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Introduction
Virtua Fighter

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Virtua Fighter 2
Virtua Fighter Kids
Virtua Fighter Mini

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Virtua Fighter 3
Fighters Megamix

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Virtua Fighter 4
Virtua Quest

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Virtua Fighter 5
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Virtua Fighter 5 (バーチャファイター5) / Virtua Fighter 5 Live Arena (バーチャファイター5 ライブアリーナ) / Virtua Fighter 5 R (バーチャファイター5 R) / Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown (ババーチャファイター5 ファイナルショーダウン) - Arcade, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2006)

Japanese PlayStation 3 Cover

American PlayStation 3 Cover

Japanese Xbox 360 Cover

Despite the long time in between releases, Virtua Fighter 5 doesn't differ that much from its predecessor. Sure, it is built upon a new graphic engine, based on the new Lindbergh hardware, and it got the usual two new contestants for the World Fighting championship, but it might as well have been called "Super Virtua Fighter 4," as far as the layman is concerned.

While every character has the usual load of new and modified moves and combos, and the timing of certain actions has been tweaked once more, there is only one fundamentally new mechanic: Offensive Moves. When pressing all three action buttons after a successful dodge, the character now makes a quick diagonal dash towards the opponent, providing a chance for a quick counter attack to the side or back. This allows for some even more rapid exchanges of blows, but doesn't quite bring the wholly fresh "more 3D" experience Sega tried to promote the game on. Characters can also perform normal jumps again by pressing the block button together with an upwards direction, but these hops are of limited use, as they can only lead into an attack after landing back on the ground.

New Characters

Eileen

Eileen is a little monkey girl that does Monkey Kung Fu. She's also a total fan girl for Pai. Like Lion, her small size can make her quite a frustrating opponent in the hands of an able player.

El Blaze

Compared to other fighting games, Virtua Fighter was never big on including characters from many exotic locales (one can count the number of combatants that are not from Japan, China or the US on one hand), so the swift and nimble Mexican luchador El Blaze was a fresh surprise. When Street Fighter IV revitalized Capcom's fighting game effort two years later, it featured the tiny El Fuerte, who almost seems like a comedic take on the same character.

The main play mode in arcades is now Score Attack. Unlike the traditional arcade mode, this mode goes on just as long as the player manages to keep winning, and the final score can be submitted to VF.NET. When purchasing a Character Access Card, players now also receive an Orb Disc for their character. Every once in a while, a victory might reap an orb as a reward. Finding all seven Dragonba... erm, orbs makes the disc disappear and exchanges it for an accessory. In general the amount of costume parts has been increased a lot, and even though all clothes still belong into uniform sets, there are now four base costumes for every character.

It's easy to see that the community portal has once again been a major focus, and Sega launched a whole infrastructure of supporting programs. So-called VF Terminals were installed in arcades, which were simply stationary VF.NET clients for players to manage their data, in case having access at home and on their cell phones wasn't enough. Not far away, VF.TV sets can often be found, which broadcast promo videos, high-score lists or high-level competitions with live commentary. In addition to the known functions, Virtua Fighter 5 also made it possible to upload replays to VF.NET and later download them as video files.

After Virtua Fighter 5 was released, AM2 became more update-happy than ever, and within the same year, a Version B, Version C and Version D were released. The first one introduced the Knockout Trial, a single player mode that consisted of three selectable groups of opponents, who would then be fought in random order. Version C in turn brought a new VF.NET feature called Item Quest, which would simply reward players with an item if they managed to fight ten matches within a week after activating the quest. This revision also introduced the most "WTF?!" feature in a Virtua Fighter game ever: Bingo events! Version D replaced Knockout Trial with Knockout Trial 2, which for whatever reason was pirate-themed, of course including fitting costume options for the characters. The added accessories included weapons, which of course couldn't be used in combat, but were worked into the character's winning pose.

