Virtua Fighter Vol. #2 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 01, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2003



What They Say
The fighting game that started them all comes backifor one last round.

Legends speak ofia great constellation of stars, only visibleito those who possess true strength. Having lost his abilityito see those stars, Akira walks theiearthiin search of answers.

The Koenkan has kidnapped Sara, but Akira, Jacky andiPai are onitheir trail. Joining up with theilikes of Wolf, Jeffery, andiLion, theiteam uncoversia deadly conspiracy. To save Sara andihis friends, Akira will haveito face off against theileader of theiKoenkan anditheimysterious ultimate fighter, Dural.

Includes Episodes 13-24.

The Review!
Virtua Fighter continues as the group gets split up and sent around the world to try and save their friends and family.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English dubbed format. The series has a pretty basic stereo mix that does a decent job with the forward soundstage but provides little in terms of real depth to it. There’s some nice directionality to it and some oomph to various fight sequences, but nothing really strong or outstanding. Dialogue was clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing back in 1995, this second installment of the series has the concluding set of twelve episodes spread across two discs. The twelve episodes are actually rather good looking here with a solid transfer. The series actually looked to have something of a modest budget, which keeps things such as characters going off model to a minimum. There isn’t a lot of detail to the characters, which means there’s pretty much no issues with cross coloration here and even aliasing is minimal, but it does cause the characters to be a bit bland. Colors are nicely saturated, though one segment had a villain in a purple top that bled all over the place.

Packaging:
Presented in a single keepcase with the flippy hinge to hold the second disc, Virtua Fighter’s packaging is once more rather nice looking. The front cover provides the various cast members in as detailed an image of them as you’re going to see and pushes hard for the logo recognition. The back cover provides a few character animation shots, some of which are a bit weaker than they are in the show itself, as well as providing a simple summary of the premise. The credits are pretty minimal and there’s the usual grid of information (though the running time is padded by about 30 minutes due to these episodes running shorter than normal, just over two hours per disc. The insert uses both sides this time with each one covering the chapter stops for a specific volume.

Menu:
The main menu is an extremely simple static piece with basic setup and access being the only things to really go and do, not even trailers. The image uses a picture of Kagemaru in a stance with the logo above him and selections in large print along the right. Access times are nice and fast and getting around is extremely easy.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After getting some enjoyment out of the first twelve episodes of the series, taking the series for what it is and knowing that it’s going to be pretty cliché ridden throughout, the second set of twelve episodes provide more of the same. The road trip style nature of the show continues.

Things pick up pretty much where we left off, which means we’re watching the group of Akira, Pai, Jacky and Sarah as well as Jimmy down in the subway system. They manage to “catch” the train that’s leading to the Koenkon’s underground base, one that takes them deeper underground. But it’s not what it seems, as instead of a base we get an elaborate casino setup that also has a wrestling stadium inside of it.

The group is actually expected, though Jacky tries to bully his way through to find out where Sarah is. It’s here that they learn that the wrestling match is something of a death match where only one can survive, which is why so many rich and influential people keep coming here and paying their money to the Koenkon, knowingly or unknowingly. The manager, performing in a great over the top French accent, informs the group that they can have Sarah back if they compete. Akira takes up the challenge and ends up getting involved in a serious fight with a character named the Wolf.

It’s all for naught though, as Sarah’s not even at this facility or a piece that the manager can bargain away. Things go from bad to worse, resulting in the entire place being blown sky high and separating up the group. Pai and Jacky end up together, unable to find Akira and partially convinced he may be dead. With Sarah still needing to be rescued though, the two team up together and head off to the next location in Europe where they have a lead on things. Pai’s separation from Akira proves to be a new point as she starts pining away for him.

Akira’s journey, since we know full well he isn’t dead, takes him to a number of interesting points along the way as he tries to work his way to the same path as Pai and Jacky. These adventures give him some good solo time and also lets him work through some issues resulting from the casino/wrestling incident. Some of it gets a bit goofy, particularly the Koenken gent he runs across on the ship lines, mostly because of the fake Schwarzenegger accent that gets used. Overall, the time spent here really lets Akira get some much needed time by himself to let the viewer re-acquaint with him.

To mix up the two main storylines, we get to see the brainwashing going on with Sarah and the “bad” “evil” people who are doing it to her. The process isn’t exactly painless, which leaves Sarah’s voice actress with the unenviable job of simply screaming for several episodes. Her screams aren’t in vain though, as Kagemaru starts feeling some remorse and guilt over what he’s done in capturing her and bringing her in there.

Sarah’s storyline is the one that will tie the other two together though, as the journey’s that Akira, Pai and Jacky are taking eventually bring them close together again, a time which will be close to when Eva starts using Sarah to test her out and to take down some foes of Koenken at the same time. With the now “Dark Sarah” under their control, she’s much more vicious than she was before, plus having the advantage that her brother and friends don’t want to her hurt.

With that in mind, it’s pretty easy to see how the series goes forth at that point. With an extended number of episodes to the show, it lets things play out a bit more slowly and filled with more fights. With the show really aimed at the younger set, these stories aren’t as clichéd sounding to them, so it does a lot of things right in that respect, though it is definitely a very western style show in terms of plotting and layout. There aren’t many real surprises here, but it’s a decent mindless little fighting show that tries to have a plot, one that does allow for a variety of characters to show up.

Watching it in the English dub this time around, it’s interesting to get a different feel to it, one that’s a bit more campy. This is evident right from the start with the announcer at the beginning of the episodes and his snarky little comments (that aren’t in the subs most of the time). There’s a bit more general humor to show, but the geek humor comes in the amusing and bad accents used on so many of the international characters. The French one is laughable, but the 60’s style Penguin “nyah nyah” laugh from one of the villains just got me rolling my eyes.

If the first volume was up your alley, this will provide more of it. If not, you’ll want to avoid this one for exactly the same reasons. Fans of the show will be pleased with the release, both in episode count and price point as well as the content itself.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.




Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 39.95
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Virtua Fighter