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Virtua Fighter is a 1993 fighting game developed by Sega AM2, headed by Yu Suzuki. It was released for arcades originally, for the Sega Model 1 arcade system board, and was later ported to the Sega 32X, Sega Saturn and PC platforms.

Overview

Virtua Fighter (バーチャファイター Bācha Faitā?) is a 1993 fighting game created for the Sega Model 1 arcade platform by AM2, a development group within Sega, headed by Yu Suzuki. It is the first game in the Virtua Fighter series, and the first fighting game to feature fully 3D polygon graphics. It has been ported to several home platforms, including the Sega Saturn, Sega 32X and Microsoft Windows.

It was an influential game in the development of 3D polygon graphics, popularizing it among a wider audience (along with Virtua Racing), demonstrating 3D human character models effectively with physics, creating the basic template for 3D fighting games (such as Tekken, Soul and Dead or Alive), and playing a key role in the development of early fifth-generation consoles (the Saturn and PlayStation). It was followed by a 1994 sequel, Virtua Fighter 2.

The Virtua label indicates that the onscreen action takes place in 3D. The images were created using wireframes and flat-shaded quads. Beyond 3D, it retained the staple of multiple characters, each with their own distinctive moves.

Unlike other fighting games of the time (such as Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat), the game relied on a control stick and only three buttons, Punch, Kick, and Guard (block) although different situations and button combinations led to a vast variety of moves for each character.

The player faces all eight characters (including a duplicate of the chosen character) in a pre-determined order, followed by a fight with the game's boss, Dural. Each fight is a best-of-three match, and the player has three ways to win: knocking out the opponent, forcing him/her out of the ring, or having more health left when time runs out.

The game is highly regarded for its in-depth fighting engine and real world fighting techniques, and was considered revolutionary upon release.

Gameplay

The game was one of the first fighting games to take place in 3D. The images were created using wireframes and flat-shaded polygons. The game retained the staple of multiple characters, each with their own distinctive 'moves.' The game is highly regarded for its in-depth fighting engine and real world fighting techniques, and was considered revolutionary when it first appeared.

Characters

File:Virtua Fighter.png
  • Akira Yuki -- Birthdate: September 23, 1968—A Kung Fu teacher from Japan, fights with (Bajiquan)
  • Pai Chan -- Birthdate: May 17, 1975—Martial arts movie star from Hong Kong, fights with Ensei-Ken (Mizongquan)
  • Lau Chan, Pai's father—Birthdate: October 2, 1940—Cook from China, fights with Koen-Ken (Tiger-Swallow Fist)
  • Wolf Hawkfield -- Birthdate: February 8, 1966—Professional wrestler from Canada, fights with Professional Wrestling
  • Jeffry McWild -- Birthdate: February 20, 1957—Fisherman from Australia, fights with Pancratium
  • Kage-Maru ("Kage") Hagakure—Birthdate: June 6, 1971—Ninja from Japan, fights with Jujutsu.
  • Sarah Bryant -- Birthdate: July 4, 1973—College student from San Francisco, CA, fights with Jeet Kune Do (Sega changed her fighting style to "Martial Arts" in Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution)
  • Jacky Bryant, Sarah's older brother—Birthdate: August 28, 1970—Race car driver also from San Francisco, fights with Jeet Kune Do
  • Dural, A gynoid-like creature. Dural is the game's boss character. She is also, somewhat inexplicably, Kage's mother. She fights with a mix of all the other characters styles.

An Arab fighter named Siba was planned, and his character model even appeared on some Virtua Fighter arcade cabinets (though, in some cases, Akira's name was placed under his portrait). Siba also appeared in early screenshots of Virtua Fighter when it was in development. He was ultimately dropped from the final game, replaced by series protagonist Akira Yuki. However, Siba later appeared in the 1996 Sega Saturn game Fighters Megamix.