Virtua Fighter 5 Version D Artwork

In early 2007 Virtua Fighter 5 arrived on PlayStation 3, based off the arcade Version B. Online gameplay was once again missing, but with the usual single player modes. VF Quest was mostly the same deal as in Virtua Fighter 4, only improved with some of the new VF.NET features and a hunt for "emblems" that would be displayed next to the player's nickname. The excellent Dojo mode from Virtua Fighter 4 is also back. The start menu also contains a curious entry named VF.TV, which is simply the place to watch replays, some pre-packed matches and a bunch of promo videos.

The Xbox 360 version came about half a year late, but made up for it with the long-awaited online mode thanks to Xbox Live. The matchmaking is a bit barebones, and although you can turn down challengers it's hard to get some decent matchups against opponents that are not either far too strong or far too weak, especially since there were never that many players around. But hey, it was finally something. It also included the added costumes from Version C - no pirates or weapons from Version D, unfortunately. The rest of the modes was the exact same as on PlayStation 3.

Virtua Fighter 5 R Artwork

Virtua Figther 5 R, released in 2008, was essentially the equivalent to VF4 Evolution. Once again two characters with their own arenas were added, although one of them wasn't entirely new: Apparently whatever difficulties AM2 had faced with realizing Taka-Arashi in the more recent games had been resolved, and thus the sumo ringer returned to the series. In fact quite a bit of work went into his appearance, as he got individual animations even when all the other characters shared them.

New Characters

Jean Kujo

The only truly new character in this revision is Jean Kujo. It seems AM2 decided to fill some of the gaps in terms of seemingly mandatory fighting game characters, so with one strike Virtua Fighter got its karateka and its stereotypical Japanese (or French-Japanese, to be precise) pretty boy. Like Goh, he officially works for the Evil Organization.

Virtua Fighter 5 R had a ridiculously long list of new features, although the new characters where the only addition that could gain a lot of interest in the West. One of the more noteworthy for Japan was the inclusion of a kind of raising simulation mode, where players could train and customize an AI "pupil," much like in the PlayStation 2 version of Virtua Fighter 4. Knockout Trial got renewed once again, alongside more options for location events and the Orb Disc system was made more complex, now with three different sizes of marbles. And yes, more accessories.

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown Artwork

Despite being the biggest update to Virtua Fighter 5 yet, R was never ported to any console. For a long time it seemed as if home players would never get to use Jean Kujo and Taka-Arashi. At least not until Virtua Fighter 5 got updated once again in 2010 - five long years after the initial release, usually the time frame for an entirely new sequel. The update was nowhere near as big as R had been, and added only the usual tweaked balancing, new costume options, another Knockout Trial Special and... Twitter support! But it did rekindle hopes for new console ports. Granted, it still took two more years for the game to appear on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

As a low-priced download release, Final Showdown doesn't feature any fancy Quest Mode, and the single player options are closer to the basic choice from the arcades. Arcade Mode replicates the standard string of opponents with the option to challenge Dural at the end. Score Attack incorporates elements of the Knockout Trials by offering the choice between three paths, although they're not randomized.

Aside from the necessary practice in the Dojo, most time will probably be spent in License Challenge, since it's the only solo mode that offers a decent amount of variety. The challenges in here range from the utterly pedestrian like "hit the opponent 5 times" or "win 6 matches in a row" to more interesting tasks like performing some of the more complex maneuvers or preventing the opponent from getting in too many parries. The most fun challenges, however, are the ones that mess with the fighting mechanics. How about a super-fast match, were the recovery times for all attacks are eliminated? Or fighting in reduced gravity for some insane juggles? Of course, these are more gags than serious alternatives to the standard gameplay, but for the duration of a single challenge, they're definitely worth trying out.

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown

Finally, there is Special Sparring, which is just a fight against costumed versions of the fighters. This one, however, requires the item packs for all characters, and this is where Final Showdowns appears like a cynical cash-in for a moment: There is no way whatsoever to unlock any costumes or accessories through playing the game, at ludicrous prices: The cheapest way to get all the outfits are two bundles, each of which cost as much as the game itself. The first Xbox 360 version of Virtua Fighter 5 had some overpriced DLC costumes, too, but at least there were enough options to play with before you had to pull out your wallet. When getting over the first shock, the complete package is still below standard retail price, so overall it's actually not that bad of a deal, but paying more than twenty bucks for costume options is a bit hard to stomach after getting the game itself for half as much.

