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Virtua Fighter 3tb (Dreamcast) artwork

Virtua Fighter 3tb (Dreamcast) review


"Virtua Fighter 3tb is not for everyone. "



Virtua Fighter 3tb is not for everyone.

A gamer that wants a fighting game to be easy will not be pleased with this game. Someone who desires endless strings of automatic, self-performing combos to flow effortlessly from the buttons' press will not enjoy VF3. If you wish for a fighter with which you can spend no time practicing but still play like a master, Soul Calibur is your game. Virtua Fighter 3 isn't.

Virtua Fighter 3 commands that the player play the game, not to lackadaisically meander through it without learning anything, but to invest their time and every ounce of skill. Attention must be paid and in order to succeed one must practice. Virtua Fighter 3 holds no one's hand and doesn't care of the recourse. It's not interested in popularity from the unskilled; it's perfectly content being an elite club where at which the elite can hang.

Assembled here is a selection of 12 warriors, vastly different in play mechanics and design. The once lifeless and barely functional character design of Virtua Fighter has evolved into the deep, dramatic, and endearing designs of VF3. Jacky, formerly loosely resembling his description as a strong Jamaican fisherman, now pulses with his muscular build and very sea-faring highwater pants. Akira's constant look of methodical determination cements his persona as an icy, confident fighting machine. Lion's youth now sears throughout his person; he adorns rebellious Gen-X attire, in sharp contrast to Lau's very traditional, serious eastern clothing. The personalities have finally been developed enough to reach beyond Virtua Fighter's selling point of gameplay; at last, the characters have enough character to pay attention to.

As strengthened as the design concepts are now, the fighting styles the characters exhibit are even exponentially more stunning in their intrigue. Shun-Di, the cantankerous old monk, practices a drunken boxing technique that is perhaps the most rewarding mastery in all of fighting games; Lion's praying-mantis style is on the same level and still remains an extremely unique experience. Akira's legendary reflexes, in the hands of the master, squash any skill-less challenger into a foolish man with a hanged jaw. Ingenuity and talent have turned these characters into immaculate expressions of fine-tuned fighter perfection. It will take a similar level of talent and ingenuity on the part of the player to get anything out of it.

Each character is a radical change in approach and mechanics from the last. No two styles are alike, not even Jacky and Sarah, who share the same style in name. Simple move commands hold together similarities enough to give the game its fighting ''engine,'' but mastering one character will yield you no expertise in any other character. This is a good thing; it's an investment you make with results you can measure. The accomplished and the scrub are easy to discern. Button mashing will get you nowhere in a match with the experienced; practice pays off in this game, and rewards personally those with the skill and determination to discover this property.

Akira: the combatant infamous for his depth, perhaps an unliving legend. One could read a 200 KB FAQ on Akira, and find the author had spent two years playing the game with just this character. Yet he'd still not claim to be an expert; such is the bottomlessness of VF3; no matter how much you play it, there is always more to find and learn.

All battlers in the game have endless movelists, strenuously long on paper and practically infinite within the planes of the game itself. Innumerable situational moves are given; your options are extensive while on the ground, in the air, to the side, behind or on different levels of ground with your opponent. Beyond that, combos will be effective only in certain situations (such as up against a wall), and beyond even that, true mastery of the game requires knowledge of how many frames of animation moves take up. You are never given combos; the training mode must be utilized to work through what combo strings will work and where. Your ability to play the game is a direct result of your skill and practice, a truly perfect quality of the game.

Virtua Fighter 3 was the first fighting game to introduce real arena combat to 3D fighting; you're given a plane of a varying sort on which to fight, and environmental advantages and weaknesses result. Get trapped against a wall, and you can find yourself stuck rebounding from both assailing impact and resistance from the structure. Being at the top of an incline facing a lower opponent can find attacks flying over their heads, while they find themselves able to land rather cheap hits due to your unwise positioning. Physical placement is a huge entity of concern, especially when dangling over a corner facing a ring out.

And it's fun despite how intimidating this seeming abyss is. Miraculous? No. It's simply the result of the meshing of expert engineering and expert playing.

While refined and dialed almost to a level of its own, Virtua Fighter 3 starts to show its gray in its visuals. It was easily the finest looking game released in 1997 or before, and held that title until Sonic Adventure's release a year later, but 4 or 5 years have yielded fighter after fighter emphasizing their appearance over play. So, in comparison to the Soul Caliburs and Dead or Alives of the world, VF3 lumbers along visually. Its models are blocky and their joints are not smoothly connected. Clothing animations are weak and the graphics achieve neither realism nor aesthetic uniqueness. Arenas are high in resolution and very convincing in design, but the attractiveness of the package is not of a superb caliber. It's not an ugly game, but it's no longer possible to play for optical appreciation.

But that's irrelevant. Virtua Fighter 3 isn't for someone who wants to gawk at visuals. Someone who judges a game's appearance before its play won't be interested. Someone who lacks skill or the smallest amount of patience or investment won't like this game. You can't pick it up and wail on the buttons and fool your way through it.

I love this though. I love the grit you must show and the way the game awards its players. As you learn the game's structure, pouring yourself into the character you enjoy improving, the game becomes yours. I felt as I was mastering Lion that I saw something accomplish before my eyes; as I learned Shun's sprawling spread of moves from countless positions, I knew that I had achieved something the unskilled couldn't. Virtua Fighter 3 is an amazingly endless game and is about as personally enriching as a fighter can get. One with the requirements and drive will be vastly compensated; someone without will simply be left a man hanged to dry by a game that flew over his head.

Rating: 9/10

sinner's avatar
Community review by sinner (March 14, 2004)

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