Virtua Fighter is far from the best fighting game available for the Sega Saturn but I feel that it still has a place in a Saturn owner’s library due to it being a launch title and a game just about everyone familiar with this system knows. Most would say that the sequel, Virtual Fighter 2 is the superior game as was the remake, Virtua Fighter Remix, released only months after the original Virtua Fighter became available for the Saturn at launch in May 1995. However, there’s something about this particular game that endures as a classic for me largely due to it being the game that more or less revolutionized the fighting genre by bringing it into unchartered 3D polygonal territory.
Once you boot up the disc and select one of the two gameplay options (arcade or versus) from the menu screen, you are asked to pick one of the 8 fighters available to take into battle. In arcade mode, you essentially play tournament style, taking on each of the 8 playable characters in the game (including yourself) until reaching the final boss, Dural (don’t know much about him since I’ve never made it this far). The fights are best out of three and in order to win, you must either damage your opponent enough to take away all of their health, knock them out of the ring, or simply have more health than your opponent when the fight timer runs out.
Virtua Fighter’s control scheme is a simple thing of beauty for those of us afraid of having to use more than 3 buttons (block, punch, kick) to master. As a result, it’s easy to figure out different combos and moves based on your fighter’s position relative to your opponent. For example, you will pull off a different move when attacking if you’re crouching, standing or jumping and the effectiveness of this move depends on timing. Button mashing may work for the first couple of opponents in arcade mode, but you’ll quickly realize that constantly going on the offensive will get you knocked out in record time depending on who you are fighting against. This forces you to develop certain strategies when fighting opponents that truth be told, not all fighting games from this era require and for that, I appreciate this entry and the Virtua Fighter series in general. Much has been made of the fact that you essentially float when you press “up” on the Saturn controller to jump, but as I’ve mentioned in earlier Virtua Fighter related reviews, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s something that everyone has to deal with so everyone is on the same level playing field and must take into account you’re extremely vulnerable floating in the air when coming down from a jump attack that misses. Sure, the graphics look a bit blocky today but come on, who honestly could argue with how the game looked in the arcades in 1993? It was amazing! I recall seeing Virtua Fighter in arcades and thinking “this is the future of video games” thanks to its realistic looking environments and characters. For early Saturn adopters to get a very good arcade port right out of the launch gate should have been a system seller for fighting game fans since the 32X version of Virtua Fighter hadn’t even been released yet. I also appreciate the lack of gore and blood in Virtua Fighter, which makes it my go to fighting game when my daughters want to beat their old man in a virtual fighting arena.
Sure, the original Virtua Fighter would be far surpassed by 3D fighters to come out on the Saturn, PlayStation & 3DO over the next few years but when I actually play Virtua Fighter today, I don’t care. I’m still having fun and that’s all that matters.
Currently in my collection: game only with Virtua Stick and box