Why is such a god-tier fighting game so underrated and ignored? Standing in the shadow of Virtua Fighter, SEGA’s “other” 3D fighting game series is happy with its cult following. But I’m not chipper until Fighting Vipers gets the respect it deserves. Or something like that.
There have only been two-and-a-half games released in the Fighting Vipers series, but all two-and-a-half of them are brilliant. The mechanics are finely tuned, with a clever armor system that protects you from heavy blows…until it breaks, that is. With no ring-out, Fighting Vipers instead offers you the ability to launch an opponent through the solid wall of the arena with a really strong finishing move.
It is so satisfying to wail on your opponent and then smash them through the arena wall, to fall three miles to their death.
The series sees players assume the role of “vipers”, who are talented street fighters. My favourites are Honey (photogenic super idol) and Blood Mahler (the main series antagonist). Each viper is equipped with clothing, which acts as their armor. When damaged too much, the clothing breaks, leaving them more vulnerable to damage. You can destroy all your clothing immediately and activate a hyper mode, but I’ve only ever managed to trigger it once.
It’s some hard shit.
The sequel adds in tough to pull off “Super K.O.s” that are worth two ordinary K.O.s, and these moves are friggincredible. That, combined with the improved hardware providing higher quality graphics, audio and control, it’s safe to say that Fighting Vipers 2 is a superior game in both the sense of being the next and being the best.
The entire cast from the first game returns, as well as four new characters. All of their moves from the previous game are intact, and built upon. There is very little to complain about here.
This Dreamcast port is ultimately lacking, though. That’s not to say the brilliant core isn’t there, because it is. But home console ports of games are expected to offer a little more than a survival mode and a practice mode, especially when the practice mode doesn’t even have command-lists.
There’s effortless, and then there’s “Hey, we didn’t even try!”.
Wait, isn’t that the same thing?
Fighting Vipers 2 is absolutely fluid, gels in the hands fluently, transcribing your thoughts into actions with the easiest of button combinations. When to block, when to take a hit, and whether or not to roll out of a stun mid-launch, it can all be frightening in the middle of a fight but still oddly therapeutic.
This isn’t a tangent, bear with me. When Virtua Fighter 3 TB graced the Dreamcast, it brought with it the eponymous Team Battle mode, but also contained more content that wasn’t in the arcade version. Besides perhaps one unlockable secret character, Fighting Vipers 2 has nothing special added to the home port.
They’re both ports of Model 3 fighting games from the arcade, so there’s no excuse for not including anything new. Oh wait, there is the nurse’s outfit for Honey. All is forgiven.
Although some of the edges are slightly rough, Fighting Vipers 2 is still the cream of the crop of fighting games I have played, especially when it comes to the speed of the game and the fighting mechanics. I have not a single qualm with the composition, tweaking and control of the game.
My problems are solely aimed at the Dreamcast version’s lack of extra content and purchase incentive. Even a simple mission mode, like defeating particular enemies with less or more health, or only with certain moves, would probably have been easy enough to string together with a little time and some effort.
I think that’s what it all boils down to here. Fighting Vipers 2, as a fighting game sequel, is clearly a labor of love and a lot of effort has gone into its creation. However, the Dreamcast port seems as though it were rushed onto shelves as some last minute decision.
Sometimes, I have no trouble recommending Fighting Vipers 2. It’s worth tracking down if you’re a fan of Virtua Fighter, but sometimes I’m left imagining how it could have been so easily padded out or enhanced for the home port. It’s a flawless, finely built fighting game with immense potential, which has been unfortunately squandered.
Still one of the best fighting games I’ve ever had the joy of experiencing, though.