With the proliferation of smart phone apps, Western users also finally get to enjoy some unnecessary supplementary material with the Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown Guide on iTunes, which contains character bios, move lists and combo tutorials.

While it certainly doesn't go out and invent the wheel anew, Virtua Fighter 5 through all its revisions has achieved near perfection at what it's doing, but that's exactly what may be the demise of the series. Could a lack of further directions be the reason there is still no announcement for a Virtua Fighter 6 in sight, after seven years of updates? AM2's continued focus on the arcade scene might also factor into this. At any rate, Virtua Fighter seems to be in need of some major fresh impulses before it can continue in any meaningful way in the once again crowded fighting game market.

Even in Japan, Virtua Fighter 5 never managed to get back ahead of the Tekken series after a weak start in arcades. Especially starting the social functions from scratch after Virtua Fighter 4, with many beloved features originally unavailable or locked behind a premium barrier, turned much of the established community sour on the franchise. Yet Sega kept up the support through the years, releasing more tweaks and revisions, and holding official tournaments and other events.

Daichi Katagari congratulating Chibita to his victory in Kakutou Shinseiki VI,
Sega's National Virtua Fighter 5 Tournament in March 2012

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Producer:

  • Hiroshi Kataoka (片岡洋)

Director:

  • Daichi Katagari (片桐大智)
    Makoto Osaki (大崎誠)

Genre:

Theme:


Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 5 R

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown


Final Showdown Costumes


Virtua Fighter - Animated Series (1995-1996)

Volume 1 DVD Cover

Volume 2 DVD Cover

As one of Japan's hottest fighting game franchises, Virtua Fighter of course had to be made into an animated series, which comes as a prequel to the games. After winning his first fighting tournament, Akira Yuki has been scolded by his grandfather and mentor for losing sight of the true martial arts spirit. (This manifests in him losing the ability to see the stars of the Big Dipper in broad daylight. No, really.) So he goes to America to find enlightenment, where else? While shaking things up in the local China town of New Hollywood (all cities are New here for some reason), he comes across Pai Chan, who is chased by the martial arts school of Koenkan and their effeminate leader Yuan, because their master in Hong Kong is dead-set on marrying her against her will.

Eventually Akira and Pai meet Sarah and Jacky Bryant, whose corrupt racing sponsor also happens to work for Koenkan. The four team up and travel to New Las Vegas, where Jacky takes part in a race trying to win a new sponsor. But his car is sabotaged by Kage-Maru, who has been hired by the mad scientist Eva Durix to kidnap Sarah. Eva of course wants to use Sarah to create the Perfect Soldier by making her fight against Dural prototype droids.

After the remaining trio finds out Sarah's location in a research facility near New Salt Lake City that's tied to Koenkan, it is revealed that Pai's father Lau Chan is the actual head of the triad-like Koenkan (hardly a surprise for fans of the games) and his second in command Ryu Kaorun is the one who tries to force Pai into marriage to take over the organization, thus all major plot threads are tied together. The heroes storm the research facility - not without more hassle with Koenkan and a run-in with local law enforcement in a small Texas village along the way - and smash all the droids, but Eva has them arrested for trespassing after collecting all the fight data she needs for her little project. Sarah in the meantime is taken to Great New York (having two "New" in one name was apparently reserved for Futurama) to the - once again overly effeminate - boy wonder and overall leader of the US branches of Koenkan, Gates.

An illegal wrestling match with Wolf in an underground casino and one terribly ham-fisted moral about friendship later, Akira ends up missing in action, while Jackie and Pai continue the hunt to Europe, where Eva continues her experimenting in a castle at the Rhine. Of course run into the local Koenkan thugs before long, lead by the twin sisters Isabel and Eliza Hower, who fight with sais, steel needles and bladed fans, and are easily the series' most interesting original characters from the martial arts movie standpoint. Akira in the meantime is taken on a boat to France by Jeffry McWild, to cue an episode where the two fight a weapon-manufacturing paramilitary group that wants to force Jeffry to sell his island, whose knife-wielding colonel oddly resembles a melange of Final Fight's El Gado and Rolento. On his search to earn money for food, he meets Lion Rafale, who wants Akira to help him to escape from the grip of his father, who of course is also in cahoots with Koenkan.

