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  1. #1

    Retro|Spective 023: Virtua Fighter

    Something mysterious happened at Sega and whilst the fighting game resurgence came and went they managed to keep one franchise quietly tucked away, an absent contender to the crown...

    Virtua Fighter

    Mainline Entry 01 - Virtua Fighter
    Other Versions: Virtua Fighter Remix, Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary Edition

    Formats: Arcade, 32X, Saturn, PC, R-Zone, Playstation 2
    Launched by Sega as one of the initial 3D fighter pioneer franchises, the game recreated the one on one versus gameplay of the many 2D fighters on the market but avoided the mistakes of many other attempts by stripping away projectiles and oddball mechanics to present players with a more thoughtful and grounded experience. Built on Sega's Model I arcade board, Virtua Fighter made the process of learning character moves and how to take down an opponent more of a technical exercise by focusing more on the fighting style your chosen character used and how that would best be utilised against that of your opponent. Due to the early days of 3D visual design, the Saturn received a speedily updated version of the game that updated the visuals and was followed much later by the anniversary version for PS2 that reutilised assets from VF4 to update the game one more time.

    Mainline Entry 02 - Virtua Fighter 2
    Other Versions: Virtua Fighter 2.1, Virtua Fighter Kids
    Formats: Arcade, Saturn, Mega Drive, R-Zone, PC, Playstation 2, Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
    The sequel really propelled the franchise into mass popularity where its only real direct competition was now the Tekken series. Sega moved rapidly onto their Model II arcade board for the sequel and as a result the game saw a huge visual improvement whilst also having all the technical and content changes and additions you could hope to see. The arcades saw an updated version referred to as 2.1 released from which Saturn and PC players could flick between in their versions even though this mostly changed just the balancing. The Mega Drive though, was the recipient of an early example of a demake with its incarnation that remade the content into 2D and altered some of the moves to what had been in place in the first VF game. Kids, meanwhile, was a slightly tweaked version of the game with mostly visual changes rather than being fundamentally its own game.

    Spin Off Entry 01 - Virtua Fighter Animation
    Formats: Game Gear
    Spin Off Entry 02 - Fighters Megamix
    Formats: Saturn,
    Sega's mash up entry arrived on the Saturn as fever was building for the true third entry. The new title took characters from multiple Sega franchises such as Sonic, Virtua Cop and even Daytona and pitted them against one another but mixing in some mechanics from the Fighting Vipers series and the upcoming VF3 also. The game was another very positively received entry but its legacy has seen it kind of drift into the footnotes of time and it never received the kind of later porting other entries did despite being a strong seller for the Saturn.

    Mainline Entry 03 - Virtua Fighter 3
    Other Versions: Virtua Fighter 3tb
    Formats: Arcade, Dreamcast
    The arrival of the Model III saw the third Virtua Fighter also arrive and along with it more complex arena designs which added elements of verticality at times to the stage designs. This aimed to add an extra level of complexity to the combat as players would also have to factor in differences in player elevation to their encounters as well as the addition of a dodge button. The Dreamcast port took its name from the addition of a team battle mechanic and whilst the game was a commercial success the slight concerns surrounding the stage designs affected the next entry.

    Mainline Entry 04 - Virtua Fighter 4
    Other Versions: Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned
    Formats: Arcade, Playstation 2
    The fourth game saw the series shift, as with many Sega series, onto the Naomi arcade board line that fuelled many arcade releases at the time. One of the main changes the latest entry introduced was the addition of network functionality that was still at its infancy in gaming at the time. The game returned stage arenas back to being flat surfaces in order to make gameplay more balanced, this in turn making for a tighter experience that once again went down very positively for arcade goers. The PS2 was fortunate enough to receive two incarnations of this instalment but the Final Tuned update that added more stages and rebalanced the gameplay once again was only for arcades.

    Spin Off Entry 03 - Virtua Quest
    Formats: Gamecube, Playstation 2
    The argument could be made about Shenmue and its connections to the VF franchise but really, the closest Virtua Fighter came to being an RPG was this clumsy title that saw the player take on the role of a boy playing within an online world. It was a highly mixed experience as a game and its connection to the VF series was fairly weak, more trading off the connection than utilising it.

    Mainline Entry 05 - Virtua Fighter 5
    Other Versions: Virtua Fighter 5 Online, Virtua Fighter 5 R, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown
    Formats: Arcade, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
    The final game in the franchise saw its first location tests in arcades a whopping thirteen years ago. It's console versions arrived in the following years and reflected the state of the arcade edition at the time of the ports release meaning the PS3 version of the game was based of VF5 Version B whilst the X360 version was based on VF5 Version C resulting in minor differences. VF5R was another arcade only update of the game most notable for the addition of another fighter and stages. Final Showdown marked the final console release for a Virtua Fighter game, arriving in digital form and closed out the series in as much high regard as it had begun.

    What are your thoughts and memories on Sega's acclaimed fighter series that they seem reluctant to return to?

