At that same trade show, Sega stunned everyone in attendance by announcing that the Saturn was being released in America immediately, without any pre-launch magazine hype save some early comments on the Japanese hardware.
Virtua Fighter was packed in with the console, which retailed for just under $400, and Sega released an accompanying expensive joystick that it touted as perfect for use with that game. Pressured by a number of forces, including a competitive desire to get ahead of Sony and Nintendo, as well as a fatalistic view of Virtua Fighter's prospects of success if released when the PlayStation launched in September, Sega hurried the machine out the door and proclaimed the early launch a victory for hard-core Sega fans everywhere. Another factor at play was that Virtua Fighter 2 was being rushed through development for a late 1995 release on the Saturn, and Sega wanted to have some spacing between the launch of the first and second games in America. An expanded effort by Sega helped bring VF2 into more American arcades than its predecessor, where the new Model 2 game was doing better than expected.
"Pressured by a number of forces, including a competitive desire to get ahead of Sony and Nintendo, as well as a fatalistic view of Virtua Fighter's prospects of success if released when the PlayStation launched in September, Sega hurried the machine out the door and proclaimed the early launch a victory for hard-core Sega fans everywhere."
An unexpected consequence of Sega's action, which was designed both to get the machine out early and circumvent the skeptical games media, was that the media became even more skeptical about Virtua Fighter's prospects for success. Hidden on a single monitor in Sega's booth, a demo was running with an early texture-mapped version of Virtua Fighter's Pai in a scene from the first Virtua Fighter, and gaming magazines snapped photos and described them as the first shots of Virtua Fighter 2.
In truth, the demo was an early revision of Virtua Fighter Remix, a texture-mapped version of Virtua Fighter supposedly coded up by a Sega programmer who wanted to demonstrate the ease of translation between a Sega Titan arcade hardware board and its design brother, the Saturn. Unlike the bug-filled first Saturn version of Virtua Fighter, which occasionally lost character polygons right in the middle of play, Virtua Fighter Remix looked as solid as Toshinden for the PlayStation, and by early fall, Sega opted to release the game in Japan and America as a solution to gamer complaints about the first translation.
Another problem was beginning to develop. Sega of America had published Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side for the Sega-CD, which desperately needed a good game, and the series had developed an American popularity that was beginning to rival Virtua Fighter's in Japan. Eternal Champions CD featured a number of stunning full motion video Silicon Graphics-rendered animations, which were displayed using a new graphics compression technology that made the CD cinematics look far clearer and more colorful than before, and had a huge number of hidden characters and fatalities - Mortal Kombat's strongest draws. Sega of America planned a Saturn title to be the third game in the series.
Eternal Champions CD in action
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