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The Gameplay Innovations of Virtua Fighter


Virtua Fighter is known to be the Godfather of 3D Fighters since it first hit the scene back in 1993. Since then, it set a basis for other 3D fighters such as Tekken, Dead or Alive, Bloody Roar, SoulCalibur, and many others. Make no mistake about it, Virtua Fighter was the first 3D fighting game ever made.

In terms of the gameplay mechanics, Virtua Fighter deserves more credit if you ask me. Each sequel introduces a new mechanic or features that can be found in other 3D fighters. You could look at another game and easily say “Oh yeah, Virtua Fighter innovated that”. Hell, when Yosuke Hayashi joined Team Ninja in 2001, he mentioned that he and the development team would go out to arcades and play Virtua Fighter 4 in terms of research during the process of Dead or Alive 3.

But how many innovative mechanics did Virtua Fighter incorporated into other 3D fighters? I can tell you right now that there are various amounts, but I’m not going to list every single one. That would be very time-consuming. I will list the ones that are well-known, and include some that not many people know about.

With that being said in mind, let’s get right into it!


When Aoi made her debut in Virtua Fighter 3 twenty years ago, her gameplay innovated different type of parries that were never seen before in any other 3D fighter. She had a lot of parries for every situation, especially when she is on the floor or have her back turned.

Aoi introduced two different types of parries in Virtua Fighter: the Inashi and the Sabaki. An Inashi is a motion that will successfully parry or deflect an attack. While it doesn’t do any damage and doesn’t cause knock down, it does set the opponent up for a guaranteed attack.

In contrast, a Sabaki is an attack or motion with deflective properties. They were introduced in Virtua Fighter 4, and Aoi was one of the most known characters to have Sabaki-type moves at the time. Unlike the Inashi, the Sabaki will always animate regardless of the opponent’s actions. The Sabaki comes in two types: Sabaki-Attack (which are basic attacks with reflective properties) and Sabaki-Reversal (which are just deflectors that do zero damage, kinda similar to the Inashi).

Dead or Alive 5 (along with Ultimate and Last Round) would later use the Inashi and Sabaki for characters such as Leifang, Kokoro, and the VF cast for example.

Open/Close Stances

Some people don’t think Open and Close stances are a big deal, but to tell you the truth: they are. First introduced in Virtua Fighter 2, Open and Close stances relies on the foot position based on the character’s stance. Close stance is where the same feet of both characters are facing forward, while an Open stance is where each character’s feet is facing in an opposite order.

Closed Stance

Open Stance

Some of you guys may be wondering: what do these stances have to do with the gameplay in Virtua Fighter? Well, these stances can affect your combos and the directions on where to dodge tracking moves. No matter what situation you’re in, whether you are launched in the air or slammed on the floor, the characters will always remain in a stance.

Take one of Aoi’s combos for example, which is done by 44P+K, 6K+G, 23P+K, KPK. While it works for certain characters in the weight class, it also works for certain characters under the stance positioning. This combo works against Eileen and Pai in an Open stance, and Lei-Fei and Jacky in a Closed stance.

Now in terms of tracking moves, this relies on your opponent’s foot position rather than your own. Based on where your opponent is standing, they can use a tracking move that will cause you to sidestep into the foreground or the background. For example, if a character does a spinning kick that goes into the foreground, you would have to sidestep into that direction.

Open and Closed stances are found in most 3D fighters such as Dead or Alive, Tekken, and SoulCalibur. In terms of 2D fighters, Mortal Kombat (2011), Injustice, Mortal Kombat X, and the upcoming Injustice 2 also have those stances as well.


In most 3D fighters, it is very common for characters to have certain moves that will cause their opponent to be taken off their balance, which comes in a form of taking a few steps back without getting knocked down. Believe it or not, it was introduced in Virtua Fighter 2.1 where the SEGA AM2 team changed the properties of the basic PK combo in which it originally causes knockdown in 2.0. More importantly, Akira is known to have certain moves that causes a stagger hit at that time.

In Virtua Fighter 4, there would be a joystick indicator that would tell you when it is a good time to escape out of the stagger. When the indicator is green, that means that you are have been hit by the stagger. You will not be able to escape out of the stagger until the joystick turns red, which means that is your cue to use the stagger escape. Although the joystick indicator was made famous in VF4 and future VF games after it, it originated in Fighting Vipers 2.


As for the staggering system, it was mostly used in Tekken and Dead or Alive titles, with DOA nearly matching VF’s system.

Guard Cancelling

Since the first Virtua Fighter game, the guard button served more than just blocking your opponent’s attacks. If you ever noticed how players stopped halfway into their strings while they do their combos, they press the guard button to cancel out the string rather than just delaying the animation.

