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LONG BLOG

What Makes VF2 Iconic (Virtua Fighter Month)

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Virtua Fighter 2 was released on November 1994 under the Sega Model 2 Arcade System. As the sequel to the first game, it had to make serious improvements since Tekken was released one month later after VF2. Ironically, Tekken was directed by Seiichi Ishii, who was Yu Suzuki’s right-hand man.

The game introduced two brand new characters (Shun and Lion), 60FPS gameplay, updated graphics, and more. Months after the release, SEGA AM2 released an update called Virtua Fighter 2.1, which applied changes to the game’s mechanics. It was later released for the Sega Saturn in 1995, followed by a Genesis and a PC release two years later. In 1996, a chibi version of Virtua Fighter 2, titled Virtua Fighter Kids, was released for both Saturn and Arcades. The arcade version sought re-releases; appearing on consoles such as PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

Virtua Fighter 2 is the most critically-acclaimed fighting game ever made in the series. It sold over 1.7 million copies in Japan, and it was bundled with other Saturn games so that it would boost sales overseas. It was also listed for one of the best games of all times in several magazines and websites such as IGN, Famitsu, EGM, among others.

The success with Virtua Fighter 2 came with influences. EVO 2017 Street Fighter V champion Tokido mentioned in his interview that VF2 not only introduced him to fighting games, but it also helped him cope with his daily life. Dead or Alive 5’s current producer Yosuke Hayashi was introduced to Virtua Fighter through VF2 as a teenager, where he used Jacky as his main. That led him into adding Jacky into DOA5 Ultimate.

With all the achievements that this game has received, the people want to know one thing: What makes Virtua Fighter 2 an iconic fighter? What made this game memorable compared to the likes of other fighters like Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Samurai Shodown?

While Street Fighter II revolutionize competitive gaming and Mortal Kombat’s blood and gore giving us the ESRB rating system, Virtua Fighter 2 took another step with 3D fighters. It set a whole new standard that would become influential for other fighters such as Tekken and Dead or Alive for example. SEGA AM2 took serious chances with the development of this masterpiece, some that not many people can believe. But enough about that, let’s break down what made this game known for what it is today.

The Technology It Used

SEGA AM2 wanted VF2 to improve over its previous entry. To do that, Yu Suzuki went to Martin Marietta (which we all know today as Lockheed Martin) so that they wanted to incorporate motion-capture and texture-mapping into their next arcade board: SEGA Model 2.

Now it is true that VF2 is the first video game to use motion capture and texture-mapping technology, but getting it wasn’t easy at first, mostly because of how much it cost to get it. SEGA AM2’s budget for procuring a chip cost about 5000 yen ($44), while the chip that Lockheed Martin used for jet simulators was worth several billion yen. So they both agreed to get a cheaper mass-produced chip that costs around 200 million yen, and the AM2 team had to make up the difference.

Motion capture and texture-mapping technology was used in movies and simulators, but never used in video games before at the time. SEGA AM2 went beyond the game industry’s norms in order to make this game a masterpiece. And because of this, it encouraged studios to use texture-mapping chips at an affordable price.

The Presentation

SEGA AM2 worked on this game for 12 months using the new technology that they acquired. As previously mentioned, Virtua Fighter 2 used the SEGA Model 2 hardware in order to run the game in 60FPS at a high resolution without slowdown. For a 3D fighting game that was released in 1994, it was considered impressive at the time. After all, the first Virtua Fighter game originally ran in 30FPS, and that was back in 1993.

The characters in the game are fully textured and detailed twice as before in 3D. In addition, each character (with the exception of Dural) has facial expressions for several situations such as getting hit, attacking their opponent, or their win/lose pose. While the stages retained the squared ring-out arenas from the previous game, it introduced fully-modeled 3D backgrounds. The stages brought out the capabilities of the Model 2 hardware, making the game look pretty.