We also see Kage-Maru again, who switches sides and tries to free Sarah, but she has been brainwashed into an emotionless fighting machine, so she attacks him and returns to Eva. Pretty much everyone ends up captured by Koenkan, and all these barely related threads tie together in the Dutch town Gravenhage (an old alternative name for Den Haag), where the once again united heroes beat up the Howers, solve Lion's daddy issues with some words of encouragement, and then follow Eva and Sarah to Germany. Doing what a ninja does, Kage-Maru finds out that Sarah is controlled through her earrings, and together with Jacky manages to restore her identity. But the evil Ryu also shows up to take matters into his own hands, just in time so Pai can take over as the kidnapped girl again and let herself get deported to Hong Kong.

The final character from Virtua Fighter 2, Shun Di is introduced, who stops a marksman hired by Ryu from assassinating Lau Chan in some Chinese woods. Then he proceeds to prevent Lau from killing a tiger with his bare hands(!) and schools him about compassion. He also tells him that Ryu is after him. This revelation triggers a series of flashbacks with Lau adopting and training his second-in-command as a child.

While Pai gets brainwashed and prepared for the wedding, Akira, Sarah and Jackie follow to Hong Kong by plane, but more distractions await in the form of the Hower twins and their squad of "Fighter Amazons," Yuan's younger brother waiting at the airport and other Koenkan thugs on the shuttle bus to the city, where the villains finally pull guns on them, for the first time in the series - tune in a totally silly Virtua Cop reference where they get comically shot. But of course in "reality" they manage to escape just in time to see the bus crash and burn, only to find out that practically the whole city is Koenkan, including the police.

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

After one-and-a-half episodes worth of nearly nonstop fighting and chase scenes, the wedding is crashed on all levels as Eva betrays Ryu and lifts Pai's brainwash, Akira and Jacky fly in through the stained glass church window in a stolen police car, and Lau shows up to enact judgement on his insubordinate disciple. All the major players get together for the big showdown, where Ryu is defeated, Master Shun Di reveals Lau's dark secret, the Chans' family matters are re- an Koeankan is dissolved, and Eva unleashes Dural for the final battle.

In general, the series isn't too faithful to its - admittedly scant - source material, at least as far as characterizations are concerned, and favors lots of the typical generic anime slapstick mannerisms instead. Sure, since the games are very sketchy on their story line, the anime creators had to come up with a lot of stuff to fill in the blanks, but transforming the stoic perfectionist Akira into a goofy slow thinker and an eating machine always on the search for more food, is just silly. Oh, and his second dominant character trait is to always end up accidentally groping the women. Hilarity ensues!

The ladies aren't treated too well by the writers, either, and are pushed further into typical girl roles. Sure, in the fight scenes they kick just as much ass as anyone else, but they end up getting kidnapped all the time for the male heroes to rescue them, especially as Jacky is turned into an overly protective brother. Sarah also gets a cutesy pet companion, a squirrel named Alexander. Pai is a choleric tomboy, with a horribly (intentionally) annoying tomboy voice in the English dub, while it's a typically high-pitched girly voice in the Japanese original. She always gets into fights with Akira, and before you know it, a really weird love triangle between Akira, Pai and Sarah is formed - until Stockholm Syndrome makes the latter fall for Kage-Maru. The first character whose naked butt you're going to see in a shower scene is Kage-Maru, though, so at least the show is equal opportunities with the distribution of eye candy. Anyway, all these characters are better off than Wolf and Jeffry, who only get one-off cameos in the entire series.

