Fighting games were, and arguably still are, all the craze in the 90’s. This spurred many companies into dipping their toes into this genre that arcade locations loved to death, if the game in question had “Street” and “Fighter” in the name or at least “Mortal Kombat” in some form. Sega entered this genre years earlier with Eternal Champions, a series left in 16-Bit and then again with Virtua Fighter- the world’s first 3D polygon based fighting game. It was great in the arcades but oh so much more special seeing it in the home.
Taking some cues from sumo wrestling and other realistic fighting styles, Virtua Fighter set itself apart from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Rather than going for fancy, inhuman, moves, Sega’s game focused on realism. There were no fireballs, no Dragon Punches and no upside down spinning splits kicks to be found here. Instead, players were greeted with characters that were more challenging to control and figure out moves that were based on real martial arts moves that might be seen in the movies or at local competitions.
Another change of pace from other fighting games is that there is a limited fighting space. This limitation is not like 2D fighting games of the time where you could corner your opponent, no, in Virtua Fighter, you could win the match by forcing your opponent out of the ring entirely. This brought a new mechanic to the fray as players couldn’t simply become a “turtle” and wait for the perfect time to counter attack- if they tried, their opponent could force them out of the ring and earn a win.
This series has spawned many sequels which have had releases as recent as 2012. Sega has continually upgraded the graphics, characters and play style available. Other games that may be of interest to you for more 3D brawling include:
Virtua Fighter sequels (duh) (multiple platforms)
Fighters Megamix (Saturn)
Fighting Vipers (Saturn)
Toshinden (Playstation platforms)
Sega has not re-released Virtua Fighter on newer platforms but has kept the series alive with sequels on many platforms over the years. For physical copies of the games check Ebay or Game Gavel. Just remember, if you are buying an import copy, most consoles including PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, etc are region locked so you will have to either have your console modded or buy an import console (not cheap). For reference, North American Sega Saturn games came in boxes that look like this:
If you want to see digital re-releases contact Sega from their website.