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The LONG History of VFR (Virtua Fighter Month)


Team tournaments in the FGC are common nowadays. In Japan, they would have fighting game tournaments that are based on team effort such as X-Mania for Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Mastercup series for Tekken, and Tougeki Super Battle Opera for certain games. Most of these tournaments are single elimination, which makes the stakes even higher than before. When it comes to Virtua Fighter, the Japanese community created a team tournament that would make the game create a scene.

The Japanese VF community created an organization that specializes in team tournaments called Virtua Fighter Relationship. VFR is known for hosting the Beat-Tribe Cup series, which is held on a yearly basis since 1994 when it was previously known as the Athena Cup. Players such as BunBunMaru, Daimon Lau, Ohsu Akira, Chibita, Itabashi Zangief, and the EVO 2011 Champion Fuudo, all have competed at this event.

The rules for this tournament is simple. The team tournaments have three qualifiers: Preliminary League, Wildcard, and Final Tournament. It starts off with three 5v5 teams in Round Robin matches, sometimes 3v3 in individual events. If there are four teams present, then it would call for single elimination if needed. These are used for bigger tournaments. The teams with the best record will advance to the Final Tournament.

Team formations for this tournament is particularly interesting to explain. Once a team is formed, they are known as the Season Team. You cannot change teams until the season is over. If one of your teammates isn’t available to compete in the tournament, you can get a rental player. Points will be awarded to the season team participating in that event. Rental players will not be able to gain points for the teams that they represent. Lastly, all games are played on arcade cabinets.

Before I begin, my Japanese has been quite dry as of late. Some of what I had to research had to be roughly translated. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s begin, shall we?

Virtua Fighter 2 Era (1994-1996)

The 1st Athena Cup took place just weeks after Virtua Fighter 2’s release date on December 3, 1994. The tournament took place at the legendary Game Spot Athena at Machida, Tokyo, Japan. Nine teams have entered this tournament, and some of players are writers that come from different publishing groups. This tournament followed the Round Robin ruleset. Gamest Team, consisting of Kyasa Otto, Takeshi GYU, and K.K. Yukikaze won the first cup, with Kyasa having the MVP win and having the best bout against TANA, who was part of Game Play II Team.

The 2nd Athena Cup took place on March 21, 1995. Thanks to the popularity of Gamest Team vs. Game Play II, and the word of mouth of Kyasa’s victory, over 32 teams have entered the tournament. Yep, 32 teams have entered inside a small building to compete in Virtua Fighter 2. This was the tournament where five players: Ikebukuro Sarah, K.K. Yukikaze, Kashiwa Jeffry, BunBunMaru, and Kyasa Otto, were awarded the Tetsujin (Ironman) title by SEGA AM2 officials, who were present in the tournament.

All-Japan Team, consisting of Kashiwa Jeffry, Ikebukuro Sarah, and Deshi Sarah, defeated the previous cup winners Gamest Team. The MVP of the team was Kashiwa Jeffy in his bout against Kyasa, marking the first Best Bout match between two Tetsujin players.

Three months later on June 25, 1995, the Third Athena Cup took place with 48 teams competing. This is an memorable tournament due to the rivalry between BunBunMaru and Daimon Lau, which was also the first time that players from the Kansai area entered the tournament.

Months before the third series took place, Daimon Lau, who was an unknown player at the time, was a Lau main that specializes in ring out victories. He destroyed several Tokyo players with his counter-hit 323P string that starts off as a juggle. BunBunMaru fell victim to it as well, and it was on live television!

When the 3rd Athena Cup took place, BunBunMaru defeated Daimon Lau and his team thanks to the discovery of Fuzzy Guarding with Wolf. This tech was introduced in Virtua Fighter 2, and it is used in other 3D fighters such as Tekken and Dead or Alive. If you want to read more on the BunBunMaru/Daimon Lau rivalry, I made a blog about it months ago on Destructoid.

While both teams didn’t win, BunBunMaru vs. Daimon Lau was not only the Best Bout in the tournament, but also went down as one of the greatest rivalries in FGC history. As for the team winners, that went to Kakatte Koi’zu, which consists of Scho Kosugi, Kyata, and Masa Ani.

