This year marks the anniversary of two games in the Virtua Fighter series, both released five years apart from each other. Virtua Fighter 3 and Virtua Fighter 4 are the two games that were released in 1996 and 2001 respectively.
I covered these games in the past multiple times, but I never went into full detail behind why VF3 was considered the black sheep of the series and how VF4 bounced back from it. The stories between how the VF community experienced these two games is quite interesting to say the least.
Virtua Fighter 3 was released in September 1996 for the SEGA Model 3 Hardware. It was the only game to feature a fourth button designated for sidesteps and also introduced undulation in some of their stages such as stairs, slopes, and a moving raft, as well as walls. It also introduced two characters into the roster: Aoi Umenokoji and Taka-Arashi, which put emphasis on how important the weight class is in 3D fighting games. An updated version of the game, VF3tb, was released one year later which added the KOF style Team Battle.
You guys already know the story about how long it took for VF3 to come to console since SEGA Saturn wasn’t performing well in North America and the console ended production only to have it released on the SEGA Dreamcast instead and it was ported by Genki. In regards to the VF community in Japan, it caused a divide between VF2 players and VF3 players due to the mechanics in the game. The biggest complaint of them all goes to the undulation of the stages in which it messes with certain combos during matches. I’ll go more into detail on next week’s blog.
That was the case when the 6th Athena Cup took place since it featured a mix of VF2 veterans and VF3 newcomers. It also showed the debut of rising players in the VF community such as Chibita for example.
Five years later, Virtua Fighter 4 was released in arcades. The game returned back to being a three-button fighter and also brought back the traditional square arenas from VF2 while bringing in walled stages from Fighting Vipers and VF3. It introduced a lot of new gameplay mechanics such as sabakis, customization, a proper evade system, and more. While two new characters were introduced, Taka-Arashi was omitted from the roster due to issues with development. I’ve already explained why he was removed during last week’s blog.
VF4 would later follow up with two updates: VF4 Evolution in 2002 and VF4 Final Tuned in 2004, adding two characters and making gameplay adjustments. VF4 Evolution would be the best game in the series due to its robust training mode that not only taught you how to play VF, but it’ll teach you about how to play fighting games as a whole. It’ll break down details on how to do a move, what you did wrong during practice, and more. It was also the game that appeared at EVO twice: one in 2003 and one in 2004.
Looking back at the series, SEGA got heavily involved with the VF community in Japan. This was the game in which they captured the AI of the stronger players for use in console versions, almost as if they were creating Ghost Data. Not to mention during the 10th Anniversary: SEGA released the Virtua Fighter: 10th Anniversary set which includes a remake of VF1 with the VF4 Evolution cast and also a DVD documentary that talks about the VF tournament scene. Here in North America, VF1: 10th Anniversary was bundled with VF4 Evolution and in Europe it was released as a promotional item.
It’s interesting how VF3 tried to innovate new things to the series which would cause some controversy between their players, but also helped out other games such as DOA come out of their comfort zone. And then they went back to basics with VF4, but also improved on a lot of things by setting a brand new standard with 3D fighting games.
Happy 25th Anniversary to VF3 and also: Happy 20th Anniversary to VF4!
VF Month is almost over, y’all. Tune in next week when we talk about the Tetsujin and Star Players of Virtua Fighter.
Until then… Train Up, Fighters… and have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!