Virtua Athlete 2K (バチャアスリート2K)

Virtua Athlete 2K is another Naomi arcade conversion and the spiritual successor to Sega’s Athlete Kings/Decathlete, only this time the company have for a  maturer presentation style akin to that of Konami's "International Track & Field" . The premise is about as simple as arcade gaming gets; you (and up to three friends) take part in a series of button-mashing athletic events with the aim of qualifying for the next one and beat your opponent's score. If you fail to qualify, it's Game Over but if you succeed, it's on to the next event.


The game gives you seven events to play around with - shot put, long jump, high jump, javelin, hurdles and a couple of other running events. Some events like the long jump and javelin are quite fun and repeating them again and again to better you score is initially a thrill, but sadly the majority of events like hurdles and other sprint events make you want to chop your hands off they are so tedious. The problem is due to the fact that these types of games do not stand up well these days due to the excruciating pain it takes to button-mash in each event.


The control system itself is easy to learn, consisting of you launching things (including yourself) using angles of 45 degrees but again, it just requires just too much button mashing on the controller to be fun. Any game that requires you to use a pen as a peripheral add-on, or face blisters every time you play is just not going to be worth it (I’m looking at you 1500 meter sprint!). The addition of a stamina bar does little to add to the playability, and the fact that certain stages are bugged beyond belief (1500 meters again!!) so that the only skill you need is to bump into anyone that attempts to overtake you. Basically, there is literally more skill in crapping in your pants then there is in any of the activities in this game.


Graphics are solid although animation is iffy in parts


Visually, the graphics are solid without ever really impressing. They certainly lack the vibrant charm of Sega’s previous track game, Athlete Kings which is unfortunate considering what the game’s developer Hitmaker did around the same time with Virtua Tennis. I believe the game uses the same motion capture technology that made the aforementioned tennis title look so striking at the time but the animation, as well as character designs in 2K are just disappointing and devoid any character, especially when compared to Athlete Kings (who can forget Jef Jansens awesome zebra print leotard). One thing to mention is that the Japanese version does suffer from some slowdown in more intensive sections like the running events, it doesn’t hinder the gameplay but it is another needless annoyance. The audio is no better and basically consists of nondescript grunts, groans, and a mixture of terrible studio music.

Javelin is definitely one of the more enjoyable events

With only seven measly events (Athlete Kings had ten!) to take place in the game wont keep you around for long. In the arcade this is understandable but as it takes little over 8 minutes to finish all the events it does feel insultingly short for what was a full-priced title at the time with the only saving grace being the game’s multiplayer aspect. Get 4 players that are interested in mashing their fingers into a joypad and you've got a really fun evening of constant score beating, just ask them to bring their own controllers as you will not want to risk losing the B button off of yours after a round of hurdles. 

 Jef Jansen, fashion monster and master of the long jump

In the end, Virtua Athlete 2K feels a bit unfinished. With a wider selection of events with more involved interaction, and some form of entertainment than grinding your fingers into the joypad then we may have had a semi-decent sports title for the Dreamcast. Unfortunately, what is left is a severely disappoint title and a game that is not really worthy of the “Virtua” name.

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