ADVANCED V.G. 2
One of the best aspects of friendly competition in the video game industry is the inevitable pushing and striving for increased quality in games: One company will suddenly come out with a blazing new racer, for example, and immediately, rival game companies will follow suit - be it blatantly copying the other's ideas or modifying it and improving upon it. We've seen it with Namco and Sega. Capcom and SNK. Square and Enix. And now, TGL and Fill-In Café: the creators of the little-known "Advanced Variable Geo (V.G.)" and "Asuka 120%" series of fighters, respectively. Basically, both of these game developers have been developing these female fighters from the days of the PC-Engine (TurboGrafix-16). What is so impressive is that through this intense, long-standing rivalry, the standards for both of these games have been raised tenfold! Just as the new "Asuka 120%" for the PSX and Saturn were surprisingly impressive (especially the Saturn version), so now is "Advanced V.G. 2" for the PSX. With "Advanced V.G. 2," TGL has created a very well playing, cute and kick-ass 2D fighting game that is just as much fun as most of Capcom and SNK's fighters!
Now before continuing, it must be said, that this reviewer was indeed -very- hesitant about trying any fighting game that features only female characters. Upon first glance, it seems blatantly aimed at the young, male 'H' gamer crowd. Yet after being totally surprised at how well the all-female "Asuka 120% Limited" played on the Saturn, along comes TGL (the rival company of Fill-In Café) with "Advanced V.G. 2," another all-female fighting game. After firing up the PSX, and playing for a few minutes, all the worries were washed away. Like another surprise earlier this year, "Guilty Gear," "Advanced V.G. 2" is just a really fun 2D fighting game that plays really well and is amazingly enjoyable!
Graphically, they've included a full Anime movie intro, with a JPOP theme song - pretty cool, despite it being really compressed. But the main attraction would have to be the all-female cast of -kawaii- girls. Featuring 12 regular fighters, they are all really well drawn, both in their large portraits, and in the game as well. While each of the fighters don't have as many frames as a Capcom fighter (that would be very impressive if they did), they have an adequate amount of frames that are all expertly hand-drawn. As a bit of 'fan service,' nearly each one of these gals 'carry a very great weight near their shoulders,' so to speak - easily overshadowing Laura Croft! But, hey, I'm not complaining. ^_^
On the downside, the backgrounds are very lacking, but overall, they are better than those in "Asuka 120%." There are basic background animations running on most stages, and maybe a layer of parallax - overall, they look like backgrounds from a 16-bit fighter. This was probably done so that they could fit in more of the impressive special effects - for the reflections, shadows, specials and Super Moves. Indeed these are pretty solid and impressive - featuring transparencies and translucencies, plenty of glowing effects and the like. This is one area that makes it rise up above mediocrity and stand out.
Unfortunately, one area that continues to plague both series of games are the voice samples. In AVG2, the voices are recorded in Mono, in what sounds like 11khz or so. A far cry from the CD-quality, 44khz, Stereo recordings found in Capcom fighters. On a brighter note, the music in the game is pretty fitting and features a variety of music, most surprisingly, a Ska-type track on one of the stages!
But the highlight and saving grace of "Advanced V.G. 2" (as well as "Asuka 120%") is its Gameplay. Imagine my surprise when I discovered True 2-in-1's (normal move interrupted into a special move, like Jab, 2-in-1 into a 'Dragon Punch'), Special moves, Super Moves, Super Cancels(!!), Guard Reversals, Counters, and more! The controls are solid, and while not as clean as "Street Fighter Alpha 2" it is still very, very good. AVG2 features 4 attack buttons - Light, Heavy Punch, and Light, Heavy Kick. They are all responsive and moves come out effortlessly. Folks, you're looking at one of the most solid 2D Fighting Combo Engines ever! No joke. In fact, this game is more fun that "Guilty Gear" and that's saying a lot. While not as 'mean' and 'bad-ass' as GG, AVG2 has a much better fighting setup - there are no Chain Combos (thank goodness) and instead, they have gone the route of Street Fighter Alpha 2, with solid combos and Links, that require better Timing. As aforementioned, there are a plethora of hard-core fighting moves and techniques. While they are blatantly taken from various Capcom/SNK fighters, there has never been a single fighter that actually -combined- all these techniques together, which is what makes this game so fun. From "Vampire Hunter" series (Darkstalkers), there are 'Guard Reversals' where, as soon as you block a move, you can try to immediately execute a Counter-Attack move. Only, unlike in VH, you can basically initiate -any- move (special or Super) from the block! This maneuver also takes a chunk of your Super bar like Alpha Counters, but overall this has much more skill involved than Alpha Counters. Another cool idea (from Vampire Hunter) is the modifying of your special moves: If you do a special move (like a Fireball) with two buttons instead of one, you'll use 1 level of your Super and fire off a huge, modified Fireball! There are also Super Cancels (ala Street Fighter EX series), and again, this is the first 2D fighting game to accommodate this (SFIII only allowed you to Super Cancel one type of Super).
Lastly, the skills-based combos you can get are too cool! Check out this basic combo for Yuka Takeuchi (the main gal in this game). She's the 'Ryu-clone,' and she has a Kikoudan (Fireball), Souryugeki (Dragon Punch), and 2 Final Supers, one of which we'll be using in this example, the Kiryuidatengeki (a Rushing Combo Super attack). With Yuka: Jumping Short Kick, into a Jumping Jab Punch (you can land both while in the air if you're quick enough), Standing Jab, Standing Jab, Standing Short, 2-in-1 into a Fireball, Super Cancel, into a Super Fireball, then Super Cancel into her Kiryuidatengeki Rushing Final Super!! How's that for a solid combo engine?!!
Lastly, AVG2 also has an excellent Training Mode, where you can practice all your combos, activate the NPC and let the AI fight you (on any difficulty level!), and even let your buddy control the sparring partner with the 2nd controller if you want! Also there is a very cool Story Mode, that details a tragic tale of Tamao, and her encounters with each of the V.G. fighters as well as a final showdown. The story is intriguing and is fully animated at times, and overall it provides a much more engrossing experience for a fighter (plot-wise) than any of Capcom or SNK's offerings.
Overall, "Advanced V.G. 2" is an extremely fun, well-playing 2D fighting game. With a cute cast of nicely drawn females, and solid gameplay that features, some of the best fighting this side of SFA2, TGL has delivered one of the best 2D fighters to have come out in a long time. This should tide over 2D fighting fans, until "King of Fighters '98" hits the Dreamcast this Winter.
[ "Advanced V.G. 2" - RealPlayer Movie ]
(180 KB - 30 seconds)
Final Scores (out of a perfect 10):
Reviewed by Kenneth Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org