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Looking Back: Virtua Fighter (Sega Mega Drive 32X)

If there is one beat ‘em up that retro gamers truly love it’s Virtua Fighter. Different to games like Street Fighter, it is a truly (almost) 3D game, with polygons to die for and it came out in 1995 on a system called the Sega 32X. Any retro gamer worth their salt will know this system, and probably shed a tear or two in reminiscence.

As it happens, Virtua Fighter was the very last game released for this system, and it was a great way for the 32X to bow out. Fast and more fluid than you might expect from such a complicated game (for the time) it kind of set the benchmark for future fighting games on any system. We say that because it was a truly professional product, and as consoles become more complex, they looked back to this title to see how a strong fighting game should look and feel. Various other 3D beat ‘em up games looked to Virtua Fighter for inspiration including Tekken and Dead or Alive.

Okay we lied a little about the polygons. There aren't as many as you would like (some of the fighters are unrecognisable, even on a human level), but the 32X allowed for polygons, and that was that. Virtua Fighter in the arcades used polygons like no-one's business, and the 32X had to follow suit. It looks good though, and there’s a convincing feel of a real fight that retro gamers will love due to it’s old-school graphics. What was a real clincher was the control system. Here was a control set that the Mega Drive 32X could really handle, just like it was in the arcades. It felt intuitive and easy to use. The flow was there.

Features that made it worthwhile

Again, retro games are better in hindsight if they have something extra to bring to the table, and this version of Virtua Fighter didn't disappoint in this respect. There were a couple of features that lifted it above all other fighting games at the time. And if you bear in mind that Virtua Fighter had been released on the Sega Saturn just a few months earlier, these extra features really helped to make the 32X version a better prospect for anyone who liked fighting games.

For example, retro gamers may well have seen some modern fighters that have a more sophisticated version, but the ranking model in this title was truly a deal breaker for anyone who liked fighting games back then. It graded the performance of the player, which was still a relatively new feature in any game on consoles, especially the beat ‘em up.

Tournament mode was also a key feature of the game, and this allowed for eight player tournaments to be set up easily and quickly. This was a major feature, and fans loved it. Tournament mode was sadly lacking in many of the games in the mid-90s, and it would take a major leap for things to move forward in this area. Virtua Fighter on the 32X paved the way.

A good-looking, challenging beat em up on a system that was on it’s way out, Virtua Fighter is a retro game delight.

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