Granted, it wouldn't be the first time. Sega's offered a steady stream of disappointment since the well-intentioned but badly botched Sonic Spinball. However, Virtua Fighter 3tb is the company's most bewildering blunder. Since its debut in 1993, Virtua Fighter was critically important to Sega; perhaps even more than its mascot Sonic the Hedgehog. It helped ease Sega into the 3D gameplay that would become dominant in the 21st century. It was the fighting game other fighting games wanted to be, as evidenced by Tekken and Dead or Alive. It was one of the few titles that made Americans seriously consider buying a Sega Saturn.
And this is the send-off it gets on Sega's last game console.
|Pants... too... shiny! Can't... concentrate!|
|There's a sumo wrestler somewhere in|
that mess of polygons, I swear!
Virtua Fighter 3tb has a (tacked-on) team battle mode, but without the robust character selection of Project Justice, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, or King of Fighters Evolution, it gets repetitive in a hurry. If you fought Aoi in one match, don't be surprised if she comes back for revenge in the next. Adding to the boredom is the fact that you can't swap partners on the fly or double-team your rival. What you can do is wait five seconds for your next fighter to load after losing a round, which is all the time you'll need to reset the game and play the traditional arcade mode instead.
Finally, the game lacks the thrills of Dead or Alive 2 or Fighting Vipers 2, with a leisurely pace and little to distinguish it from previous games. Sure, you get a couple new characters, but one's not especially memorable and the other is a generic sumo wrestler Sega would like to forget, writing him out of later games.
Luckily, that includes Virtua Fighter 4 for the Playstation 2, which set the series on the right track after Virtua Fighter 3tb derailed it. It's fun, it's gorgeous, it's readily available, and there's even an update with more characters and some compelling bonus features. Its only real flaw is that it's not on the Dreamcast, but Dreamcast owners are used to that kind of disappointment.