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|“||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||„|
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.
A "20% complete" build of what was known as Virtua Fighters was shown at the Amusement Machine Show 1993 in August alongside Star Wars Arcade (then known as Virtua Star Wars). Only two characters out of the planned eight were on show - Lau Chan, and the inevitably scrapped character Siba. 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.
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 Saturn version of Virtua Fighter was written almost entirely from the ground up alongside the hardware. 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. 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 in June 1994, where despite being playable, only two punches and two kicks could be performed. Sega later clarified that this build represented less than two weeks of work. A "45% complete" build was shown a few months later, now with an upped resolution to 640x224 (versus the 320x224 seen previously) 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. 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. 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.
- Yu Suzuki Interview
- Computer & Video Games, "November 1993" (UK; 1993-10-15), page 12
- Computer & Video Games, "November 1993" (UK; 1993-10-15), page 18
- Game On!, "Vol. 1, Issue 6" (US; 1996-xx-xx), page 11
- Edge, "June 1994" (UK; 1994-04-28), page 47
- Edge, "August 1994" (UK; 1994-06-30), page 29
- Edge, "August 1994" (UK; 1994-06-30), page 28
- Edge, "August 1994" (UK; 1994-06-30), page 7
- Edge, "November 1994" (UK; 1994-09-29), page 47
- Edge, "November 1994" (UK; 1994-09-29), page 46
- Sega Magazine, "March 1995" (UK; 1995-02-xx), page 12