The Virtua Fighter series, to me at least, always seemed like the "serious" fighting game. The kind of game where it would be beneficial to really study the movements and combos, because button mashing your way to victory never worked against real students of the game. Whether that opinion was formed out of some basic truth about fighting games or simply because I was pretty bad at it, it helped give the series a bit of reverence in my young eyes.
The Virtua Fighter 2 iPhone game doesn't inspire that same devotion, for a few reasons. For one, I'm older now, and although the core fighting engine might be as pure today as it was when this game first released, the dated visuals make it hard to forget that Virtua Fighter 2 isn't exactly brand new. We're at a point with mobile games where most of them look at least on par with Virtua Fighter 2, if not quite a bit better.
The other main reason this app doesn't send retro butterflies quivering through my stomach has to do with a simple issue of the available hardware. Simply put, fighting games — but especially one like Virtua Fighter, which relied heavily on quick-wristed combos — don't work nearly as well on the digital d-pad. Virtua Fighter 2 puts forth a noble effort, don't get me wrong. Nothing in the game feels broken or incomplete, but just as arcade veterans moaned about gamepad controllers being insufficient to a strong analog joystick, a digital gamepad controller is worse than either option.
It's hard to perform moves with any grace, which tends to make it easier to button mash, which is a fine way to get your face mashed in. True to its arcade roots, there are no difficulty settings in the Virtua Fighter 2 app. The fights against the CPU start out easy, and quickly escalate into something much more. If you haven't improved your playing, you'll be thwarted every time.
My numerous gripes aside, if you absolutely loved Virtua Fighter 2 when it was originally released, you won't be too let down by this app. It remains extremely faithful to the original. It's probably too faithful for a world that wants everything bigger and badder than we remember it, but just about right for fans of the classic. The controls will face the biggest hurdle for fans of the classic, but as a curiosity, Virtua Fighter 2 is probably still worth a look.
If you didn't grow up on it, though, there's not much reason to revisit it. Without nostalgia, Virtua Fighter 2 is just a so-so fighting game on a platform that doesn't suit the genre very well.