ADK’s World Heroes series is one of the Neo Geo’s lesser-known fighting dynasties, and is usually pushed to one side when people get all nostalgic about the likes of King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, Samurai Shodown and Fatal Fury. This is probably because the franchise never really took itself all that seriously; the cast was totally crazy, boasting mad Russian monks, demonic American Football players and dashing pirate captains, and the visuals were more than a little goofy-looking. Even so, the original World Heroes was popular enough to gain several sequels and attracted a fair amount of attention at a time when fighting games were de rigueur.
Confusingly, 1993’s World Heroes 2 is hitting the Wii Virtual Console after World Heroes Perfect, which was the final entry in the series, originally released in 1995. Like the first game, it’s a one-on-one brawler heavily indebted to Capcom’s seminal Street Fighter II. You select a fighter and face off against rivals in a best-of-three contest, with the first person to lose all of their life forfeiting the round. Special moves (many of which are lifted wholesale from Street Fighter II and require various button and pad combinations) are essential to victory, and each character has their own unique combat style, with the usual mixture of slow, strong pugilists mixing it up with faster but weaker individuals.
So what does World Heroes 2 offer over its forerunner? More characters is the obvious answer; there are six new fighters to select from, with the flamboyant Captain Kidd being one of the most memorable. There are 14 different characters to utilise (although the two boss fighters can be unlocked via a code), and mastering each one takes plenty of time and effort. If you’re keen to extract as much enjoyment from your games as possible, then exploring all of the tactics and strategies afforded by each fighter is no mean feat.
Like all sequels, World Heroes 2 makes tweaks to the game engine, too. Although it’s not quite as fast as Capcom’s "Turbo" entries, it definitely feels quicker than the previous release. This increased pace means that it’s easy to make combo attacks flow, and generally means things are more enjoyable. Death Matches make a return, and while they won’t distract you entirely from the “normal” portion of the game, they’re good fun with some amusing visual effects and tense confrontations.
Visually, it’s certainly a step up from the original instalment - that introduction sequence is still impressive even by today’s standards - but it’s not a seismic shift. The occasionally goofy designs are still there, and only the biggest World Heroes fan would be prepared to argue that this looks better than Street Fighter II or any of SNK’s other Neo Geo scrappers.
Back in 1993, World Heroes 2 was a solid one-on-one fighter that rightly sucked in plenty of coins from eager arcade addicts. It’s aged pretty well, but the issue here is context. World Heroes 2 Jet - an update of this title - was released less than twelve months later in 1994, and we’ve already experienced World Heroes Perfect on the Wii Virtual Console, which is a game that is superior to World Heroes 2 in practically every regard.
If you’ve not downloaded a World Heroes game before then it’s a given that you should pick World Heroes Perfect, and if you’ve already purchased that entry then there’s little reason to lay down your digital monies for this prequel unless you’re a rabid fan of the franchise. World Heroes 2 is the effectively the right game at the wrong time - if it had been released first then we’d be a little more forthcoming about recommending it.