Virtua Striker 2 ver.2000.1  (バーチャストライカー 2 ver.2000.1)

There is no doubt that EA's refusal to support the Dreamcast had a detrimental effect on the success of Sega's console, while the 2K series of games based on U.S. sports were largely superior, the system suffered badly in Europe due to the lack of a FIFA game. Former president of Sega of America, Bernie Stolar recently shed some light on the situation as to why the company, which had once been a stern supporter of Sega’s consoles suddenly decided to jump ship.

"[Former Electronic Arts CEO] Larry Probst is a dear friend of mine. Larry came to me and said, 'Bernie, we'll do Dreamcast games, but we want sports exclusivity.' I said, 'You want to be on the system with no other third-party sports games?' "I looked at him and said, 'You know what? I'll do it, but there's one caveat here: I just bought a company called Visual Concepts for $10 million, so you'll have to compete with them.' Larry says, 'No, you can't even put them on the system.' I said 'Then Larry, you and I are not going to be partners on this system.'" 

Therefore, without support from the major football game companies like EA Sega had to go it alone. One of their first releases was Virtua Striker 2, which was actually an update of a game  released in the arcades 3 years prior - hence the rather confusing and convoluted, “Ver. 2000.1” moniker- and football fans will notice how every team other than Japan seems to be wearing kits from World Cup ‘98.

Still, running on model 3 hardware the first thing you notice when playing the game is the great graphics which run at 60 frames per second. The players look authentic (each team even has one or two stand out players like Valderrama for Colombia or Gascoigne for England) and the stadiums themselves are very colorful and distinct with fully animated supporters singing away. I love some of the sponsor boards featuring a range of well-known Japanese stores and companies, as well as the classic orange Dreamcast logo, and the whole game has that typically polished Sega arcade presentation. So props have to go to Genki for this faithful conversion, especially when you consider the slightly underwhelming work they did on Virtua Fighter 3TB and to a lesser extent ,Sega Rally 2.

Unfortunately, while the visuals have been carried across faithfully from the arcades so has the arcade-style gameplay. What I mean by that is that by nature, arcade sports simulations are set up mechanically to give the A.I and advantage and Virtua Striker 2 is no different. Dribbling with the ball for any longer than a second will result in you being dispossessed immediately and trying to pass to a teammate can be equally frustrating as every action that is performed seems to take place seconds after you actually press the button.

The games visuals are still very impressive

At times, games can seem more like rugby than football with endless cycles of obtaining control of the ball, losing it, winning it back, losing it, as one team finally pushes towards the goal and manages to get a lucky break. To get around this delay, players need to develop a sort of ‘six sense’ in that you press the button two seconds before the you need to perform the corresponding action. Another frustrating thing is that there are also certain situations such as crossing from corners in which players are guaranteed to score almost every time, although they can also result in a cool looking aerial trick, like a diving header or bicycle kick, and scoring in general is a huge adrenaline rush with fantastic over the top replays. Playing against a human opponent on a level playing field alleviates all of these complaints as you are both forced to work against the controls. One somewhat annoying aspect is the lack of analogue control with the game forcing you to use the D-pad. So if you’re one of those people who finds the D-Pad uncomfortable to use for lengthy periods of time, then you might struggle a bit.

The control system displays its arcade roots

Still, the control system itself simple enough with A being used for short pass and slide tackles, B for long passing and crossing and X is used for shots and the game features a pretty decent roster of international teams to try and a hilarious bunch of secret teams, such as a Sega select and Genki team, there are total 24 international teams to play as and the game features the standard roster of modes such as friendlies, leagues and tournaments. But the best mode of all is the Penalty Kick Match. Compared to the overly-complicated penalties in modern games like FIFA 2013 the penalties in Virtua Striker 2 are accessible and great fun against a friend. You choose a direction (e.g right left), press the corresponding direction on the d-pad and press the shoot button with the necessary amount of power. Scoring is also is a huge buzz as the announcer screams “GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAL” or “Oh no” depending on the outcome of your shot. Undoubtedly though, the best part of the game are the goals and the fact that the game gives you a score for each goal which adds to the replay value as you try to beat your high-score. All of the goals can also be saved to your VMU for your viewing pleasure.

 Scoring a goal in the game is a huge rush!

Virtua Striker 2 is an odd one, it doesn't feel like football, doesn't really play like football (in one game the referee blew for offside when I was in my own half?) but if you can work around the control issues and forgive its niggling problems then you will find a fun arcade style simulation game, the likes of which simply do not exist anymore. While, it doesn't make up for the lack of an ISS or FIFA title it is the best representation of the sport on the Dreamcast. Besides, what other football game lets you field a team including an Eskimo, a ghost, a flamenco and a giant snowman?