In November 23, 1995, the 4th Athena Cup took place at a different location, the R Hall in Roppongi section of Minato, Tokyo, Japan. The venue continues to grow with over 80 teams, and Virtua Fighter 2.1 was the main game played at the event. The Kansai/Kanto rivalry continued on since the Kyoto players wanted their revenge on the Tokyo players. It was also a time where players from Yokohama, Meidamae, and Kokubunji were emerging onto the scene.

This tournament had two preliminaries. The first preliminary round had a total of 64 teams entering the tournament, where the top two teams advance to the second preliminary round with seeded placements.

2.1 Emon, a team consisting of Shakkin Akira, Meidamae Chiyakkyi, and BinBourau, were the victors of this tournament, with Meidamae Chiyakkyi becoming the MVP of the team. This would be the first time a district outside of Shinjuku and Machida would win a team tournament. The Best Bout of the tournament was the match between Kyasa Otto and ZAN Oni since it was a fateful encounter.

The 5th Athena Cup returned home to Game Spot Athena on March 31, 1996. With 36 teams entering the tournament, this would be the final time that Virtua Fighter 2 would be the main game, especially with the 2.1 update. This would be the first tournament to introduce the 5v5 format, otherwise known as the District Teams where players had to select their teammates based on the same district they lived on. Players from Shibuya, Koiwa, Yokohama, and others were participating in the event alongside with players from Osaka, Gifu, Nagayo, and Kyushu.

The winning team of the tournament would go to Meidamae Representative, which consists the team of BinBourau, Shakkin Akira, Meidamae Chiyakkyi, Meidamae Urufi, and Meidamae Kage, with Meidamae Urufi being the MVP of the tournament. The Best Bout went to Ohsu Akira vs. Hit Man, since it was to determine who was the best Akira player between the East and the West. Ohsu Akira would become the Daigo Umehara of Virtua Fighter in later tournaments.

Virtua Fighter 3 Era (1996-2001)

Virtua Fighter 3 was released on September 1996 for the arcades, becoming the first game to run under the Sega Model 3 Hardware. And with that, the 6th Athena Cup took place on November 17, 1996 at Game Spot Athena. 56 teams have entered the tournament while reverting back to the 3v3 format, and the previous players shifting over from VF2 were trying to continue their dominance in the new game.

The team of Kashiwa Jeffry, Maeda Akira, and Chibita won the tournament under the name Yuushou wa Atarimae Tozu. Chibita would be the MVP of the team, which was impressive for his debut. He was the only new player in that team since Maeda Akira and Kashiwa Jeffry were veteran VF2 players. Meanwhile, Yokoshima Kage-Maru vs. Kyasa Otto was named the Best Bout for the clash between Old Generation vs. New Generation.

The 7th Athena Cup took place at Ichikawa Athena GAME SQUARE on March 16, 1997. 92 teams have entered the tournament, making this the most teams entered in history at the time. Kashiwa Jeffry would go on to win another team tournament with season team called The Gigalos, consisting of himself, Koiwa Sarah, and Suitari. Koiwa Sarah was the MVP of the team tournament. The Best Bout went to Kashiwa Jeffry vs. Shin Sekai Lau, where Kashiwa Jeffry won the final round using the Jeffry’s back throw with three seconds on the clock.

June 22, 1997 is where the 8th Athena Cup took place. It was supposed to be the last tournament to hold Virtua Fighter 3 as the main game since Virtua Fighter 3tb was on its way and it was the next tournament to hold another 5v5 District Battle since the 5th Athena Cup. Ome Shinrikyo, a 5-man team consisting of Bison Akira, Segaru, Shimarumaru, Dragon Jiji, and Mask de Heiteitsu (the team’s MVP) won the team tournament with the Best Bout going to Mask de Heiteitsu vs. BinBourau.

Returning back to Game Spot Athena once more, the 9th Athena Cup became a two-day event due to the store’s capacity, taking place on November 2-3, 1997. While Virtua Fighter 3tb was already out in arcades, the community was still playing Virtua Fighter 3 Ver. D. A total of 84 teams have competed in this tournament.

Kashiwa Jeffry is no stranger to winning these tournaments, no matter what team he’s on. He was a member of the team named Yusho wa Atarimae Tazu, which consists of himself, Astro Jacky, Maeda Akira, Koiwa Sarah, and Tower Akira. They won the tournament with Kashiwa Jeffry being the MVP, and having the Best Bout versus Kagekun.