Development

In the original Sega Model 1 arcade version, each 3D character in the game is rendered with 2,000 polygons. The ground uses more than 220 polygons.[3] Akira is rendered with 2300 polygons, while Dural uses 2600 polygons.[4] The game could render at least 5420 polygons per frame, pushing at least 162,600 polygons per second at 30 frames per second.

Since the Sega Saturn is capable of texture mapping and Gouraud shading, the number of polygons needed for the Saturn version is less. As a result, the Saturn version renders each character with 550 polygons, while the ground is rendered using 220 polygons, adding up to a total of 1,300 polygons per frame for the Saturn version.[3]

Reception

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Scores
ARC Saturn 32X PC
VF Remix
GameRankings 90%[5]
(3 scores)
81%[6]
(2 scores)
78%[7]
(3 scores)
Sega Retro 90%[8]
(24 scores)
92%[9]
(11 scores)
89%[8]
(13 scores)
80%[9]
(1 score)
Review scores
Publication Scores
ARC Saturn 32X PC
VF Remix
AllGame 5/5[10] 3.5/5[11] 4/5[12] 4.5/5[13] 3.5/5[14]
Computer and
Video Games
94%[15] 95%[16] 4/5[17]
Computer Games
Magazine
4/5[7]
Digitiser 92%[8] 93%[9]
Edge 9/10[18] 9/10[19]
Electronic Gaming
Monthly
31.5/40[20] 24/40[21] 30.5/40[22]
Famitsu 36/40[23] 35/40[24] 30/40[25]
GameSpot 7.4/10[26]
Maximum 5/5[27] 4/5[28]
Mean Machines
Sega
96%[29] 95%[30] 93%[31]
Mega 97%[32]
Player One 95%[33] 96%[34] 92%[35]
Sega Magazine 97%[36] 95%[37]
Sega Power 97%[38] 96%[39]
Sega Saturn
Magazine
5/5[40]
Sega Saturn
Tsūshin
38/40[41]
Thunderbolt 10/10[42]
Awards
Entity Awards
Gamest Awards
(Nominations)[43]
Game of the Year,
Best Fighting Game,
Best Graphics
Electronic Gaming Monthly,
1UP,[44] Famitsu,[45]
Computer Gaming World[46]
Best Games Of All Time
GameSpot,[47]
1UP[48]
Most Influential Games
Of All Time

Commercial reception

The game was commercially successful in Japan. In the arcades, after a slow start, it became one of Japan's highest-grossing arcade games of all time.[49] The Saturn console port, which was nearly identical to the arcade game, sold at a nearly 1:1 ratio with the Saturn hardware during the Japanese launch.[50] It was credited with the Saturn's initial success in Japan, with the console being sold out on pre-release orders.[49] It was thus a "killer app" for the Saturn, allowing the console to gain commercial success in Japan. However, by the time the Saturn port was released overseas, it had less of an impact on Saturn sales in the West, as it was competing against newer PlayStation fighting games such as Battle Arena Toshinden.[51]

Critical reception

The arcade game was critically acclaimed. Following its North American debut at the 1993 American Amusement Machine Association (AMAA) show,[2] the October 1993 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly hailed Virtua Fighter as a demonstration of "just how far video games have come in the last eight years."[52] They expressed "amazement at the graphics" as "an incredible display of technological wizardy" and described the animation as "fluid and lifelike" while praising the gameplay "as equally impressive." EGM made particular note of how the camera moves along different axes depending on the fighters' location, the use of multiple viewpoints in the instant replay, the high quality of the gameplay, and the smoothness of the animation.[52] They also noted how the "playing fields change with every match," the "very beautiful" backgrounds, and the "instant replay of the KO" after a bout where "you get to see the action in multiple viewpoints" while rotating the camera "around the ring," which they described as "a gimmick" that "looks damn cool anyway!" They stated that it "boasts some of the most advanced hardware ever seen in a video game," runs "faster" with "smoother animations than any" other "virtual-type" (3D) "arcade game in existence," and "would have been considered an impossibility just a few years ago!" They concluded it "gives us a good taste of things to come in the future."[52] The January 1994 issue of Electronic Games described it as "a glimpse of where future development may be headed" and stated that it "took Sega's award winning polygon graphics into a new arena, with full rotation, overhead angles and instant replays." They concluded that it is "Truly impressive."[53] In 1995, Next Generation magazine stated it "epitomizes Suzuki's skill of finding the perfect blend of state-of-the-art technology with solid gameplay", concluding it to be "fast", "beautiful" and "probably art."[51]

