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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Classic Review: Virtua Fighter 3TB (Dreamcast)

Sega's Virtua Fighter 3tb (Team Battle) is an excellent fighting game with a deep and challenging combat system that will challenge the best players to master it. At first, the experience may seem a bit dry, but as you learn the nuance and subtleties included in the game you really get a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction from playing and mastering it. While the less-than-cutting-edge presentation and a lack of extra modes is disappointing, VF3tb's core game more than makes up for this. The realistic controls and extensive array of offensive and defensive moves supersede its sub-par graphics to create an addictive and thorough

The series has evolved significantly from previous installments. Several new features have been added including a new escape button that allows you to dodge attacks. This adds a new layer onto the already intricate fighting system, and also makes this the first Virtua Fighter game to effectively use 3D space.  Another big change is that jumping is more realistic in two ways. First, you have to press the joystick down then up to perform a jump, and secondly, the fighters don't linger in the air as they did in previous game. The new jumping mechanics both maximize realism and makes the game more difficult, this is actually a good thing because it maximizes the title's replay value. One of the first things veteran VF players will notice is that there are now two new selectable characters who have been added to the cast along with another two hidden fighters. Beyond the core fighting game, there are a few extras in VF3tb. The game has a training mode that allows you to practice against a dummy opponent and a team mode where you can select three fighters to fight against another three. There's also a vs mode where you and a friend can exchange blows. The extra modes in the game are the usual but fairly mandatory at this point and little beyond what's expected. You won't find very many hidden secrets beyond unlocking a secret character  

VF3tb's no-frills fighting style is simultaneously simple and sophisticated. The game emphasizes a balance over flash. Challenging gamers to fight with both offensive and defensive moves over special moves creates a more satisfying, longer-lasting experience. It requires some patience and skill, but once you get into the rhythm of the game, it's beauty and realism causes it to shine brightly. There are loads of little nuances to master and understand making for a game that will keep fighting fans very busy for months on end. The controls consist of the usual kick, punch and block buttons with the addition of the new escape button, there are a mere 4 buttons to use, seems simple right? You can

This is because, as in all of the VF games so far, the simple interface is deceptive and belies the complexity underneath. For example, it's not immediately apparent, but the distance between opponents significantly affects how effective your moves are, as does the timing of your attack. Another factor in playing is your skill in dodging attacks. This game doesn't really have special moves or flashy combos, but you can pull off some fairly elaborate and devastating attacks if you put together the right combos and chain moves together. The intricacy and elegance of the fighting system is the game's best aspect, as there is a lot of room for individual styles to emerge in the game. Additionally, the game's characters are extremely well balanced with complementary strengths and

VF3tb's major innovation seems subtle at first glance but is actually crucially important to the game. You may notice are the variable heights and shapes of its stages and not think much of it at first - thinking like that would be a huge mistake on your part.  The height where you stand has a significant impact on your attacks and how much damage they cause an opponent. Standing above an opponent makes it easier to inflict damage while standing below an adversary leaves you slightly more vulnerable. This effects everything to throw effectiveness and where and when you want to dodge. Since each stage in the game has a unique layout, you need to constantly monitor the rings during each fight to avoid the dreaded ring outs. There is a huge defensive component in the game that makes this significantly more complex than you expect, making the player spend just as much avoiding damage as they do inflicting it. Getting knocked down by the opponent can also be used to your advantage because you can choose how to get up: in a defensive crouch, roll away or attack your opponent as soon as you're back on your feet. This intricate fighting system seems incredibly complex, but the controls in the game are so highly intuitive, it's only a matter of mastering the timing in order to succeed.  This complexity is VF3tb's greatest asset - and it's greatest liability. If you have the time and desire to appreciate the depth this is great game. Casual gamers and button mashers won't find this as satisfying. For the hard-core gamer, Virtua Fighter 3tb gets more enjoyable as you learn the extensive moves and become more proficient at dodging attacks. VF3tb is a deep fighter with plenty of moves, mastering it requires patience and persistence. You'll spend a lot of time learning an extensive arsenal of dodges, escape moves and counters to successfully head off attacks but find this a satisfying and rewarding experience. As is usually the case, the controls are excellent, showing a high degree of both responsiveness and intuitiveness. The standard DC control pad makes a decent gameplay experience but, as we reviewers are apt to point out, 'investing' in an arcade stick offers vastly superior controls plus makes playing more

VF3tb's biggest faults lie in its disappointing visuals - character models display a lack of detail and also lack some of the detail shown in the arcade game. The character movements aren't as fluid or lifelike as you'd expect. In a major misstep, VF3tb is one of the few fighting games to attempt implementation of a first person view. This view is horrible to use, since it's near impossible to tell where you are in relation to your opponent, why this was included is puzzling - it's only real use would be in replays. The graphics glitch annoyingly in some key areas and the characters themselves display several noticeable rough edges, particularly in their leg joints. The game is also missing some minor but annoying touches that made the arcade game special.  While not horrible, this conversion is somewhat disappointing because it squanders the Dreamcast's potential. Soul Calibur proves the hardware could have and should have easily handled a perfect (if not beyond perfect) port of a three-year old game's graphics, but this conversion chokes.  Though VF3tb looks good in places, better than any fighter on N64 or graphics Namco implemented in Soul Calibur. It's a bit odd that Sega is

Another problem area with VF3tb's presentation the sound effects and music which is not that good. To start with, the voice-overs are repetitive and don't fit the character's lips very well. The punching and kicking sound effects are also below par, feeling overly cartoony and unrealistic, disrupting the realism the game aspires to. The music in the background is decent, if a bit too light for what is an intense and cerebral brawler. Despite all of these problems, VF3tb still stands as an excellent fighting game. It's graphics are disappointing, it lacks secrets characters, costumes and other gimmicks, plus the voice-overs are decidedly unconvincing, but VF3tb's sophisticated and elegant gameplay is the game's main appeal. The depth and nuance of play that VF3tb delivers makes this a close second in the battle for best Dreamcast fighter. Some may not enjoy the complexity of its fighting system, but mastering the moves and strategies in the game is incredibly addictive and enjoyable. Playing VF3tb successfully will take a lot of time and effort to accomplish any level of proficiency but the game is so

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Fun Fact #1

In Japan, Virtua Fighter 3tb was a launch title for the Dreamcast. The game was even packaged with a demo of Yu Suzuki's Project Berkeley, which later became known as Shenmue, one of the most infamous Dreamcast titles ever produced. Other DC launch titles like Godzilla Generations have generally fallen into obscurity these days.

Fun Fact #2
Sega released several Virtua Fighter spin-offs, including a series of CGI movies in Japan for the Saturn starring such characters as Sarah Bryant. There was also a weird children's version called Virtua Fighter Kids and a cross-over title with Fighting Vipers called Fighters Megamix on the Saturn as well.

Fun Fact #3
When it was originally released on the Saturn in 1995, the title was immediately compared to Sony's PlayStation launch title Battle Arena Toshinden. While this looked like a fairly even battle at the time, history has obviously proven otherwise