The brainchild of Sega AM2's Yu Suzuki and Seiichi Ishii, the very first Virtua Fighter game was released in 1993 as a Virtua arcade game using the Sega Model 1 hardware, developed by Sega with assistance from aerospace technology firm Lockheed Martin. It is considered the first 3D polygon-based fighting game, and the first fighting game to allow movement on a 3D plane that would later provide the inspiration for other 3D fighting series like Tekken and Dead or Alive.
The first game only had 8 fighters plus the unplayable boss character Dural and an Arabic character named Siba (though he was cut from the final roster) who was mistakenly named Akira. Being 1993, Sega had no home console powerful enough to run the game. Instead the team worked on a port for Sega's next generation system the Saturn. In the meantime Sega developed a version for the Sega 32X, which became one of the benchmark games for the ill-fated platform.
Virtua Fighters appeared as one of the launch titles during May of 1995. The game was however rushed and players noticed that the game lacked polish. Sega made right by fans by releasing Virtua Fighters Remix, a version of the game free of the glitches and bugs in the original, and offered it free of charge to everyone who bought the first game.
Virtua Fighter 2 was released in the arcade on Sega's new "Model 2" arcade hardware in 1994. Shun Di and Lion were added to the roster.Sega released a home version for the Saturn in December 1995 and eventually a scaled down 2D version of the game for the Sega Genesis in 1996.
In 1996, Virtua Fighter 3 was released for Sega's next "Model 3" hardware. It added Taka-Arashi and Aoi to the list of playable characters. 3tb came one year later. VF3 also added a "Dodge" command and moving stages to increase the amount of strategy required. Taka-Arashi was later removed from future versions of the game, as the developers claimed that they had trouble balancing his large hitbox with those of the other characters. Also, the "Dodge" button and moving stages from VF3 were scrapped and never returned in future installments.
Virtua Fighter 4 introduced Lei-Fei and Vanessa to the game, adding graphical changes and released on the brand new "NAOMI 2" hardware in 2001. The game also introduced the option of customizing character clothing and hairstyles from a list of different options. Under 2 years later, VF4: Evolution was released, adding another pair of fighters: Brad Burns and Goh Hinogami, along with a revamped training mode. VF4: Evo was also released on the PS3 at a discounted price compared to most new games.
Virtua Fighter 5 was released in 2006 on Sega's new "Lindbergh" arcade board, adding yet another pair of new characters: Eileen and El Blaze. Ports were released for the Playstation 3 (Ver. B) and XBOX 360 (Ver. C). Though the developers originally were against adding any online mode to the game, they relented with the later release of the 360 version, providing support for online play through XBOX Live though the rooms would only fit the two people fighting and no one else. The 360 port was officially called "Virtua Fighter 5: Online" in the US and "Virtua Fighter 5: Live Arena" in Japan.
Virtua Fighter 5 R was released into Japanese arcades in 2008. Aside from adding more costume customization options, the game also added two characters to the playable roster: Jean Kujo and the return of Taka-Arashi. The game was never officially released outside of Japan. However, another revision called Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown was released in 2010 in Japanese arcades, with an American release in June 2012.
Super-deformed kiddy versions of the main cast from VF2 were used in a game for the Sega Saturn and arcades called Virtua Fighter Kids. A couple of characters from this game later appeared in Fighters Megamix.
There had long been plans for an RPG spinoff of the series. Initially one was proposed for the Sega Saturn but was delayed, eventually being recast and rebranded. The resulting game was released in 1999 as Shenmue and has no obvious ties to the Virtua Fighter series other than collectible figurines that can be found throughout. A second more juvenile focused RPG was released for the PS2 and Gamecube as Virtua Quest.
Outside of video games, an anime series was created after Virtua Fighter 2. It lasted 24 episodes. There was even a 2D fighting game created for the Sega Master System and Game Gear based off of the anime.
