Virtua Fighter
REVIEWSega's Virtua Fighter is the first ever fighting game in history to introduce fully 3D polygonal characters and stages. In 1993, Virtua Fighter was Sega's rare, beautifully-polished gem in arcades, standing out from the crowd with its revolutionary visuals and unique style of "realistic" fighting gameplay. At the time, most (2D) fighting games were known to be colorful, cartoony, and filled with characters throwing fireballs and other magical attacks. Virtua Fighter went in a completely different direction, featuring no projectiles but instead promoting realistic martial arts attacks and fighting styles.


Virtua Fighter 1 character select screen.

VF's undisputable uniqueness and groundbreaking technology, wowed arcade-goers around the world. The depth of Virtua Fighter's graphics and the unique 3D gameplay were captivating. Even though some might've said the fighters of VF1 look more like "stacks of blocks" than actual people, Virtua Fighter's visual style ended up being a timeless and memorable aspect of the game. Virtua Fighter was indubitably a visual achievement in 1993 (and impressive yet again on the later console releases).

Virtua Fighter was a truly innovative arcade game!


Unlike some other fighting games of the era, Virtua Fighter featured authentically "realistic" martial arts animation, revolutionizing the genre. Of course, the characters of Virtua Fighter each have their own unique moveset, although a lot of basic moves are shared among all fighters. Characters fight inside an open square ring and for some reason are able to jump INCREDIBLY high (and can stay in the air for quite a long period of time).

Ring Outs
were also introduced to the fighting game world for the very first time, along with the Block Button. These new gameplay elements alone made fans think about fighting games differently and added to the "realism" of the game. Several characters in Virtua Fighter wear hats and other articles of clothing which can be knocked off of them during the fight... more revolutionary stuff for the time!

Each character in Virtua Fighter is based around a unique style of martial art - whether it's Karate, Jeet Kune Do, Kung-Fu, or Pro-Wrestling. While there are obvious likeable qualities of these 9 ambiguous fighters, their personalities don't quite "shine" like their colorful 2D counterparts in other top fighting games of the era. Virtua Fighter lacks any type of in-game narrative, as it would seem Sega banked on the idea of attracting players with the vibrant action and visuals alone. However, VF characters let their hard-hitting punches and kicks do the talking (a trademark that would remain throughout many sequels).


Fighting game fundamentals. Learn to crouch high attacks.


23 years after Virtua Fighter's original arcade release, unused characters were discovered through the use of data-mining. Siba was a cancelled character in VF1 (and even appeared on the arcade cabinet), but the original code has his name as "Majido". There also appears to be an alternate version of Akira Yuki who looks like he could be an early Kazuya or Jin Kazama from TEKKEN. Finally, there's "Jeff" who strongly resembles P. Jack!

Is it possible that some of these unused character designs are in fact early versions of TEKKEN characters? It would appear so, as several Virtua Fighter designers ended up moving over to Namco to work on TEKKEN and TEKKEN 2. Check out the "Featured Video" on the right side of this page for more information!


Absolutely groundbreaking visuals in 1993!


Yu Suzuki, lead director at Sega's AM2 team for 18 years, would eventually create the innovative and groundbreaking console adventure RPG, Shenmue. In Shenmue, the main character Ryo Hazuki uses moves and attack animations from the Virtua Fighter series. Virtua Fighter character capsule toys can also be collected out of a vending machine in the game.

In 1983 when Yu Suzuki joined Sega, one of his first games was a 2D boxing game called Champion Boxing for Sega's first home console. Clearly, Yu Suzuki has been a fan of martial arts from the very beginning.






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Page Updated: February 21st, 2024
Developer(s): Sega AM2
Publisher(s): Sega
Designer(s): Seiichi Ishii              Lead Designer
Yu Suzuki                  Director
Platform(s): Arcade, Sega Saturn, Sega 32X, Windows
Artwork By: Katsuya Terada      Saturn Manual Character Art
Release Date(s): November 1993            Arcade
Nov. 22nd, 1994
May 1995
Oct. 20th, 1995
Aug. 31st, 1996
Characters Akira Yuki, Jacky Bryant, Sarah Bryant, Kage-Maru, Lau Chan, Pai Chan, Jeffry McWild, Wolf, Dural, Siba (unreleased)
News Links: May 2021: Virtua Fighter Retrospective Video Series 

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Featured Video:

Related Games: Virtua Fighter Remix, Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Fighter Kids, Virtua Fighter 3, Virtua Fighter 4, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, Virtua Fighter 5, Virtua Fighter 5 R, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, VF5: Ultimate Showdown, Fighting Vipers, Fighting Vipers 2, Fighters Megamix, Mortal Kombat 2, Super Street Fighter 2, Last Bronx, TEKKEN, Dead or Alive

Gameplay Engine  8.0 / 10
Story / Theme  5.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  8.5 / 10
Animation  9.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  7.0 / 10
Innovation  9.5 / 10
Art Direction  6.5 / 10
Customization  5.0 / 10
Options / Extras  4.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  7.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  7.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  8.5 / 10
Characters  6.5 / 10

 7.9 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version    


Final Words: In 1993, Virtua Fighter set the groundwork for the future of 3D fighting games. The first VF offered a simple, yet solid 3D gameplay system which won over the hearts of many arcade-goers in 1993. Props to Sega for being the first to take the inevitable step into the 3D polygonal-based fighting area. 

The risky move paid off... as Virtua Fighter's groundbreaking visuals and unique gameplay mechanics definitely stood out from the crowd and paved the way for so many great 3D fighting games to come. The idea of a fighting game without projectiles was unique on its own, and the implementation of VF's Ring Out system made the game feel immersive and alive.

Even though my "comfort zone" was still 2D fighting games back in 1993-1994, I found myself putting quite a few dollars into that Virtua Fighter arcade cabinet. Some years later, I found myself growing more and more fond of not only sequels to Virtua Fighter... but many other 3D fighting games such as TEKKEN, Soul Edge & Fighting Vipers.

Every fighting game player (actually, video game player) worth their salt should have great respect for what the original Virtua Fighter accomplished in 1993-1994.
~TFG Webmaster | @FIGHTERS_GEN

Click Here for all Character Data!


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Click Here for all Concept Artwork!

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