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The Curious Case of Virtua Fighter 3 Ports (Virtua Fighter Month)


During the RGG Summit a few months ago, we learned that more of SEGA’s classic arcade games are coming to Like a Dragon Gaiden and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. This is where we learned that Virtua Fighter 3tb is one of the games that will be played when you visit Club SEGA, meaning that it will be based on the Model 3 version used in the arcades. 

When it comes to VF3 and VF3tb, the game was ahead of its time. Released in 1996 as VF3, it was innovative for having environmental stages full of slopes and walls, advanced graphics that were impressive for its time, and many more. One year later after the release, SEGA released an updated version called VF3tb in which the main selling point of the game was it had KOF-styled Team Battle mode, with the option to select 1v1 battles via a certain code that you had to input.

For this blog, we’re going to talk about the different ports of VF3tb from the original Model 3 port, the canceled Saturn port,  the Dreamcast port, and the most recent VF3tb Online release that recently came out for arcades in Japan. 

SEGA Model 3 Version

The one that started it all. Virtua Fighter 3 and Virtua Fighter 3tb were originally released for SEGA Model 3 in 1996 and 1997 respectively. There are some subtle differences in VF3tb compared to VF3, such as the stages where there are different times of the day that are involved. Certain stages, such as Sarah’s Subway stage in VF3 for example, received some adjustments in VF3tb.

This was considered the superior port at the time since it was running under original arcade hardware. And with the success of the Virtua Fighter 3, it needed to come home to consoles. This is where the difficulties come in…

Cancelled SEGA Saturn Version

This one is an interesting case because SEGA has been trying to port VF3 onto the Saturn after the game was released in the arcades. The closest thing we had to VF3 on the Saturn was Fighters Megamix since the game served as an introduction to VF3 with the VF2 cast had access to some of their VF3 movesets.

SEGA attempted to port VF3 onto the Saturn but it came with several issues. The first issue is that VF3 ran on the Model 3 Hardware, which is more advanced compared to Model 2 and the Saturn combined. That also leads into the second issue which is that the Saturn is less-powerful which meant that games that ran on the Model 2 Hardware had to be nerfed in order to run properly. 

To solve this issue, SEGA proposed an accelerator cartridge in order for the Model 3 games to run properly on the Saturn. Virtua Fighter 3 was supposed to be released for consoles on Christmas Day 1997, but during mid-1997, plans for an accelerator cartridge were scrapped. 

The third and final issue is that while the Saturn was selling well in Japan, it was struggling in North America and Europe. SEGA ended the support for the Saturn in 1998 for North America and Europe, but continued the support for Japan up until 2000. But that’s not the only console SEGA had out at the time…

SEGA Dreamcast Version

When the Dreamcast was released on November 27, 1998 in Japan, Virtua Fighter 3tb was one of the launch titles released for the consoles. Genki was responsible for porting the game instead of the SEGA AM2 team, marking the first time that a different team handled the port. 

The Dreamcast port of VF3tb was powerful enough to handle Model 3 Hardware since the console uses the same specs as the SEGA NAOMI hardware. It also ran in 60hz whereas the Model 3 port runs on 57.5hz, meaning that the timing for certain moves on the Dreamcast port is tighter. Another thing is that the quadrilateral polygons were used for the Dreamcast port instead of the triangular polygons from the Model 3 port. 

There were also some issues with the Dreamcast port and it mostly happened on the Japanese version of the game. The game suffered from rushed development similar to what happened with the Saturn port of the first Virtua Fighter game, resulting in certain bugs that were missed. Those bugs would be fixed on the North American and European ports. 

Probably the most infamous glitch one (and the one I enjoy the most) is Shun’s stage in which if you select Taka and go near the edge of the boat, the entire arena will be flipped over. I’ve done it multiple times on stream and let me tell you: it is hilarious to watch.

While VF3tb was considered a success in the arcades, it wasn’t much of a success in the home consoles due to how outdated it was compared to other 3D fighting games that were out at the time such as SoulCalibur and Tekken 3 for example. The fact that it had a lack of features also played a part in why it was struggling.

The good news is that you can still play VF3tb again via online on Fightcade against other players.  If you have a computer that can handle VF3tb or if you have a Steam Deck so that you can play it on the go, you should be okay.

I was going to stop there, but at the time of writing this blog, this was announced out of nowhere…

VF3tb Online

This one is the most surprising because I was only trying to focus on the Model 3 and Dreamcast ports, but then SEGA announced Virtua Fighter 3tb Online exclusively to Japanese arcades out of nowhere! I was not expecting SEGA to do that, but they knew because VF3tb is still being played in arcades for tournaments, mostly in Mikado. But more on that later down the road.

VF3tb Online is the most recent version of VF3tb that is run on the SEGA APM3 Arcade System and contains the same online features used on the arcade version of Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, known in Japan as Virtua Fighter esports. In addition to that, you now have the option to select the Arranged BGM of VF3 originally released as part of the Yakuza DLC for VF5US, along with more new arranged songs that were recorded earlier this year. There’s also some unreleased music that was originally found on the Sound Test of the Dreamcast port, but never officially released on any VF3 soundtrack albums until now. 

But don’t worry Western VF fans because we are getting VF3tb ported to consoles via Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, based on the Model 3 version of the game instead of the Dreamcast version. Yep, you finally get to experience the game the way it was meant to be! Just remember to hold down and press start if you want traditional 1v1 mode.

VF Month is still going strong. Join us next time where we talk about which characters should join the Tekken 8 roster!

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