Retro Resolution Retro Review
System: Sega Megadrive / Genesis 32X
AM2 (arcade, 32X)
Year: Model 1 hardware (arcade original) 1993
Year: 32X 1995
The classic Simpson’s episode Treehouse of Horror VI sees Homer unexpectedly breaking through the 2D confines of his world to appear in the three spatial dimensions of ours, the juxtaposition highlighting the hitherto unnoticed confining nature of the previous reality; Homer’s revelatory sensation is one mirrored by first-time players of Sega’s iconic Virtua Fighter.
Often hailed as a breakthrough for the genre, the Model-1 powered 1993 arcade title dragged the one-on-one fighting game kicking and screaming into the third dimension, eschewing sprites for fully animated quadratic-surfaced mannequin fighters. Whilst rendered entirely in 3D, the action still ensues entirely upon a horizontal plane, much to the title’s credit. As Bruce Lee once said:
‘Do not deny the classical approach simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there’
The polygonal nature of the game enables a true paradigm shift in gameplay. Unhindered by pre-drawn animation frames Virtua Fighter’s smoothly realistic movement conveys the satisfying solidity of its fighters, and the bone-crushing weight of their attacks, whilst allowing a previously unobtainable fluidity and depth of gameplay. The resultant experience appears a different beast entirely from those iconic 2D brawlers Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.
Bereft of fireballs and fatalities alike, Virtua Fighter’s strength lays not in what pugilistic purists may bemoan as gimmicks, but in a repertoire of over 700 moves derived from a variety of traditional martial arts, including boxing and wrestling; training is the key to success as much in the Virtua world as the real.