What a knucklehead!
The wind whips across the desert plain, sending dust devils whirling in the distance. Two fighters are locked in each other's gaze while their teammates are waiting on the sidelines. From nowhere, the sign is given and the battle begins. The fighters circle each other, looking for an opening. Finally, they strike, colliding together in a flurry of fists. As the dust settles, one fighter is down, but the other is seriously wounded. The downed pugilist crawls to the side of the arena and his teammate jumps into the battle. Unfortunately, the wounded fighter has to wait a few minutes for his next opponent to land in the ring.
If I'm talking about jumps that last forever, I must be talking about the Virtua Fighter series. When Virtua Fighter hit the arcades in 1993, it wowed gamers and single handedly brought the fighting genre into the third dimension. When Virtua Fighter 2 came to the Saturn, it showed the world that the Saturn was capable of good graphics and gave it a much needed boost in sales. Given the success and effect both of its predecessors had on the gaming industry, there's been a good deal of anticipation for Virtua Fighter 3tb for the Dreamcast. Unfortunately, VF3tb does nothing particularly new and different and shows what happens when a game developer tries to use the same formula again and again.
To start off with, the "tb" in Virtua Fighter 3tb stands for Team Battle. This one feature is essentially the only difference between VF3 in the arcade and VF3tb on the Dreamcast. The Team Battle mode has you choosing three of your favorite fighters and pitting them in a match against another group of three. Each match has only one fighter from each team at a time and lasts only one round. When a character is defeated, the next character on that team joins the fray. Aren't three people together who go around beating up people technically a gang?
The graphics in Virtua Fighter 3tb are good, but that's to be expected with the Dreamcast. Unfortunately for VF3tb, it was not the first fighting game out on the system in North America(it was in Japan). With Soul Calibur as a launch title, all other 3D fighting games have a very tough act to follow. To put it simply, VF3tb just doesn't look as good as Soul Calibur; the character design is bland, the facial features are rather plain, and the motion capture isn't anywhere near as smooth.
Don't get me wrong, Virtua Fighter 3tb still looks good. In fact, the backgrounds in VF3tb are some of the best seen in any fighting game to date. Each arena is drastically different than the others. You fight on rooftops, rafts, and even in the middle of the desert. Also, the arenas aren't just flat. Most, in fact, are sloped or have objects that you fight on and around. The characters even negotiate the arenas properly, with the placement of their feet conforming to the terrain.
Despite the neat arenas, Virtua Fighter 3tb lacks what is best described as a "soul." Something is aesthetically wrong with the game, but it's hard to put into words. It's just boring, especially for a fighting game. I'm a big fan of the past Virtua Fighter games, but this one just didn't cut it.
Best left in the elevator where it was first heard, the music does nothing to add to the excitement of the game. The sound effects are your basic grunts and growls, which are, unfortunately, the best sounds the game makes. After each round you get the Virtua series' characteristically unintelligible speech. Heck, I understand when my old Gauntlet game says "Elf needs food, badly" better than I can understand any of the characters in Virtua Fighter 3tb.
Part of the boring gameplay can definitely be pinned on the character design. Instead of creating a bunch of new characters with each incarnation (like in the Street Fighter series), Virtua Fighter 3tb introduces only two new fighters. On top of that, there really are no hidden characters beyond the ones listed in our Codes section. Sure, it's fun to be a drunken master, but you could do that with Virtua Fighter 2.
Plain and simple, there's very little depth to Virtua Fighter 3tb. With no plot, no hidden characters, and no reason to be fighting in the first place, the game gets boring really quickly. Add to that the load time in-between each character in a team battle match, and most gamers will walk away from their Dreamcasts in frustration. I guess the TV news was right - some fighting games really do make you want to go out and beat people up.
In the end, Virtua Fighter 3tb isn't a bad game, just an old game. Without anything new and different to offer, this game is a truly mediocre title for the Dreamcast. With a machine capable of so much more and designers who have already proven their worth (i.e. NFL 2K), I expected more from Sega. Now, where's my bottle of sake? I need to go hit someone.