You cannot mention groundbreaking video games without bringing up Sega’s Virtua Fighter.
Arcade goers were wowed by the first video game to fully feature 3-D polygonal graphics back in 1993. The game was considered one of the top arcade cabinets of the year and generated high review scores from a variety of critics.
So, imagine everyone’s surprise when this title landed on the Genesis add-on 32X and could be played at home!
Yes, the Sega Saturn was on the way – and even out in some markets already with a graphically superior, but glitchy version of the same game. However, before the next generation officially landed we were receiving near-perfect arcade ports at home via Sega’s 32X, which promised “32-bit” processing when doubling down on the previous 16-bit era of consoles was smart marketing to show an advancement in technology.
Virtua Fighter was one of the arcade-to-home 32-bit translations for Sega’s Genesis accessory. The game was the first of its kind to introduce a fully 3-D fighting arena and featured a multitude of characters, each with their own special features.
As with the 2-D fighting landscape, each fight was the best of three rounds where a player obtains a win via knocking an opponent out (i.e. depleting their life bar) or having more health than their opponent when the timer reaches zero.
Forcing your opponent out of the ring was another key to victory in the new 3-D landscape too.
Unlike a lot of its counterparts at the time, Virtua Fighter didn’t go with a violence motif. It was instead centered around the gameplay, with the central storyline revolving around a “world’s best fighter” style tournament (albeit with a criminal undertone making their presence known as the antagonist).
Regardless, the main historical reference of this game was taking a three-dimensional title with (then) state-of-the-art graphics from the arcade to a nearly identical experience at home. While arcade ports such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, and NBA Jam were already being done on the Genesis and Super Nintendo, there were stark contrasts between those ports and their “big brother” in the arcade.
Virtua Fighter, however, felt more complete and gave us a glimpse at the future of gaming, despite being on the sparsely supported (and gimmicky) 32X add-on.