QCF: Fighting Vipers (PSN)

irtua Fighter, at the time of its release was an innovative, incredibly fresh experience that set a new standard by which fighting games in the future had to measure up to. At the time, no one did it better than Sega AM2, and a year after the release of Virtua Fighter 2 came Fighting Vipers, a brand new franchise in the same vein as Virtua Fighter – complete with the same level of depth and absurdly huge move sets - but with brand new characters and an new dynamic: Body armor.

Fighting Vipers also released on the Sega Saturn alongside its Virtua cousins, and is now available in HD on the XBLA and PSN marketplaces.

I recently took a look at Virtua Fighter 2 on the PSN and XBLA platforms. While the transition to HD worked out pretty well, the human versus aspect, both online and off, was quite decent as it should be. However, I was less than thrilled at the transition it made in regards to a one-player experience given its too-stiff, floaty control and ultra-cheap CPU opponents.

Thankfully, Fighting Vipers fares much better with its faster – albeit still stiff – gameplay. In fact, unlike the HD release of Virtua Fighter 2Fighting Vipers feels much closer to the Sega Saturn's enjoyable release. Paired with the deep move sets that AM2 are famous for and the addition of online versus, trophies and leaderboards to the already great local versus, Fighting Vipers makes for a much better experience than its Virtua cousin.

Fighting Vipers takes a fairly different approach to its fighting system than Virtua Fighter 2. Where VF2 took a somewhat slower, more methodical approach, Fighting Vipers gets all up in your grill with a much faster response time and more over-the-top moves and abilities. The open rings players could use to end a round so quickly are now closed in, allowing you to smash your opponents into the walls for extra damage. And when they're down, you can keep the carnage coming with a swift chest stomp. Overall, the fighting feels more or less balanced, though Picky has a slightly noticeable advantage in terms of speed.

The addition of body armor is interesting, but mostly pointless if you're playing a two-round match. There are times when armor shatters during a standard bout, but you'll see it happen a lot more if you're playing a three-round match or higher. When your armor breaks, you'll take more damage based on where the armor was before it broke. If your leg armor goes, you'll take more damage to your legs than you would in the chest and vice versa. It's even possible to unequip your armor with a very fast (and temperamental) button combo, making for a more challenging game. Fighting Vipers also benefits from pretty great character design and the soundtrack is pretty decent, though not quite as strong nor as iconic as Virtua Fighter 2. Regardless, in high definition, Fighting Vipers really shines.

In short, with its manageable difficulty, swifter control, deep move sets and interesting armour mechanics - not to mention a completely obtainable 100% trophy rate – Fighting Vipers is worth your five bucks. Just don't expect especially great things from this sorely ageing fighter.

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