When I first got word that Sega Entertainment was about to release Virtua Fighter on the PC, I must admit that I greeted the news with skepticism. With very few exceptions, console games rarely survive the conversion to the PC with their graphics, control, and playability intact. Surprisingly, however, Sega has managed to overcome most of these traditional obstacles, and has delivered a solid beat-'em-up in the process.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Virtua Fighter pioneered the concept of 3-D fighters when it was unveiled to a stunned arcade audience in 1993. The revolutionary game engine took the complex polygon engine of a flight simulator and placed it into a Mortal Kombat-style fighter. While the gameplay remained basically the same as that of its two-dimensional predecessors (pummel the other person until he is rendered unconscious), the three-dimensional environment delivered a degree of realism that the two-dimensional titles could not hope to match. The result was that Virtua Fighter has become one of the most successful arcade games of all time.
Since the heart of Virtua Fighter resides in realistic motion - rather than realism - the AM2 Design team captured the moves of actual martial arts experts as they executed more than 700 attacks. These moves are accessed by performing combos or multiple sequential hits to the three action buttons - block, punch, and kick. For example, to perform Pai's whirlwind kick, hit punch, punch, and kick in a rapid sequence. This may seem a bit awkward at first, but after a few hours it becomes second nature. A secondary benefit of this system is that it overcomes the PC's hardware constraint, which allows a maximum of four buttons on any joystick port. Unfortunately, the use of three buttons on the first controller forces a second player to use the keyboard for head-to-head play. While you cannot blame Sega for the hardware limitation, the harsh reality is that the player with the joypad always wins, and the player with the keyboard always loses. This reduces the best feature of the arcade game to a simple contest of who can say dibs the quickest.
While the graphics fall short of the beautiful Saturn version, they still command respect. Players can choose the classic untextured polygons of the arcade model, or the more realistic remix version developed for the Saturn. Regardless of which version you prefer, the graphics remain crisp and the colors vibrant (without the washed out look that typically plagues console ports).
In conclusion, Virtua Fighter is unquestionably the best 3-D fighter published to date on the PC. While not as fast or graphically appealing as the Saturn version, this is as close as a standard PC is likely to come. If you have even a passing interest in 3-D fighters, Virtua Fighter PC is not to be missed.