Despite SEGA saying that only new arcade titles were to be released on Dreamcast, it came as to no surprise to anyone when SEGA revealed Virtua Fighter 3 at the Tokyo Games Show before the Dreamcast's launch. It's a shame that Virtua Fighter 3 was never released for the Saturn, but at least now we have a version that's more or less arcade perfect.
I say more or less arcade perfect because there have been a few graphical sacrifices, possibly due to time constraints and because the development kit was very early. As AM2 were busy, the conversion work was handled by Genki and they have done a fine job.
However, the polygon count on the character's joints are fewer compared to the arcade and the clothing of Jacky and Aoi especially have taken a slide. Jacky's leather jacket is now merely a texture mapped polygon and Aoi's sleeves can only be seen on certain stages (although, correct me if I’m wrong but on the arcade version, Aoi's sleeves were not present on certain stages either. Sometimes being arcade perfect is not enough then!).
The shadows however are quite basic and when they move onto different levelled surfaces (such as steps on the Great Wall of China stage) they break up. Backgrounds look fine and are slightly modified and the characters look fine otherwise. If you compare this to Virtua Fighter on the Saturn (one of it's launch titles), the technical leap is clear- Dreamcast eclipses everything else.
The sound is present and correct. The sound effects are sharp and the voices clear. The music is still very average though. Hopefully next time AM2 will decide to produce better music for next Virtua Fighter as although the music is difficult to hear in an arcade, when the game is converted to a home system the game's musical shortcomings become more evident.
The gameplay remains outstanding though, with the fighters getting new techniques and even more combo potential than in the first two games. The addition of a dodge button exploits the fact that the game is 3D and adds a bigger strategy element as if your attack is dodged, the retaliation will be damaging. The backgrounds are now truly 3D with sloping sand, stairs and mounds of grass. Not only does this look good, you also have to think about your height and that of your opponent’s before committing yourself to an attack. The gameplay remains fast as well when compared to Tekken, making for some exciting duels.
Unfortunately the game's AI is pretty dopey, with the CPU not making much use of the block and dodge moves unless on the highest difficulties. It's not bad to play against, but seasoned gamers with experience on the first two games will breeze past the computer opponents. To make matters worse, there is no VS mode. This means that like in the arcade, if you win you have to stay as that character until you lose. The only way to get round this is to hold down all the buttons and press start to reset the game and start a fresh, which is both irritating and time consuming. This omission has been sorted out for the US and PAL releases since. The training mode is also deceptively basic and poor as well - the Fighter Megamix training mode is far superior.
Control is not at all good with the Dreamcast pad though, meaning that you have to shell out $100 or so on Arcade Sticks for a decent 2 player match. Shame, because the Saturn pad was fine for the Virtua Fighter games. Fortunately controls are responsive and there is no delay between when you press the button and when your character executes it.
There's a nice CG movie as a reward for finishing the game and also a history of Virtua Fighter movie. Whilst they are of excellent quality (full screen and sharp picture), once you've played it, it'll loop continuously until you reset the system. Not good.
Whilst the game is flawed in places, it remains an excellent game that is great fun to play especially against a human. Button mashing gets you no where and a decent player will make you pay for such tactics. It's cheap (as it's on SEGA's budget range of games), it has no Japanese except for when you finish the game and on the load/ save options and is classic SEGA gaming. This game sold the Dreamcast to the masses in Japan when it was initially released selling almost one copy to every system. Buy it.
A review by Adrian Walker