With Virtua Fighter 3tb officially becoming the main game, it was later used for the 10th Athena Cup on December 23, 1997. The tournament took place at CLUB GIO ICHIKAWA with 78 teams competing at the event. Susukino Team, consisting of Susukino Lau, Sarahman Uryo, Koarashi Monichiro, Koarashi Monjiro, and Aoi Senkou no Hide were the victors of this tournament, with  Koarashi Monjiro as the MVP of the team. The Best Bout of the tournament went to Chibita vs. Koiwa Sarah in which Chibita reversed Koiwa’s throw and won at the last second.

In the office hall of 6F Plaza with a total of 93 teams competing, the 11th Athena Cup took place on August 23, 1998. Union Inba, consisting of Yotsukaidou Lau, Sam, Hito J, Holstein W, and Dana were the winners of the tournament, with Sam holding the MVP title of the team and having the Best Bout against Hana Lau.

On May 2, 1999, the Athena Cup Final took place at CLUB GIO ICHIKAWA. This was the final tournament named the Athena Cup since it was the 12th one in the series and the Japanese VF community was slowly dying out since some of the original members were retiring from the game. This was due to VF3 becoming the black sheep of the series, suffering the same fate for games such as Tekken 4, Dead or Alive 4, and SoulCalibur III.

With 87 teams competing, the team of Seagull, Muscle Sarah, Shibuya Jacky, Yame no Dare, and Mask de Hijitetsu (all known as Fuchin-Kan Seagull) won the final team tournament of this era, with Yame no Dare as the MVP of the team. There were no Best Bouts.

In the new millennium, VFR introduced the first ever Beat-Tribe Cup on January 13, 2000. Following the same ruleset as the Athena Cup, the event took place once again at CLUB GIO ICHIKAWA with 73 teams competing. Kanisupo Noble, a team consisting of Shibuya Jacky, Oyama Master, Susukino Lau, Muscle Sarah, and Yami no Dare won the first Beat-Tribe Cup, with Oyama Master being the MVP of the team. The Best Bout went to Odo Bread Jeffry vs. Kokuogo to determine who’s the true King of Akiba.

The Second Beat-Tribe Cup took place once again at CLUB GIO ICHIGAWA on October 1, 2000, with 68 teams competing. W Teacher, a team consisting of Tokyo Megane, Morujibu, A. Inufee, Shibuya Jacky, and Yami no Dare won the tournament with MVP going to both Yami no Dare and Chibita, marking the first time a tournament had two MVPs. Both Yami no Dare and Chibita had the Best Bout of the century.

The 3rd Beat-Tribe Cup marked the final tournament to have Virtua Fighter 3tb as the main game. Taking place at Ebisu East Gallery on July 7, 2001, 64 teams have competed for the event under the 4v4 format. Giant Swing Forever, a team consisting of Yuki-Kun, Hainin, The Guerrilla, Mask de Hijitetsu, and Segaru won the final VF3tb tournament, with Hainin being the MVP of the team. Chibita vs. Kurita was named Best Bout of the tournament.

Virtua Fighter 4 Era (2002-2006)

Virtua Fighter 4 was released for the arcades on September 2001. This game introduced customization thanks to the use of having an Access Card, which all players were eager to use. And with a new installment means a new tournament.

The 4th Beat-Tribe Cup took place on May 5, 2002, with 112 teams competing at DIFFER Ariake, which became the mainstay for future tournaments in this era. Shizuoka Tea Party, consisting of Hana Bi, Arashi, Mukki Akira, Hakusho Lau, and 五郎弐千歳 are the winners of the tournament. Mukki Akira is the MVP of the team, and had a Best Bout against Koryu Kessou. This is the only tournament where Virtua Fighter 4 was the main game.

On May 5, 2003, the 5th Beat-Tribe Cup took place at DIFFER Ariake once again, with a record-setting 181 teams competing in the tournament. That is a total of 905 players competing in 5v5 matches. Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution became the latest game played at the tournament, since it was released for arcades. Several old school and new school players all have enter this tournament.

Taiko Heya, a team consisting of Yoro Kage, Dai Ginga, Ichiro Taito, Nada Ryuto, and Ohsu Akira, were the victors of the tournament with Dai Ginga as the MVP and Best Bout against Armadillo Ototo.