|Character||First Appearance||Fighting Style||Story|
|Akira Yuki||VF1||Bajiquan (Hakkyoku-ken)||Despite strong performances in previous tournaments, Akira still seeks to earn the approval of his ever-critical grandfather.|
|Aoi Umenokouji||VF3||Aikido (Aiki Ju-jutsu)||Akira's childhood friend who seeks to reconnect with him, and find out the truth behind Brad's advances.|
|Brad Burns||VF4: Evo||Muay Thai||A rich Italian playboy who entered the tournament to prove his skills and to hit on the female competitors.|
|Eileen||VF5||Monkey Kung Fu (Kou-ken)||A young girl who entered the tournament to meet Pai Chan.|
|El Blaze||VF5||Lucha Libre||A masked luchador who seeks to beat Wolf in a match to prove he can defeat heavyweight wrestlers as easily as lightweight ones.|
|Goh Hinogami||VF4: Evo||Judo||An assassin sent by J6 to destroy Akira among others in the tournament. Having failed his first attempt, he seeks to complete his job this time.|
|Jacky Bryant||VF1||Jeet Kune Do||Having fully recovered from his accident and rescuing his sister, Jacky now seeks to confront the mysterious J6 organization behind everything.|
|Jean Kujo||VF5: R||Karate||After Goh's failure, J6 sent Jean to finish the job. Jean is especially interested in killing Lion, without remembering their childhood friendship together.|
|Jeffry McWild||VF1||Pankratium||Entered the previous tournaments to earn enough money to find and catch the mysterious "Satan Shark," only to discover that J6 has captured the shark for some unknown purpose. Entered now to find out why J6 wants his shark.|
|Kage-Maru||VF1||Hagakure-ryu Ju-jutsu||The tenth generation "Kage-Maru" ninja from the Hagakure village. His mother was kidnapped, experimented on and turned into the cyborg known as Dural by J6. She then burned down Hagakure and killed everyone there as Dural. Kage entered the tournament to free her and destroy J6. He managed to successfully free his mother from the brainwashing after the third tournament, but she needed more machinery and maintenence just to stay alive. Now he fights to keep his mother alive and take revenge on those who ruined her life.|
|Lau Chan||VF1||Tiger Swallow Fist (Koen-ken)||A master martial-artist and talented chef, Lau has been suffering from an incurable disease as he seeks an apprentice to pass on his style. Unfortunately, his last student nearly killed him, so Lau has decided to seek out Pai before his death.|
|Lei-Fei||VF4||Shaolin Kung Fu||A Shaolin monk from a long-forgotten order in China that sought to destroy other martial artists. Lei-Fei entered the tournament to learn Lau's Koen-ken and then kill him with it. Unfortunately, Lei-Fei was too impatient and attacked Lau before he learned his style, but he was defeated and Lau escaped his grasp. He seeks to face him again in a final showdown.|
|Lion Rafale||VF2||Praying Mantis Kung Fu||The son of a powerful French arms dealer, Lion seeks to win freedom from his father in the tournament.|
|Pai Chan||VF1||Mizongquan (Ensei-ken)||A Hong Kong action film star, Pai Chan initially blamed her father Lau for her mother's death. However, her anger has cooled over time and she even managed to save him from Lei-Fei during the last tournament. She now enters to make amends with her father.|
|Sarah Bryant||VF1||Taekwando/Savate/Jeet Kune Do (Martial Arts)||Brainwashed by J6 to kill her brother Jacky. She managed to break free with her brother's help, and has entered the most recent tournament to save her friend Vanessa.|
|Shun Di||VF2||Drunken Fist (Zui Quan)||A drunken kung-fu master from northern China who joined the second tournament on a lark, but continued returning when he found that one of his students was being held captive by J6|
|Taka-Arashi||VF3||Sumo Wrestling||A hot-blooded sumo wrestler yokozuna who seeks to prove his strength to the whole world.|
|Vanessa Lewis||VF4||Vale Tudo|
Muay Thai [VF4 only]
|When she was a child, Vanessa's parents were killed and J6 kidnapped her to train her into a soldier for them. She was rescued by another soldier named Lewis, but Lewis was later killed by J6. Vanessa enters to protect Sarah and find Lewis's killer, but her body was used to make a new version of Dural called V-Dural.|
|Wolf Hawkfield||VF1||Pro Wrestling||A powerful woodsman and hunter from the wilds of Canada who was scouted by a sports agent, Wolf soon became a famous pro wrestler. He enters the tournament to find the truth behind strange visions of a world in flames that haunt his dreams.|
|Dural||VF1||??????||At first Dural was a cyborg version of Kage's mother, herself a kunoichi from his village. At the end of the third tournament, Kage managed to free his mother, but she needed more cyborg technology just to stay alive. J6 simply kidnapped Vanessa and used her for an upgraded Dural model. Even though she escaped, they acquired enough data to create the V-Dural, and now seek to use this tournament to test its capabilities.|