Fortunately, there are plenty of fight scenes in between all that slapstick, and for a mid-90s animate series, they are well done. The animations range from decent to unmoving cells sliding over "speed stripes" backgrounds, but the choreography is good, and the characters have their trademark moves. The fights are not exempt from the more funny anime tropes: Whenever someone does a particularly effective special move, the image freezes in a nice artsy shot, the Chinese characters for the move's name appear on screen (like in Shenmue) and an overly excited commentator (in Japanese voiced by Shigeru Chiba) describes the move. The same commentator also narrates the wrap-up of the previous episode, with the same excitement for the most mundane events. Also, before every major fight with a strong enemy, Akira goes through the same animation, binding his headband and getting into his stance while reciting his terribly cheesy slogan:

One should never harm others, nor themselves in the face of anger.
My creed, this is the guideline I live by, and it is the law of my masters!
However, it doesn't apply to scum like you, who have no discipline. Come on!

On the other hand, the series does get surprisingly grim and violent, and frequently defeated Koenkan fighters are murdered by their superiors for their failures. In the introductory fight in an illegal wrestling arena, one of the contestant stabs his opponent in the eyes, upon which a blood splatter splashes over a black background, and he keeps holding his eyes until the winner stomps him to death. The scene is quite disturbing - especially if you just recently watched Django Unchained, where a very similar chain of events is acted out much more graphically.

The original series actually has a second season with 11 more episodes after the original 24, where the heroes travel to Japan and Eva returns with Gold Dural, but sadly that was never made available in English. It does have its own separae story ark, however, so there is at least some sense of conclusion in the final English episode.

Yu Suzuki is credited with "Original Story" for the series, and one can observe some really uncanny parallels to Shenmue. Lan Di has pretty much Lau Chan's role as head of Hong Kong's biggest crime syndicate, and Ryu looks a lot like an early take at Chen Guizhang before a heel-face turn. The flashbacks showing Akira training with his grandfather as a kid are also very similar to the later scenes of Ryo Hazuki with his father.

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

Virtua Fighter Animated Series

Virtua Fighter Animated Series


The Music of Virtua Figher

One more element Virtua Fighter owed a small part of its success to was its excellent soundtrack. In Japan, the first two games amounted to no less than six CD releases. Composed by Takayuki Nakamura (who last caught attention with his musical contributions to Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Lumines series), the music to Virtua Fighter starts somewhere in between the typical Sega arcade flair and Street Figher II style hymns, but soon branches out to incorporate hard rock, jazzy tunes and world music influences into one of the most versatile fighting game soundtracks of its time.

Saikyou no Senshi ("The Strongest Warriors") includes the original arcade soundtrack bundled with a bunch of remixes that sway more towards techno, although some contain really weird vocal and rap parts. Those were made by Sega's short-lived in-house band B-Univ, who were also responsible for several other arrange soundtracks in 1993-1994. They also made the album Neo Rising, whose arranged songs depart much further from the original soundtrack. These include some trippy jazz versions and a strangely ethereal hymn, but mostly typical band rock. Some of this is actually really good, even though the songs are hardly recognizable as the game music, anymore. The Saturn version soundtrack is subtitled Maximum Mania, which is close to the arcade original, but the instrumentalization sounds a bit more natural thanks to the redbook audio.

For the second game, Nakamura got support by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi (the only composer to stay with the series until Virtua Fighter 3, Youichi Ueda and Akiko Hashimoto. The music is very similar to the first game in nature, only bigger, more powerful and more interesting. This time the original soundtrack was followed by an album called Dancing Shadows. This doesn't have anything to do with the music from the game, but rather consists of entirely new pop songs "inspired" by each of the characters. A few of the tracks are quite good as far as early 1990s J-Pop goes, especially Akira's song, but the majority is really corny and boring. Around that time frame also falls the soundtrack for the animated series, which strikes a similar chord. One sequence of notes uncannily resembles the theme of Neon Genesis Evangelion - whose first episode aired exactly two days after the Virtua Fighter anime started.

The music of Virtua Fighter 3 is basically more of the same as the previous games, although it has lost a lot of the earlier games' energy. Jacky and Akira's stage BGM is still excellent, but others less so. Jeffrey's theme has got to be the most lame tune in the entire series, and Wolf's desert stage sounds more like something from an RPG. With On the Vocal it got once again a compilation of mostly terrible pop songs "inspired by" the game.