Each stage brings something unique to the table. Shun’s stage uses a floating raft drifting down the river, passing through each bridge. The rocking motion is a nice touch, and the bridge provides shade for the characters. Jeffry’s stage has a coconut dropping from the palm trees every time a character does a heavy slam. Wolf’s stage starts off with a cage rising before the round starts. SEGA AM2 made sure that the stages were lively.

According to Yu Suzuki during his 20th Anniversary interview, he recalls a time where he and his development team went to China to collect data for attack-reversals for characters like Akira and Pai. To do that, they all participated in Chinese martial arts training. Suzuki then told the designers to study the “kata” of martial arts, only the ones that would be incorporated into the game.

I’m not sure if this is the same story like the time where Yu Suzuki went to China to study Hakkyokuken (Bajiquan), only to get gut-punched so hard he fell down head first on the stone floor head-first where he got a scar, but it felt similar to it. Must have been his second trip, then.

VF2 showed the true power of the Model 2 hardware. They were not afraid to go above and beyond with the limitations in the arcade. That is, until they had to port it for the Sega Saturn…

Less Is More

When the AM2 team was trying to port this game to the Sega Saturn, they ran into a huge problem: The Saturn was less powerful than Model 2, which led into serious changes with the presentation of the game while retaining the arcade feel.

First issue was that the game had a huge command list for the characters. It led the team to compress all of the moves into a CD. The next issue was that in order to maintain the 60FPS gameplay, they had to tone down the polygon count for the characters. The solution to that problem was using the texture-mapping to map 16 colors to the characters on the Saturn, instead of mapping only one color like the Model 2. In addition to that, the 3D backgrounds were replaced with parallax scrolling playfields with selective scrolling. This was a procedure that had to be done with other 3D fighters on the Saturn such as Fighting Vipers and Last Bronx. Dead or Alive had to do it as well since the arcade game originally ran on Model 2.

The AM2 made it work in the end, despite all the hard work and effort that was put into converting the game in a Sega Saturn format.

Top-Notch Music

The VF series has been known for having awesome music in their games. When it comes to awesome music, VF2 takes the cake.

Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, Takayuki Nakamura, and Akiko Hashimoto are responsible for composing this game’s music. Prior to their previous work, Nakamura worked on the music for the previous VF game, Mitsuyoshi worked on both Virtua Racing and Daytona USA, and I couldn’t find much information on Hashimoto’s previous work. It may interest you that Mitsuyoshi also voiced Kage-Maru in every game, and he voiced Akira only in the first game.

Each track gets you pumped up and ready to fight, from the attract theme of Begin New Challenge, to the character select screen. When it came down to the stage’s themes, they are all memorable for all the right reasons. The most memorable themes in the game are Akira, Jacky, Chicago stage (once you have Jacky and Sarah face each other), Sarah, Jeffry, Kage, Wolf, Lion, and Lau.

The entire character themes appeared in other games such as Fighters Megamix, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution (arcade version), Virtua Fighter 5 R, and Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown. Begin New Challenge, the attract theme, was used for the Akira and Jacky’s Mii Fighter costumes for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U.

Akira’s VF2 theme, Ride The Tiger, is the most memorable song in the game overall since it appeared in other games such as Virtua Quest, Project X Zone and its sequel, and more. It is the #1 song that everyone has listened to.

Innovative Gameplay

Now it’s time for the meat and bones of Virtua Fighter 2: the gameplay.

The gameplay is much faster this time around, and counter-attacking is more efficient compared to the first game. While sidestepping hasn’t been innovated yet, some characters like Shun and Lion for example have dodging moves that can utilize the z-axis. The controls are smoother than the previous game, but it has some awkward moments which can be passable.

Throws in the game still lacked a proper startup animation, but they do provide diversity based on the effects for when they get thrown or when they break the throw.

This game introduced more mechanics that set a whole new example in 3D fighters such as stance positioning for example. Open stances are when the each character’s feet are facing in the opposite order, whereas closed stances are when the same feet of both characters are facing forward. It played a huge factor with combos. Attacking while running now causes greater damage based on their momentum, and you could use mid attack to hit crouching opponents to raise them up out of crouch. This introduced stagger attacks.

