Virtua Fighter/Development

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Virtua Fighter development
Missed release date(s):

Model 1 version

3D graphics in games were very primitive. You could only make models from triangles, which didn't even have textures. ... There wasn't the opportunity to make graphics that were really beautiful, and because of that I decided to spend all my efforts to make character movements correct and realistic. Yes, Street Fighter had nice sprites, but we had the advantage of very smooth movements

Yu Suzuki[1]

In 1992 Sega released the three-dimensional fighter, Dark Edge, which attempts to create 3D gameplay by manipulating sprites with the Sega System 32 arcade board. Dark Edge was, however, riddled with hardware limitations and failed to excite the gaming public - the next milestone in the genre had to use polygons.

Sega were not the first to come to this conclusion - Distinctive Software's niche home computer 4D Sports Boxing, released in 1991/1992, was another attempt at a three-dimensional combat game, but was strictly a boxing game, only used 3D polygons for the fighters (who barely resembled humans) rather than the environments, and lacked much of the freedoms enjoyed by Virtua Fighter's gameplay. Similarly to situation surrounding Virtua Racing, no single game on the market was offering to render a respectible number of polygons in real time while keeping a solid frame rate.

The team had some experience producing 3D modelled humans thanks to Virtua Racing, albeit with far fewer polygons. Development on Virtua Fighter began in earnest on 24th December 1992[2].

Initial location tests occurred on 1st August 1993[2].

A "20% complete" build of what was known as Virtua Fighters was shown at the Amusement Machine Show 1993[3] between the 26th and 28th August[2] alongside Star Wars Arcade (then known as Virtua Star Wars). Sega were tight with security, and photographs weren't officially allowed[3], however it is believed only two characters out of the planned eight were demonstrated[4]; Lau Chan (known as Lee), and the scrapped character Shiba. Many characters still appeared in some form, albeit with different names; Willie (Jeffry), Sara (Sarah), Yagyu (Kage) and Jackie (Jacky)[2]. Special moves were not implemented but some basic combos (such as P P P K) were implemented[2].

Yu Suzuki poses with a Megalo 50 running Virtua Fighters in a late 1993 photograph.

A later, "50% complete" build was shown at AOU Show 1993 and was even playable by attendees.[5] This version of the game (and possibly earlier ones) notably feature barcode scanners intended for use as a gameplay feature. An extension of Japan's barcode-scanning fad of the early 1990's, players were intended to wave any barcoded product (such as a soft drink) over the transparent black panels located at each corner of the cabinet's controls. Upon registering a successful scan, the game would then reward that player with an in-game buff for the during of the next fight. The strength of these buffs varied per different brands, with the popular milk tea product Gogo no Kocha being remembered by attendees as providing a particularly "unbeatable" buff.[6]

While Virtua Fighters raised eyebrows, its early state meant it was not the star of the show; this accolade likely goes to Namco's Ridge Racer, a texture-mapped 3D racing game.

Akira Yuki is a particularly notable character in Virtua Fighter as he was a last-minute addition to the game (so much so that early cabinets do not feature him in the artwork at all). He replaced Siba (also known as "Majido"), a Middle-Eastern fighter who was axed from the game altogether for unknown reasons. Siba would eventually become an unlockable character in Fighters Megamix.

Suzuki stated that the game program was written with 50,000 lines of code.[7]

Another scrapped character, "Jeff" also exists within the game's code. Jeff sports a military cap and camouflage attire, and uses an incomplete set of Jacky's moves. Seiichi Ishii, instrumental in Virtua Fighter's design, would go on to help create the first two Tekken games by Namco, in which an extremely similar character (albeit as a robot), "Prototype Jack" (P.Jack) appears.

The Flock Of Birds motion capture system by SoftImage was used for capturing the animation for the game[8].

Promotional screenshots

Saturn version

The Saturn version of Virtua Fighter was written almost entirely from the ground up alongside the hardware[9]. AM2 took a different approach to the arcade game, focusing on the quality of the animations over graphics, to the point where in early builds, characters could have as little as 100 polygons[10]. AM2 would then raise the polygon count as high as possible before the frame rate dropped to unacceptable levels.

One of these low polygon, low resolution, "30-40% complete" builds was shown at the '94 Tokyo Toy Show[9] in June 1994, where despite being playable, only two punches and two kicks could be performed[11]. Sega later clarified that this build represented less than two weeks of work[12]. A "45% complete" build was shown a few months later, now with an upped resolution to 640x224 (versus the 320x224 seen previously)[13] and more features.

Yu Suzuki had originally planned for 1,000 polygons for each scene in Virtua Fighter, but this milestone was met in the Tokyo Toy Show build[12]. This newer build was running with 1,300 polygons (550 per character and 220 for the ground), with hints that 2,000 may be possible in the final product[12]. The Saturn version was never set to hit the arcade's number of polygons overall, instead using texture mapping to reduce the number needed for facial expressions and floor textures[12].

32X version

The 32X version was meant to debut alongside the cancelled Sega Neptune project[14].


Timeline (Model 1)







1993-10-21: AMOA Expo 1993

1994-01-25: ATEI 1994

Timeline (Saturn)












1995-01-06: Winter CES 1995

1995-03-26: ECTS Spring 1995

1994-10-05: Final build date (CD-ROM (JP))

1995-03-17: Final build date (CD-ROM (US))

1995-04-25: Final build date (CD-ROM (EU)), Final build date (CD-ROM (EU))

1994-11-22: JP release

1995-05-11: US release

1995-07-08: EU release, DE release, UK release

1995-08-30: BR release

Timeline (32X)








1995-03-26: ECTS Spring 1995

1995-05-11: E3 1995

1995-10-10: US release

1995-10-20: JP release


Virtua Fighter

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Main page | Comparisons | Credits | Hidden content | Development | Magazine articles | Video coverage | Reception | Promotional material | Merchandise | Region coding | Technical information

Books: Virtua Fighter Maniax (1994) | V Jump Books Game Series: Sega Saturn Virtua Fighter (1994) | Virtua Fighter Maniax Replays (1994) | Virtua Fighter Sega Saturn Fighting Manual Vol. 1 for Novice (1994) | Virtua Fighter Strategy Guide (1995) | Virtua Fighter Ougi no Sho (1995) | Virtua Fighter Maniax for Windows (1995) | Virtua Fighter Sega Saturn Fighting Manual Vol. 2 for Expert (1995) | Virtua Fighter (1995)
Music: Virtua Fighter: Akira/Kage (1994) | Virtua Fighter: Saikyou no Senshi (1994) | Sega Saturn Virtua Fighter Maximum Mania (1994) | Virtua Fighter "Sega Saturn" Image by B-univ Neo Rising (1994) | Virtua Fighter & Virtua Fighter 2 Music Tracks (1996) | Virtua Fighter (2023)
Videos: Virtua Fighter CGMV (1994)

Sega 32X
Prototypes: 1995-05-30 | 06-15 | 06-30 | 07-17 | 07-21 | 07-24 | 07-25 | 07-26