Virtua Fighter 3's credits list almost as many "Sound Designers" as there are music numbers in the game. Tatsutoshi Narita would be only one who'd put his musical stamp on all following games, although one Fumio Ito should return for Virtua Fighter 5, and Shinichi Goto contributed to both VF4 and 5. The soundtracks of these later sequels are heavily dominated by more modern industrial and techno, with a few pure hard rock tunes in between. It's still all pretty good for what it is, but the good old '90s Sega arcade charm is gone. Thankfully, so are the silly J-Pop tie-ins.

Virtua Fighter Wild Vision Single


Virtua Figher CG Portrait Series - Saturn (1995-1996)

Vol.3: Akira Yuki Cover

Vol.6: Lau Chan Cover

The Final: Dural Cover

Among the countless OST and AST releases, these discs are a really odd obscurity of Virtua Fighter merchandise. They only run on a Sega Saturn, but each disc is just a music video that slides various CG artwork of the current title character (each cast member of Virtua Fighter 2 got a separate disc) to the according song from the Dancing Shadows CD. There's also a karaoke option that replaces the singing voice with subtitles, but no means to look at the artwork outside of this presentation. They're embarassing products and nothing more than shameless franchise milking.

Sega's Western divisions weren't quite as immoral as the Japanese mother company (besides the fact that these never would have sold outside of Japan), so only a selection of the CG art found its way on a bonus disc for Virtua Fighter Remix in Europe and the PC version of Virtua Fighter 2. These omit the music video part and simply let you view the images one by one.

Virtua Fighter CG Portrait Series Vol.1


Minor Games

Virtua Fighter Cool Champ

There are a few more Virtua Fighter products that more or less qualify as games. Of course the series wasn't spared the Tiger treatment of LCD games; while the first game had to give its name to a standalone handheld, Virtua Fighter 2 came out for the horrible "virtual reality" monocle that was the R-Zone. Check out this video (game footage starts around the 2:50 mark) if you want to see it in "action."

Since Sammy was a major player in Japanese in gambling and faux gambling, of course Virtua Fighter themed pachinko and slot machines popped up after the Sega-Sammy merger, and Japan also saw the release of a curious card battle style game for mobile phones with the silly title Virtua Fighter Cool Champ.

Virtua Fighter themed pachinko and slot machines

Tiger's interpretation of Virtua Fighter

Actual screen display of the R-Zone


Other Appearances

While Shenmue ended up not being a tie-in to the Virtua Fighter series, Ryo Hazuki can still collect capsule toys of all characters up to Virtua Fighter 2, including their costume variants and Kids versions. The limited edition of Shenmue 2 in Japan came with two extra GDs, which contained a preview for Virtua Fighter 4 and a ton of interesting WIP-videos fro the earlier games. Wolf and Jeffry also appear in Sega's All Japan Pro Wrestling series.

Due to the series' realistic design, Virtua Fighter isn't the best cameo bait for the Sonic mascot character sports games (although Virtua Fighter Kids would fit in well, Sega appears to have forgotten about its existence around the turn of the century), but Akira and Jacky are unlockable in Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing. They seem to have been omitted in the Transformed update, though.

Still without a new numbered Virtua Fighter game in sight, Sega has also started lending its characters to other developers, making it possible for Akira, Sarah and Pai to appear in Team Ninja's Dead or Alive 5. Among many other Sega, Capcom and Namco characters, Akira, Pai and Dural are also in the big game franchise mash-up RPG Project X Zone by Bandai Namco games.

Akira in Dead or Alive 5



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Page 1:
Introduction
Virtua Fighter

Page 2:
Virtua Fighter 2
Virtua Fighter Kids
Virtua Fighter Mini

Page 3:
Virtua Fighter 3
Fighters Megamix

Page 4:
Virtua Fighter 4
Virtua Quest

Page 5:
Virtua Fighter 5
Other

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