When 2.1 came out, it changed a couple of things with the gameplay. A typical PK combo would cause the opponent to stagger, rather than to launch an opponent in 2.0. Attacking a character while they backdash also causes an opponent to stagger in 2.1 as well. Lastly, it fixes certain issues with characters, such as players and CPU opponents cannot automatically track Shun and Lion since they are the only characters in the game that have dodging attacks.

Once the gameplay mechanics were set, it led players to finding hidden stuff within the game. That leads to our next part...

Discovered Tech

It’s quite common that the FGC will discover new tech hidden within the gameplay mechanics. Once that tech is found, it could be spread to other games. Virtua Fighter 2 is one of them, since their innovative gameplay was the foundation of finding new tech.

Let’s start off with the most important one of them all: Fuzzy Guarding. This technique was used to avoid throws and mid attacks at the same time. It was first discovered by BunBunMaru and Shinjuku Jacky, who were trying to use it against Daimon Lau. Since then, it became a staple not only for 3D fighters, but also 2D fighters like KOF and Guilty Gear for example.

For movement, we were introduced to the Taiwan Step. It’s kinda similar to wavedashing in Tekken, but it was executed backwards which was made difficult to do. It was innovated by some Taiwanese VF players who traveled to Japan to compete in their tournaments, where one of them won.

Option selects in VF2 was broken at the time, but it became even more broken than before thanks to a brand new tech that was discovered 20 years later after the game’s release, called the Auto 3-taku. When you press any button (ex. P, K, G, etc.), the system would wait one frame to see if there is another entry that will follow up. For example, if you press P in the first frame and then press P+G in the second frame, it would be read as P+G. Press P in the first frame, and G in the second frame also reads P+G as well.

It was said that it works in VF2.1 and possibly VF3, though there’s no confirmation on VF3’s side as of now. Hmm… I’m gonna try to test it out.

It Created a Tournament Scene

A few weeks after Virtua Fighter 2’s arcade release, Isamu Yamagishi rounded up the Japanese VF community and created an organization called Virtua Fighter Relationship, or VFR for short. VFR specialized in team tournaments that ran under round robin rules. The tournament was called the Athena Cup.

VF2 is the first 3D fighting game to have its own tournament since 1994. The Athena Cup was a one-of-a-kind tournament that brought out the competitive side of the game. It was so big, that even the SEGA AM2 officials appeared at the second tournament and awarded the Tetsujin titles to the first five players at the tournament: Ikebukuro Sarah, Kashiwa Jeffry, K.K. Yukikaze, Kyasa Otto, and BunBunMaru.

VF2 overall took over the first five Athena Cup events from 1994 to 1996. The first four tournaments originally ran a 3v3 team battle format, while the fifth one changed to a 5v5 team battle format, which was used for the remainder of the series.

The Athena Cup was a way to create legends and memorable matches thanks to the Best Bout category. Best Bouts only occurs when a match has that epic storytelling between the two competitors. But I don’t want to get into that just yet.

Nowadays, the Athena Cup evolved into the Beat-Tribe Cup, and VFR has been going on strong for 23 years now. Recently, VFR announced the 16th Beat-Tribe Cup and that will take place on March 31, 2018.

While Virtua Fighter is the first 3D fighting game ever made, Virtua Fighter 2 set brand new trends that other 3D fighters would later follow suit. SEGA AM2 pushed new heights beyond the gaming industry with new technology they used to make games and brought in new mechanics that would be the inspiration for other fighters.

That’s what make Virtua Fighter 2 iconic.

VF Month is almost over, folks. Next week will be about the Top 5 Best Bouts from VFR. This is gonna be my first-ever countdown blog.

Until then… Train Up, Fighters!

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About Virtua Kazamaone of us since 12:55 PM on 07.05.2014

DOA Player and Fighting Game Researcher. I play games: mostly fighters, platformers, beat em' ups, Japanese, Retro, and Modern. I do videos. That's all.