It’s Virtua Fighter’s 20th anniversary, the granddaddy of all 3D fighting games, which first stormed across our arcades in December 1993 but I’m surprised Sega even remembered to be honest. It’s not like Sega are known for using their vast catalog of franchises these days. VF was a big deal in the 90s but can you still say the series is still going on strong today?
Virtua Fighter’s Final Chance?
Virtua Fighter is simply not as popular as it should be considering that fighting game popularity as a whole is at a all time high. The latest VF game was Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown (an updated version of the original Virtua Fighter 5) was released in the summer of 2012. It has one of the most solid game engines around but again it’s not as popular as it should be.
VF5: Final Showdown was originally only released in Japanese arcades in July 2010. Meaning it didn’t get a worldwide release for two whole years. Why did that take so long? If the game was available worldwide from 2011 it would have been a lot more successful. That year there was no direct competition. No other 3D fighter was released in 2011 but Sega decided wait until 2012; the same year Tekken Tag Tournament 2 dropped. Tekken, an already more popular franchise, was marketed a lot better, stole the spotlight. It seems Sega aren’t confident in their premier fighting game franchise anymore.
Stubborn Arcade Origins; Stuck in the 90s.
Admittedly Virtua Fighter is not the most marketable franchise around but that’s Sega’s fault. The VF games have always been solid, fighting game experiences (only Tekken comes close to its in-depth fighting system) but the series has always lacked aesthetic appeal and flash. VF is infamous for its bare-bones content for its home console versions. It was originally was an arcade game but it still thinks its one and for that’s it’s now suffering.
Since day one, the VF series’s home ports have been rushed, plagued with lazy presentation, bare-bones content and a reluctance for move away from its arcade roots. Lack of content may not be a big deal in the arcade but people expect more content when they spend £40 for a home console game. On the other hand Tekken always had very good home ports as Namco always made that extra effort.
Time has moved on since the 90s and outside of Japan the arcades industry is dead. In Japan, VF still stands toe-to-toe with Tekken in terms of popularity but that’s certainly not the case in the west. Maybe that’s always been the case from the start but when games like Persona and Skullgirls are more sought after than Virtua Fighter then it’s a f**king problem.
The future of Virtua Fighter
For years fans have been thinking of ways to improve VF’s popularity. Put simply, if you’re not a hardcore fighting gamer you really have no business playing VF. Really, there’s nothing here for you other than a excellently deep gameplay system that most wouldn’t fully appreciate anyway. That needs to change.
Contrary to popular belief Virtua Fighter does have a storyline, it even had its own anime series, but it just doesn’t bother to using it in it’s latest games. Now I’m not expecting a full-on story mode for Virtua Fighter 6 but give us something, Sega. Maybe a gallery mode contain extensive character biographies, a stage edit mode like in VF2 and maybe provide even subtitles for foreign language speaking characters. Simple stuff really.
Will we ever get another Virtua Fighter game? It’s took 6 years for us get a update to 2006’s Virtua Fighter 5. A new VF game for the next-gen consoles perhaps? Personally, I don’t think the franchise is dead at least not in Japan anyway but elsewhere it’s hanging on a lifeline and has been doing so for some time. If this 20th anniversary celebration has done anything it’s re-assured me that Sega does have future plans for the franchise. Still, the VF series is not has popular as it should be and Sega need to change that. Happy 20th Virtua Fighter!!