  2. #2
    Playing Virtual Fighter with my next door neighbor on my brand new Import Sega Saturn the last week of Nov 1994 is my single happiest gaming memory and gaming day ever. I felt I was in the future and couldn't believe one could have 3D gfx like that on a home system and the game moved like it was choreographed by Sammo Hung or Jackie Chan; the animation was like nothing else seen around at the time (I'm sure Lai is based on Jang Lee Hwang character in Snakes In Eagles Shadow) Never forget too, playing Remix and seeing Saturn's High Res mode being used for the 1st time and then in 1995 (best gaming Christmas ever) VF II on the Saturn took it to ridiculous levels .

    For me, VF 4 Evo is the most complete and best in the series (the quest mode is off the charts) and I also don't agree with the slack VF 3 on the DC gets (it's 98% Arcade perfect and a brilliant game) but for me, the Saturn VF game is the best and holds a special place in the heart. I loved the untextured, flat shaded polygon look, it plays like a dream and features the best music in the series and also the best sound effects to any Vs Fighter, they are still to this day... Bone crushing

    Can only hope, what with SEGA Japan Arcade teams being on fire at the moment, AM#2 are working on VF 6 and hopefully bring back VF3 multi layered environments

  3. #3
    Virtua Fighter with my brand new Saturn (plus an extra controller) is one of my happiest gaming memories. I'd played the arcade a fair bit, and heard of the Saturn version coming with the console's impending release in Japan, and I was kind of interested. Then I saw footage on Gamesmaster of a Saturn running the game and that was it, I had to have it (phoned Dream Machines the very next day).

    Me and my mates played VF for months on end (it became the new SFII). VF2 was better in many ways but I missed the more abstract polygon look and the impact of the sound effects. So my interest waned ... and even though I got 3tb with my Dreamcast I never fell for it in the same way (it looked PC'y to me). Then by 4 it looked like any other 3D fighting game.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Atticus View Post
    Virtua Fighter with my brand new Saturn (plus an extra controller) is one of my happiest gaming memories. I'd played the arcade a fair bit, and heard of the Saturn version coming with the console's impending release in Japan, and I was kind of interested. Then I saw footage on Gamesmaster of a Saturn running the game and that was it, I had to have it (phoned Dream Machines the very next day).
    I was also going to get a Saturn, but a remember than Ep of Gamemaster with that Import seller, how had sold his 1st Saturn on the day of the system release.

    I rather the 1st game too Loved the look, the sound effects are the best ever, the remixed music was so much better and really good tunes (that I liked to listen too on the CD player) and it was just an easier game to pick up and play with mates. The latter games just became too deep for their own good and many of my mates, simply couldn't be bothered to learn all the moves and counters.

  5. #5
    I had VF2 and 3 but I have to admit to never really liking either of them. They seemed all tappy-tappy and memory-testy when I far preferred the Capcom systems.

  6. #6
    I've always found this series very forgettable compared to other fighting games. The characters are not at all memorable.

  7. #7
    I don’t think I’ve ever had a go on a proper Virtua Fighter. I’ve played Kids, Last Bronx and Fighting Vipers... and that’s it. When it comes to 3D fighters I spent the most time with Soul Calibur and DOA.

  8. #8
    I never really liked the series as much as I wanted to. The idea of a more realistic martial arts simulation was, and is, very appealing. However, the games always felt too sterile and, whilst very technical, no more realistic than Tekken.

    Also, by the time they came out most of my friends had either got bored of 1 on 1 fighters or were purely focussed on Tekken. As a result I've never played them on a decent level. Maybe I'd change my mind if I did but the games always seem a bit lifeless to me.

  9. #9
    First time I ever saw Virtua Fighter in person was in a small games shop in Bolton where they had just imported the Grey Saturn. Could only see it being played but it intrigued. I'd say intrigued as it didn't wow me, I think because it all happened at a similar time to the reveal of the N64 and Mario blowing our minds. I eventually got to play the game on arcade and on its PAL release and it was okay (Remix never seemed enough of an upgrade to warrant bothering with) but VF2 stuck out more in my mind.

    That game, especially with its use of high-res mode, looked great and the tightened gameplay made it click more. I was still deeply in the mind set of wanting a working 3D Street Fighter more so than what VF offered and I also still preferred the Tekken series at this point but VF2 felt like the point where the praise felt warranted.

    I owned both VF Kids and Fighters Megamix for a while but neither felt impressive. Kids was fairly pointless whilst Megamix didn't feel like it was fully where it needed to be.

    VF3, it was impressive and one I was happy to play on arcade when the opportunity came up. I never felt hooked enough to put much time into the DC edition but when it came to VF4 it felt like the series had nailed pretty much every component and by that time I thought more of the game than Tekken.

    VF5, I don't know, it's hard to say why but it never clicked with me either. So, the series has ended up being even number led for me.

  10. #10
    I've never liked the series, but I'm not sure I've ever fully understood how to play it. I thought the first was boring, and simply preferred other 3D offerings.


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