Let’s use Lau’s 3PPPK for example. Back in the VF1 and VF2 days, Lau players would use 3PPG to continue the juggle as a way to get a ring-out on their opponent. If you look at the combo video below, notice how the Lau player presses the guard button after 3PP. That’s what made several people believed that he was one of the best characters in the first two games at the time.

In most cases, players can guard cancel an attack, which is useful to psyche out your opponents. Pressing the guard button during the attack will cause the move to retract before the attack animation starts.

Outside of Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive is known to have guard canceling strings, called free canceling. While the DOA cast doesn’t have guard canceling attacks, the VF characters (Akira, Jacky, Sarah, and Pai) retained them in the DOA5 series.

Guard Animation

This was only shown in Virtua Fighter 3, and I think it didn’t appear in future VF games later on. Whenever you throw out any half-circular or linear move that is unsafe on block, the animation for the attack will stop. It was an easy way for their opponent to know when to punish, despite the fact that it looked weird.

While it didn’t appear in other VF games, it started to appear in later Tekken games, and it recently appeared in Street Fighter V.

Korean Step (Korean Back Dash)

3D Fighting game players are familiarized with the Korean Back Dash or KBD for short, but not many people know where the KBD originated from. Once again, Virtua Fighter started that.

Originally known as the Korean Step, this tech was made famous by the Korean player Akira Kid, who is now known today as ShinZ. Akira Kid used the Korean Step to win the VF3 National Tournament in 1997. He defeated his fellow Korean player, Ige Lau, who were the only two non-Japanese VF players to make it to Grand Finals at the time, which stunned the Japanese players. But let’s get back to the subject here.

Virtua Fighter 3 used the Korean Step as a way to replace the Taiwan Step since there weren’t much crouch-dashing in that game compared to Virtua Fighter 2. Thanks to the use of the Evade button, players used the Korean Step as the fastest way to use the back dash.

Now called the Korean Back Dash, Tekken is well-known to incorporate that type of movement into their games, with Dead or Alive following right behind them. The KBD is a useful strategy if you are spacing out your opponent, which can be helpful in 3D fighters.

Drink Counter

When Shun made his debut in Virtua Fighter 2 back in 1994, his fighting style was Drunken Kung-Fu. In Virtua Fighter 3 and Fighters Megamix, SEGA AM2 introduced the Drinking Counter which was used only for Shun.

The Drinking Counter shows the number of how many drinks that Shun has consumed during the fight. He starts off sober in the beginning of the match, which means it is your job as a Shun player to make sure he gets his drinks in his system during the fight. For every time Shun drinks, he gains more moves and his attacks get slightly stronger by 0.8%. His drinking limit goes up to 40, and he can get sober after taking a few hits.

Did any other fighting game used a Drinking Counter system after Virtua Fighter? Surprisingly, yes. Chin Gentsai from the KOF series ended up having a Drinking Counter starting with The King of Fighters XIII and currently returning in The King of Fighters XIV. The counter in that game only goes up to 5 drinks, which increases his offense by 10% for every time he takes a drink. In addition, he can only use his Tetsuzankou Super when he is intoxicated.


There are other gameplay mechanics that the Virtua Fighters paved the way for other fighters such as how Virtua Fighter 4 innovated character customization and how Virtua Fighter 3 innovated slopes and stairs in arenas. I know I didn’t mention those because they were too common to list, but it is something to make note of.

Virtua Fighter was ahead of its time. For every new installment, SEGA AM2 would find new ways to make VF’s gameplay innovative, such as having side blocking in VF5R for example. If Virtua Fighter 6 was ever a thing, I would love to see what type of gameplay mechanic they would come up with next. For those who are wondering, I am fully aware that the Virtua Fighter trademark has been renewed, so I hope to hear something from SEGA soon. 

Also, shoutout to VFDC for compiling a lengthy wiki page about the game mechanics and the character strategies. These guys worked their hardest to provide information for newcomers. On top of that, I would recommend reading the Neko Dojo 2AFC Approach if you are trying to learn how to play VF. Right now, I found a new main in Aoi, which I didn't expect to have fun with using that character.

Speaking of Virtua Fighter, please watch NYGX-2 this weekend. This tournament’s lineup includes Virtua Fighter 3tb, Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned, Virtua Fighter 5 R, and Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown. NYC_VF is streaming the event on Twitch.

Until then... Train Up, Fighters!

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About Virtua Kazamaone of us since 12:55 PM on 07.05.2014

Twitch Affiliate, Let's Player, FGC player, and the host of Virtua Fighter Takeover. I play games: mostly fighters, platformers, beat em' ups, Japanese, Retro, and Modern.

Never miss a livestream! https://twitch.tv/virtuakazama