Before there was Dead or Alive, before there was Soul Calibur, hell before there was Tekken, the 3D fighting game that led the way was Sega’s own Virtua Fighter. Fighting games were incredibly popular at the time of release, but Street Fighter II and Fatal Fury were 2D fighting games: Virtua Fighter was one of (if not the) first 3D fighting games to enter the arcade scene. This along made the game stand out among its peers. It helped the game was pretty fun too!
Blazing the trail for all 3D fighting games to follow, Virtua Fighter set the precedent for many games in the genre. Side stepping opponents attacking, ring outs to defeat your opponent, and low and high attacks are just a few of the unique aspects to this game. As the series would go own from this first game, it would get even more technical, borrowing elements for other games it ended up inspiring!
To me, though (and likely many others), the big draw to this game were the graphics. Seeing Akira and Jacky duke it out in blocky 3D polygons was quite the site to see when placed next to the comparatively tame tussles between Ryu and M. Bison. I also found the game kind of easy to pickup and play. Many character have simple two button combos to execute, and there are some devastating combos to learn early on that can really jump you through the arcade ladder.
Interestingly, I wouldn’t own a home console port for the game until much later when I picked up a Sega Saturn after college in 2011. However, this game somehow had a port on the Sega Genesis as well. This version was nothing like the arcade game, but was kinda maybe similar if you squinted really hard? You have to remember, this was back in the day when home consoles were not at all capable of pushing the processing powerhouses that were arcade cabinet! This made seeing and playing a Virtua Fighter cabinet all the more special!
Personally, I think Virtua Fighter 2 was the better game, but I don’t see it around as much as this arcade original!
*Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfiled, IL 2019