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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Sega

Ups: Nice environs, deep fighting style, good additions to arcade version.

Downs: Difficult learning curve may frustrate casual fighters.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast

Check out oure review of the VF3tb Guide.

The Dreamcast has had no shortage of really good fighting games, that’s for sure. There’s something for every style, every taste. As far as fighting games go, Sega’s lineup has had unprecedented diversity. The trend continues with Virtua Fighter 3tb. It’s a pretty good game that finds its own niche in the Dreamcast universe. Is it for you? You have to take the good with the bad in Virtua Fighter 3tb, so it depends entirely on what your looking for.

Back in the day, VF3 was a pretty mean machine. Great graphics, intriguing control and superbly deep game play made Virtua Fighter king of the hill. Unfortunately, that day was 1997, and that hill isn’t as high as it used to be. Legend has it that VF3 almost made it to the Saturn. Legend says it would have been the best console fighting game on the market. The legend also says that as Virtua Fighter slipped and followed the Saturn into oblivion, it let out a mournful wail, promised to return on the next system, and swore undying hatred to Tekken. But that’s just a legend, and your guess is as good as mine. Sometimes, however, there’s a grain of truth in legends. Sega has fulfilled the Virtua Fighter prophecy and brought it home to the Dreamcast.

Unfortunately, there’s a price to be paid for delay. Videogames don’t get better with age like fine wine or cheese, they just get old, although fine wine does, admittedly, make video games better. The bad news is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now due the shameless foreshadowing, VF3tb is a lot like your grandpa in that it has lost a step over the years. The good news is that, unlike your grandpa, it was polished up to look a little better, given new features to play with, and it hasn’t lost as many steps as it could have.

The graphics are a small step, and a few polygons, behind arcade perfect. Unfortunately, it’s also a couple of large steps behind the graphics juggernaut, Soul Calibur. The models look pretty good, but by now we’ve all seen what the Dreamcast can do and we don’t impress as easily as we used to. The graphics are best described as Dreamcast average, which is still above average anywhere else. The levels are pretty good as well. They offer a lot of variety, some eye candy, and best of all they’re much more interactive than a game like Soul Calibur, due mainly to the ability to change elevations and terrain.

The control in VF3tb takes awhile to get used to. Instead of the total 3D movement of Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter uses the joy pad as if it were on a 2D axis, but includes a sidestep button to give 3D movement. This system works fairly well once you get used to it, but it is more restrictive than true 3D joystick movement.

VF3tb has a few new features than it had in the arcade. The all-important practice mode is a luxury on some games, but an absolute necessity on this one, and the increasingly mandatory team battle mode combines to help round the game out and give it a few things it didn’t have in the arcade.

Where VF3tb really shines is in the gameplay. Fans of the series will find everything they’ve come to know and love from the game. Everyone else will notice right away VF3tb is a hard game to play. On the up side, this means that there’s an incredible amount of depth to the game and you can always find room to improve. On the down side, there’s no instantaneous gratification to playing. If you want to get good, you’re going to have to log in the hours to get good. Button mashing will never take you all the way in a good fighting game, but in VF3tb it will take you almost nowhere. Time and patience are required to get the most out of the game. When you do get good, however, you get very good.

So approach Virtua Fighter 3tb with caution. If you’re looking for a challenging game for both single and multi-player action, this might be a good choice. If you’re looking for far and away the deepest, most complex fighting game on the Dreamcast, then this is absolutely the game for you. It you lack the time, patience, or desire to learn a complex system, and are looking for immediate arcade action with some eye candy, this isn’t for you. Try Soul Calibur or Marvel Vs. Capcom instead.

--Jeff Luther