The 6th Beat-Tribe Cup took place at the same area on March 21, 2004. A total of 173 teams competed at the event. This was also the first time an overseas team competed at the event. ShinZ, a VF player from Korea, entered the Beat-Tribe Cup with his team even though he didn’t touch VF4 Evo because Korea only has VF4. They’ve managed to get one victory in this tournament. Taiko Heya took a second win with a brand new member on their team, which is Chominami Akira. Dai Ginga became MVP for the second time and had a second Best Bout against Musume.

The 7th Beat-Tribe Cup took place on February 13, 2005, and Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned was the main game. 168 teams have competed in this event, including two overseas teams from New York and Korea. Buddha Punch, the team of Jin, Punch The Senpu, Kofu Glasses, Itoshun, and Koedo won the team tournament, with Koedo being the MVP of the tournament and having the Best Bout against Itabashi Zangief.

Virtua Fighter 4’s five-year support was coming to an end when The 8th Beat-Tribe Cup took place on February 12, 2006. 180 teams have competed in this event. Buddha Punch took a second win with all new members: Sennigiri, Mask de Hijitetsu, Edo, Hima Kami, and Min-Mi. Sennigiri was the MVP of the tournament, and had the Best Bout against Itoshun.

Virtua Fighter 5 Era (2007-Present)

Virtua Fighter 5 was released on July 2006, and it would have the longest support in the VFR series from Vanilla to Final Showdown. While there was no VFR event in 2007, there was one on May 3, 2008 with The 9th Beat-Tribe Cup taking place. I was looking for who won the tournament, but it seems that it was a team that involved Shizuru, Fuumin, Gigusu, Anaguma, and Jaga. The team was name Monte Carlo

The 10th Beat-Tribe Cup took place on May 2, 2009, with Virtua Fighter 5 R as the main game. Buddha Punch won their third tournament with their original members. Jin became the MVP of the team.

Virtua Fighter 5 R would make a second and final appearance at The 11th Beat-Tribe Cup on July 18, 2010. It took place with 145 teams competing at this event. Itabashi Newton, the team of Itabashi Zangief, Kamaage, cafe, Zettoman and Bubbles, won the tournament.

With Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown as the next and final entry of the VF5 series, it would be later used as the main game for the 12th Beat-Tribe Cup on October 9, 2011 at the Tokyo Leisureland Palette Town Store. Prestigious Egota, the team of Shironuko, Kazubo, Blue Pai, Dragon Wolf, and Ekodaman were the victors of that tournament.

The 13th Beat-Tribe Cup would take place on October 7, 2012, with 144 teams competing at this event at the same venue as last year’s. Team Ireizaa, consisting of Fuudo, Paidaman, Gorgeous Eileen, Masukodo (formerly Mask de Hijitetsu), and Magnum, won this tournament.

With 129 teams competing, The 14th Beat-Tribe Cup took place on October 13, 2013. The Family Gyouza of Five, which consists of Kozou, Mukku, Keisuta, Puuta, and Kanzen Ni-Taku won the tournament.

The 15th Beat-Tribe Cup took place on November 23, 2014. This event was special since it was celebrating the 20 long years of VFR hosting their events. 120 teams have competed at the event. Once again for the fourth time in history, Buddha Punch won this tournament.

Beat-Tribe Cup 16?

While we are all waiting on the 16th Beat-Tribe Cup, the Japanese VF Community are slowly losing interest in the game since VF5 as a whole has been out for 10 years now. However, VFR has been hosting the Bay Area Cup and the Railway Series in different areas of Japan, such as Tokyo, Tokai, Kansai, and Kyushu. Most recently, they’ve hosted the Pre Beat-Tribe Cup earlier this year.

VFR has been hosting tournaments for 22 years now, and it’s amazing how they kept the Japanese VF scene alive. Will there be a 16th Season of the Beat-Tribe Cup series? I hope so, but at the same time the Japanese players have been waiting for SEGA to make Virtua Fighter 6.

Before I end this long blog since I felt that this has gone long enough, Chief Flash and VFDC are hosting No Matter The Cost on February 17-19, 2017 at Alexandria, VA. Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Fighter 3tb, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, and Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown are the main games played at this event, and it will be streamed on NYC_VF.

With that in mind, Virtua Fighter Month has officially come to a close. Have a Happy New Year, everyone, and I’ll see you all in 2017.

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