The first in the Virtua Fighter series, the game plays in a 3D format. Both the arcade original's Sega Model 1 hardware and the Saturn port's NV1 architecture relied on quadratic polygons instead of the triangular polygons that are used in modern 3D graphics. The images were created by using wire frames and flat-shaded quads. The game retains it's staple of multiple characters, who all have their own distinctive moves.
It differed from other fighting games from the same era as the game relied on only the control stick and three buttons, punch, kick and guard. The game is highly regarded for the real world fighting techniques and it's in-depth fighting engine, and it was as a result viewed as revolutionary when it first came out.
Developed by Sega AM2 team, with Yu Suzuki as director and Seiichi Ishii as main designer, the game was hugely influential in popularizing 3D polygon graphics across the video game industry. It inspired a new generation of 3D fighting games, ranging from Tekken and Toshinden to Soul and Dead or Alive. Some of the Sony staff involved in the creation of the PlayStation credit Virtua Fighter as inspiration for the PlayStation's 3D graphical capabilities (see here). More generally, it set a template for early 3D games in general. For example, it was cited as an influence on Tomb Raider.
In 1998, Virtua Fighter was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution for contributions in the field of Art and Entertainment, and became a part of the Smithsonian Institution's Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology Innovation.
An Arabian character named Siba was originally scheduled to be featured in the game. His character model did in fact appear on some Virtua Fighter arcade cabinets. He was eventually dropped, but he makes an appearance in Sega Saturn Fighters MegaMix.
Virtua Fighter was a North American launch game for the Sega Saturn (SS) on May 11, 1995. The game launched alongside other Saturn launch titles that included:
* Panzer Dragoon
* Daytona USA
That's right, the Saturn launched with only three games in North America.
Rushed to meet the Saturn launch, the Saturn version is considered inferior to the Arcade and 32X versions. The game featured lesser graphics and more sluggish gameplay.
Sega later released Virtua Fighter Remix, an improved version of the original that came free by mail with registration of a Saturn.