Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “virtua” to mean….well, nothing. It’s not a word at all, actually. Sega made a decision to preface their early 90s 3D arcade games, Virtua Racing, Virtua Fighter and Virtua Cop with this meaningless word as a way of branding their games. It’s an obvious derivation of the word “virtual” which means “almost or nearly as described”. So in essence, Sega’s early arcade titles were selling themselves by offering the realest and most immersive arcade experiences at that time. My favorite of the Virtua series of games, Virtua Cop 2, is my first Saturn game of the week.
Virtua Cop 2, as the name suggests, is the sequel to the critically and commercially acclaimed Virtua Cop. The Virtua Cop series are light gun based first person rails shooters that move your character around a pre-determined set, shooting at enemies that show up in front of you while attempting to avoid innocent bystanders. One of the noticeable differences between the first and second Virtua Cop games is the option to choose your own path at various points. This was a smart choice on Sega’s part as one of the more widely discussed negatives of the first Virtua Cop was that it was a relatively short and linear game. The diverging paths lengthens the game somewhat as players can play through the game more than once and not get the exact same experience. I’m a big fan of the Sega Stunner gun that you could either buy separately or in a Virtua Cop 2 bundle pack (which is what I own). It is a sturdy orange gun that is both responsive and well made. Just like any light gun game, however, your arm will get tired during long gameplays so be prepared to hit the pause button to give your arm a break every now and then unless you are totally ambidextrous.
The gameplay itself is simple. Your initial gun can hold 6 bullets and once it’s empty you are prompted to “reload” by shooting your gun off screen. You’ll want to do this whenever there is a break in the action regardless if your gun is empty or not. As the game progresses, you’ll have opportunities to upgrade your weapons with larger cache of bullets and quicker shot rates. As enemy characters appear on screen, there is a circle or sight around them, indicating to you where to aim. The sight circle also serves as a reminder of how much time you have before the enemy shoots back at you as it will turn from yellow to red. Once it turns red, you will be shot so the goal is to always shoot them before they shoot you. Some enemies will throw knives or grenades at you so shooting at those weapons as they fly toward the screen is the key to preventing damage. If your character is shot, you lose one life badge. Lose all of them and your game is over. Thankfully, you are given 5 continues right off the bat, which you will end up using. Virtua Cop 2 offers 2-player co-op play which makes the game twice as easy to get through so grab a friend if you want to be able to play all the way through the game.
Virtua Cop 2 is a bigger, better game than the original. The graphics and framerate are outstanding, there are more unique enemy characters and the variety of shoot-out locations stay interesting (e.g. jewelry store, roads, subway, ocean liner). I particularly enjoy the car chase sequences that allow you to not only shoot at the enemies leaning out of windows but also the enemy vehicle tires and barrels that come flying out of the back of the vans. The ability to shoot and damage inanimate objects also adds to the game’s replayability since you can sometimes find power-ups by shooting the scenery. I’m so focused on shooting the enemies that I oftentimes forget to shoot at the scenery but it’s worth doing just for the curiosity factor. I can’t recommend Virtua Cop 2 enough, it’s a must own for any Saturn fan, plain and simple.
Currently in my collection: game, manual, box (game + stunner bundle)