|Virtua Fighter 3|
|Developer(s)||Sega AM2, Genki (Dreamcast)|
1997 (Team Battle)DC
JP November 27, 1998 (Team Battle)
EU October 14, 1999 (Team Battle)
NA October 18, 1999 (Team Battle)
|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players simultaneously|
|Input methods||8-way joystick & 4 buttons, gamepad|
|Arcade system||Sega Model 3|
Virtua Fighter 3 (バーチャファイター3 Bācha Faitā Surī ) is the third game in the Virtua Fighter series. Two new Japanese characters were added to the roster of fighters: Aoi Umenokoji, a beautiful Japanese woman and a childhood friend of Akira Yuki who used a nimble form of Aiki-jujutsu as her fighting style of choice, and Taka-Arashi, a Sumo wrestler from Japan. Taka Arashi would not make another appearance in the Virtua Fighter series until Virtua Fighter 5 R; the series' current producer, Hiroshi Kataoka explained that the removal of Taka in subsequent installments was due to the technical implications of having a substantially larger character.
Sega had made several announcements that a port of the title would appear on the Sega Saturn. However, lagging sales and the coming launch of the more powerful Dreamcast effectively halted such a plan. It can be assumed that had the game been released, it would have had significantly reduced graphics to accommodate the Saturn's weaker hardware. Other rumors suggest that the Saturn version might have had to accommodate a 3DFX-powered, Videologic PowerVR-powered, 3DO M2-powered or Lockheed Martin Real3D-powered upgrade card, in order to enable an 'enhanced' port of the game to run that would not have been possible on stock Saturn hardware.
It was the launch title for the arcade board Model 3 from Sega. Developed by Yu Suzuki's Sega AM2, it was a revolutionary game from a technical standpoint, with its detailed graphics earning widespread praise from critics and gamers alike. Characters' eyes now appeared to track the opponent's position, their muscles could flex and relax, the fighting arenas featured stairs and slopes, and Dural, the robotic final boss, was made of a metallic surface that reflected the environment around it.
The gameplay also continued to innovate. This iteration was the first in the series to introduce undulation in the stages, such as a staircase in the Great Wall stage, a stage set on top of a sloping roof and interestingly a raft constructed of individually moving elements on a bobbing water surface.
However, the biggest addition came in the form of a fourth button, the Dodge, (the series had previously used only three - Kick, Punch and Guard), which was used to evade enemy attacks. By pressing the button with the joystick in neutral, your character would move into the screen (i.e. away from you), by pressing the button with the joystick held up the same would happen, but by pressing the button with the joystick held down, your character would move out of the screen (i.e. towards you).
This 'evasion' technique enabled players to dodge incoming attacks, creating opportunities to counter-attack almost immediately. Virtua Fighter veterans were at first resistant to this change, but were soon won-over with the extra strategy and freneticism it added to bouts. The evasion feature would later be used in other 3D fighting games as the 'sidestep' feature.
Virtua Fighter 3 proved to be a success in the Japanese arcades. A Sega Saturn port was announced, but the Saturn's hardware could not handle the game and the graphics were forced to be reduced. While both Virtua Fighter 3 and the Sega Saturn were popular in Japan at the time, the Saturn failed to grab market share outside of Japan and Sega's support shifted to a new console (the Dreamcast).
Virtua Fighter 3 was followed by an updated version called Virtua Fighter 3tb (Team Battle), that featured battles between teams of various fighters, one after another is defeated. This "team battle" version was later released on Sega's Dreamcast console, being one of its launch games, becoming one of the best-selling Dreamcast games in Japan. Critics contend that the rush to have the game ready by launch resulted in a graphically inferior conversion. It is also true that this port of the arcade game was handled by developer Genki while the AM2 division was busy developing the Sega Saturn one, which may have contributed to the Dreamcast port's noticeable inferiority.
Virtua Fighter 3 was intended to be a launch title for the Dreamcast in North America, but it was delayed. Althrough it did eventually come to North America, it wasn't nearly as successful as it was in Japan. This may have been because Soulcalibur (which had dazzling visuals at the time) had arguably claimed to be the Dreamcast's stable fighter in North America.
A certain portion of the VF fanbase considered the most refined game of the franchise to be Virtua Fighter 2. Subsequently Sega removed both undulating stages as well as the Dodge button for later games. It is unclear whether this was due to technical considerations or simply commercial reasons.