The Saturn port was also critically acclaimed. In Japan, on release, Sega Saturn Tsūshin scored the Sega Saturn version of the game a 38 out of 40.[41] Famicom Tsūshin (now Famitsu) reviewed the same version five months later, with its panel of four reviewers each giving it a score of 9 out of 10, adding up to 36 out of 40 overall.[23] This made it one of the magazine's four highest-rated games of 1994, along with Final Fantasy VI, Ridge Racer and Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem.[54]

In the Western world, the Saturn port holds a 90% average aggregate score on both GameRankings (based on 3 reviews)[5] and Sega Retro (based on 24 reviews).[8] Edge rated the Saturn version 9 out of 10, stating "Saturn Virtua Fighter has all the pulling power of the arcade version, including the swooping, gliding game camera, the stylish polygon characters, the totally convincing animation and the compulsive gameplay...[The graphics] were impressive enough in the original, but on the Saturn, under the kind of intense scrutiny you can never give a game in the arcades, they emerge as simply astounding...It's arguably the first true 'next generation' console game, fusing the best aspects of combat gameplay with groundbreaking animation and gorgeous sound".[18] Electronic Gaming Monthly's panel of four reviewers gave it scores of 8, 8.5, 8 and 7 out of 10, adding up to 31.5 out of 40 overall.[20]

The Saturn port of Virtua Fighter Remix holds an average aggregate score of 92% on Sega Retro (based on 11 reviews).[9] Famicom Tsūshin reviewed the Virtua Fighter Remix version of the game for the Saturn and gave it ratings of 8, 10, 9 and 8 out of 10, adding up to 35 out of 40 overall.[24] This made it one of the magazine's nine highest-rated games of 1995.[54] Sega Saturn Magazine gave Virtua Fighter Remix a full score of 5 out of 5 stars, saying that it fixed the glitches and graphics of the original game while maintaining the already excellent gameplay.[40] Electronic Gaming Monthly gave Remix ratings of 8, 7, 6.5 and 7.5 out of 10, adding up to 29 out of 40 overall, or 7.25 out of 10 average. The reviewers praised all the game's improvements, but most of them concluded that it was still not worth buying for players who already owned the original game.[21]

Famicom Tsūshin scored the Sega 32X version of the game a 30 out of 40.[25] Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the 32X version ratings of 8, 6.5, 8.5 and 7.5 out of 10, adding up to 30.5 out of 40 overall, or 7.625 out of 10 average. They called it an excellent conversion given the system it's on, but dated next to the graphically superior Saturn version and especially Virtua Fighter Remix, both of which had already been released.[22] Computer and Video Games gave the 32X version ratings of 86% for graphics, 95% animation, 80% music, 95% sound effects, 94% gameplay, and 95% value, with a 95% score overall. They concluded it is "Reason enough to buy a 32X with no regrets" and a "bargain opportunity to buy into the awesome VF phenomenon!"[16]

The PC version had a positive to mixed reception, holding a 78% average aggregate score on GameRankings (based on 3 reviews).[7] GameSpot criticized the PC port for being "not as fast or graphically appealing as the Saturn version," but concluded that it is nevertheless "unquestionably the best 3-D fighter published to date on the PC."[26]

Awards

In Japan, the arcade version was nominated for three Gamest Awards. It was nominated in the categories of Game of the Year, Best Fighting Game, and Best Graphics; it lost to The King of Fighters '94 in the former two categories and Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors (Vampire: The Night Warriors in Japan) in the latter category.[43]

