Sega fans have been clamoring for a new entry in the Virtua Fighter franchise for almost as long as Shenmue III itself (alright, not even close, but it’s still been an eye-watering twelve years since Virtua Fighter 5, and seven years since its Final Showdown revision). But while there’s still no news from HQ about a Virtua Fighter 6, the creator of the brand – and the 3D fighting genre that it spearheaded – hasn’t forgotten one of his biggest hits.Confirmed in an interview with Game Informer, one of the new arcade games that teenage protagonist Ryo Hazuki will be able to play on his resumed adventure is a Virtua Fighter parody, starring the cartoon chick-like (actually a baby cormorant) mascot of the fictional Chinese town Niaowu.
As previously seen in released screenshots, the town’s well-stocked, multistorey arcade features a machine brandishing a logo that at first glance appears awfully familiar to Virtua Fighter fans.
But even in Ryo’s Saturn-owning timeline, such graphical technology might be an anachronism too far for 1987; besides which, Sega hasn’t licensed any of its classics out to Ys Net to be playable in this particular Shenmue sequel. It’s doubtful that even Ryo’s collection of Lau, Pai, and Jeffry capsule toys will have made it out of the cave he’s been killing time in for the past eighteen years.
Veteran fans know of course that Shenmue‘s concept began as “Virtua Fighter RPG,” starring Akira, before minor changes were made and Ryo was created to assume the lead role. The first two games in the series used a modified version of the Virtua Fighter engine for its combat scenes, with Ryo mastering new moves as the player progressed through the story.
For the third entry Suzuki has crafted a new, “much more fun to play” fighting system from the ground up, in the same arcade style but designed to better incorporate young Hazuki-san’s development of techniques throughout the game.
When she’s not being put through her own paces in feathered combat, unlikely warrior Choubu-chan enjoys a game of hide-and-seek in all of Niaowu’s 140 shops (around half of which contain purchasable items), with eagle-eyed discovery of her hiding place in each store forming a challenge of its own, rewarding Ryo with collectible cards. Themed sets of these cards, once completed, can be traded for new martial arts moves.As a mascot for Niaowu (the game’s second region with a more dense, urban atmosphere than Bailu Village from the backer demo), Choubu-chan’s likeness appears on various in-game items, such as the telephone card that lets Ryo contact old friends in Japan and beyond, triggering flashback scenes as well as conversations – including some exclusive fan service for certain Kickstarter backers.
The Virtua Fighter parody game is joined at first by mostly traditional, mechanical arcade diversions like Whac-a-Mole. However, the range of actual, newly designed video games can be expanded if Ryo successfully delivers more cabinets from the dock by – you guessed it – forklift. Those days of practice in Yokosuka just keep paying off!Shenmue III arrives November 19th on PlayStation 4 and PC. This Thursday and every 3rd of the month, fans converge on Twitter for Shenmue Day, celebrating the long-awaited revival of the franchise.
(Written by guest writer James Hamill)