefer the Tekken ease of playability under the "Kids" setting. Either way, you win; each player in a Vs. match can select the mode he/she wants his/her character to respond under. No losers here, no sir. I'm not sure about the motions for the new moves, but Sarah was *definately* doing moves I hadn't seen before in when I started resorting to button-mashing in a futile effort to curb a losing streak. Also available is a "Combo Maker," which I haven't experimented with much but looks rather cool. Ranking mode is still available, as are a wealth of options and configurations. Mucho coolio.

All in all, if yer not a hard-core VF2-type, having unholy inclinations of the Tekken-oid (there's ANOTHER word that had better not exist) variety, you'll prolly get a kick outta _VF Kids_. Sure, if you want to be a virtual Royce Gracie or Ken Shamrock, this game will probably be the LAST thing on earth to make you spurt with its rather, er, zany graphics and wacky sounds. However, if you're like me, and like your fighting games with a thick syrupy saccharine injection of goofy humor and hip, self-aware style, then _VF Kids_ may be right up your alley. Unlike _Tekken 2_, _VF Kids_ has no trouble deciding if its a serious fighter or a crackpot satire; one look at Lau's scraggy mien crinkling into a corny leer on the select screen gives this baby's true nature away. VF2 purists will probably be offended, and Tekken types will undoubtedly be faintly alarmed (a little TOO familiar, perhaps?), but, if you just can't take these damn games seriously, it's worth a look-see.

Graphics: 8.25

  • + VERY consistent style - some stages could be fleshed out a little more artistically.
  • + 60 fps is sooooo nice - sometimes moves come out too easily, though
  • - Clipping errors and the floating ring bring the score down a tad.
Sound: 7.75

  • + The f/x are A HUGE leap over VF2.
  • - The music is nothing spectacular - remixed VF2 tunes.
Game play: 9

  • + It's VF2, fer chrissakes. Overall: 8.75

    -Doug



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