The Vipers of which the game speaks are actually a bunch of kids, who have for some reason taken to wearing astonishingly bright and colourful armour for no apparent reason. They also have a few bones to pick with a chap called "BM," whose back garden their ball presumably landed in. He's fairly hacked off with them as well, and wants to make them inmates in his shiny new island prison complex. Perhaps it loses something in the translation, but hey, beat 'em ups aren't renowned for their awe-inspiring back stories. First up on the list of improvements (we ran the game next to a Saturn running the original Jap CD), is the framerate. A super-smooth 60FPS is wonderful, and adds enough gloss under its own steam to offer an improvement. The graphics have been spruced up in places, noticeably so on the characters, but they still look blooming awful, with their exceedingly bright Tupperware armour and snakeskin costumes. This is one of Viper's biggest problems; it wasn't actually that incredible a game to start with. The point was that with three years to play around in, and vastly more impressive hardware, everyone had expected great things.
The game's control system shares a lot in common with Virtua Fighter. The three key moves at your disposal are guard, punch and kick, which respond quickly, and players often take on a fairly VF-like stance, preferring to block and hold than to jump in with all guns blazing. Armour also plays quite a key part - if you smack someone's armour it isn't going to do much damage, but catch them where there's a chink, and you're away. Beyond that though the VF similarities disappear. FV2's training mode is hopeless for example. On the Saturn everything was explained at length, but on the Dreamcast you just sit there and are expected to deal with it yourself. The game's main saving grace at the moment is the Super KO moves. If you're low down on health, you can still pull it back by pulling one of these off (and it's no mean feat). Alright, so it doesn't come close to some of the stuff seen in Dead or Alive 2 or Soul Calibur, but it's still pretty entertaining. Slamming someone through a wall is fun wherever one does it, after all.
Ultimately, Fighting Vipers II looks like it will slink away into obscurity and defy a proper Western translation, which is a shame, since it does offer enough to hold its own. It's no Soul Calibur, but it may find a place in someone's heart, especially if it receives yet another lick of paint in the process.
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