Back to arcade football hijinks this week as I do a write up on the game I was supposed to write about in our last feature, before the sad death of Jonah Lomu caused me to shift things around.
I’ll confess to saying that when it came to enjoying a few stolen moments at my local arcade, before it was tragically torn down, I usually went for the beat-em-ups. I’d be much more likely to enter the arcade and make a beeline for the nearest Street Fighter or Tekken cabinet as opposed to the sports ones. This could have been down to the fact that I mostly played sports games at home on my SNES and the arcade was a chance to try something new. As mentioned in previous features, I didn’t get a PlayStation till late on in 1998, so in 1995 rocking up to the arcade and having a game on Virtua Fighter or Tekken was something that made the most of the occasion.
Virtua Striker 2 is probably the only football game from my trips to the arcade that I could actually name. My only experience of Libero Grande was on the PlayStation, as arcades were becoming passé by the time it came out and it was more of a niche game. Virtua Striker was a bit more traditional, so it would pop up more in bowling alleys and cinemas long after the arcade era was finished. I was actually in Morecambe a couple of years ago and stumbled across a cabinet of this still diligently running away. Lord knows how long it had been there for. SEGA produced some excellent arcade sports games, and I’d certainly add this game to the list.
Virtua Striker 2 Version 2000.1 was a slightly updated version of the game that was released to The Dreamcast in 1999. The game doesn’t use any licensed players but the kits and player designs are based loosely on the squads from France 98. For example, it’s not hard to ascertain that England’s tall and powerful number 4 is Paul Ince or that Brazil’s dazzling bald striker is supposed to be Ronaldo. The game includes four generic stadiums, which don’t appear to be based on specific real locations, which look nice enough but lack a little bit of character. On the whole, I found the stadia in Libero Grande to be a bit more atmospheric, despite The Dreamcast graphics being a lot smoother than its Sony counterpart.
The controls are simplistic, with merely shoot, pass and long pass being an option when on attack, and only slide tackle being an option when defending. I would have liked a dedicated second tackle button, but the game does let you dispossess players by just running into them, in essence giving you a “free” tackle. Timing slide tackles can be treacherous and you can expect the red and yellow cards to stack up both for yourself and your CPU/Human opponent. If you can time a slide tackle correctly though it is exceedingly satisfying and the crunching sound effects really make the tackles feel weighty. Most of the time though, you’ll find yourself trying to walk into your opponent’s path, with firing off slide tackles very much a last resort.
Due to there being no sprint function and the rather cumbersome tackling options, matches will at first be plodding battles in the middle of the pitch as both sides try and gain some traction. A good short pass can set you on your way to the opposing teams box but there is a delay on pressing shoot and your player actually kicking the ball. This often gives the defending team a chance to pounce on you before you can get your shot off. Aiming your shot isn’t perfect and could be more responsive, but it works reasonably well enough. Passing may be good for getting the ball up the pitch but this is not the sort of game to reward gradual passing from the back. The game is much more likely to reward you for thumping it down field than patiently working your way up the pitch with high possession play. Tony Pulis would have much more fulfilment playing this one than Roberto Martinez would. This makes the game frantic and high impact, which is to be expected when you take into account that this is an arcade port.
Virtua Striker 2 is a near perfect arcade port, so your enjoyment of it will firmly rest on whether you enjoy a high tempo arcade kick about as opposed to the calmer and more simulated approach of most home football games. Tactics really do go out of the window with this game sometimes and matches can turn into the running of the bulls if you’re not careful. The game isn’t a walk over and even on the easiest difficulty mode it still presents a hearty challenge. However, the game never feels cheap in regards to its difficulty. Whenever I lost, I never felt like it was unfair or I’d been cheated by glitches or poor controls. The game controls well for what it is and looks graphically fine. It’s a solid gaming experience that you can blow a couple of spare hours on quite easily.
Virtua Striker 2 doesn’t have the longevity of a FIFA 99 or ISS Pro 98 and nor does it offer as nuanced a gaming experience. However, at its best it can be a frenetic experience that delivers pulsating fun and thrills in the short term. Combined with a friend for two player mode, you’ll probably get a lot of mileage out of it for the comparatively low price it will cost you. It’s another excellent arcade port from SEGA that transfers the arcade experience to your living room with the usual aplomb. So long as you know what you’re getting into, the game can be a lot of fun.
As always, I’ll post some game footage below.
Thanks for reading
Take a look at YouTube Footage of the game courtesy of NinjitsuEvolved by clicking HERE
Looking for other great content here on the site? Then why not take a goosey gander at Stephen’s Black Ops III review by clicking HERE?