It has been listed among the best games of all time by several publications. In 1996, Computer Gaming World's "150 Best Games of All Time" list ranked Virtua Fighter as the 121st best game of all time.[46] In 2006, Famitsu's "All Time Top 100" reader poll ranked it the 39th best game of all time.[45] The same year, "The Greatest 200 Video Games of Their Time" list by Electronic Gaming Monthly and 1UP ranked Virtua Fighter as the 20th best game of all time.[44]

In 2001, GameSpot's list of "15 Most Influential Games Of All Time" ranked Virtua Fighter as the 13th most influential game of all time.[47] In 2004, 1UP's "Essential 50" list of "The Most Important Games Ever Made" included Virtua Fighter as the 35th chronological entry.[48]

Legacy

Its blocky, plainly detailed polygon fighters were revolutionary in 1993 and were responsible for the game's distinctive look. According to 1UP, it was the first game to implement polygonal 3D human characters in a useful way, with physics, and it led the way in establishing 3D games.[48] According to GameSpot, Virtua Fighter and Sega's 3D racing title, Virtua Racing, were smash hits with arcade gaming audiences, and their popularity marked the beginning of video games rendered with 3D graphics, introducing it to the masses.[55] In 1995, Next Generation magazine referred to Virtua Fighter as "the most significant game of the 1990s" and stated it "is the biggest game in Japan since Super Mario World."[51]

Up until that time, fighting games (such as Capcom's Street Fighter series) were designed and rendered on sprite-based 2D graphics hardware—both the character animation and background scenery were composed of 2D sprites and tilemaps, which when using multiple layers produced a parallax scrolling effect as the screen moved to follow the characters. Virtua Fighter dispensed with the 2D graphics, replacing them with flat-shaded triangles rendered in real-time, using the Sega Model 1's 3D rendering hardware, allowing for effects and technologies that were impossible in sprite-based fighters, such as characters that could move left and right rather than just backwards and forwards, and a dynamic camera that could zoom, pan, and swoop dramatically around the arena. It also introduced a 3D physics engine where, according to 1UP, when "a character was hit in the head, they fell backwards as would realistically happen," and if "they were hit with a spin kick, they would spin away before hitting the ground," portrayed "in a realistic manner (where players could feel the impact when a character hit the ground and the character did not automatically bounce back up)."[48] The game had a more realistic take on the genre, attempting to represent actual martial arts disciplines, making it more of a fighting simulation.[51]

Virtua Fighter's graphics, however, quickly became obsolete due to rapid advances in polygon technology that allowed for rounder, more detailed, textured, higher-polygon-count character models, as seen in Virtua Fighter 2. Nevertheless, Virtua Fighter forever revolutionized the fighting game genre. Virtua Fighter, with its move to 3D, introduced a more realistic style of gameplay to the genre. Like what Street Fighter II had done for 2D fighting games, Virtua Fighter created the basic template for the 3D fighting game subgenre, inspiring franchises such as Tekken, Soul, Fighting Vipers and Dead or Alive.[48][47] In addition, it also laid the groundwork for 3D action-adventure games such as Shenmue, Virtua Quest,[48] and Tomb Raider.[56]

Some of the Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) staff involved in the creation of the original PlayStation video game console credit Virtua Fighter as inspiration for the PlayStation's 3D graphics hardware. According to SCE's former producer Ryoji Akagawa and chairman Shigeo Maruyama, the PlayStation was originally being considered as a 2D focused hardware, and it wasn't until the success of Virtua Fighter in the arcades that they decided to design the PlayStation as a 3D focused hardware.[57] Toby Gard also cited Virtua Fighter as an influence on the use of polygon characters, and the creation of Lara Croft, in Tomb Raider.[56]

In 1998, Virtua Fighter was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution for contributions in the field of Art and Entertainment, and became a part of the Smithsonian Institution's Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology Innovation. The arcade cabinets are currently kept at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Gallery

References

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