It’s interesting…I wonder how VF didn’t catch on immediately here like Tekken and SC did.
A couple theories I have:
VF3. I remember this game getting a pronounced negative reception back in its time. IIRC, Tekken 3, which was a substantial improvement over the prior installments of that series, was released around the same time. I’m sure you can see where this is headed.
I think this may have not only reduced VF3’s popularity, but also reduced the base number of hardcore VF players. It’s much easier to build a tourney scene when you have more of said people.
Harder to get into. FMJ, this is indeed true, to an extent. Hell, look at Seth’s interview with John Bailon on this very site; he mentions this as one of the things holding back VF’s popularity in arcades. I’ll give you two specific examples of this, one on the “absolute scrub” level and one on the “tournament player” level.
First, the scrub example: Mashing. Now, you may ask, why am I giving this subject the time of day? Simple: Mashers contribute way more money to arcades as a whole than tournament players do. And here, VF loses out because it has no masher-friendly characters; there are a few who have 4-hit strings that you can get just by mashing, but those won’t do any good against people who have any idea how to play. In Namco games, on the other hand, there have always been characters who can get long strings and flashy moves, and occasionally beat some lower-intermediate-level players, just by mashing; in the Tekken series we’ve had Baek, Hwoarang, Eddy, and Christie, and in both Soul Calibur games there’s Maxi and Kilik. Thus, Namco games are likely to bring in more money than VF (there are other factors here, of course, but this is a fairly important one), and thus more arcades have Namco games than VF machines, and thus it’s harder to find VF competition than Namco competition. As a matter of fact, I think the recent trend of increasing console tournaments is the biggest reason that VF’s finally started to make a comeback in the tourney scene, but that’s a topic for another time.
Now for the tournament example: In VF4 Evo, I am confident, based on experience and observation, that there are no true “scrub” characters (when I say this, I mean in the sense of “easy to use and to win with in above-average tournament competition”; not to be confused with the mashers above). The closest of anyone to this is probably Kage; knowing the Ten-Foot Toss combos, and some basic setups for this throw, will take you far in low- and intermediate-level play. Against above-average players, though, you will lose if you base your whole game around TFT like that, because they can do multiple throw escapes and TFT will ALWAYS be the first escape they input. Additionally, these players will be better at using other methods of stopping throws (i.e. jab, or your best combo starter if you’re feeling really ballsy). Thus, against actual good players, you have to know how to use a lot more of his tools, not just the one throw or throws in general.
When we look at Tekken 4, one word immediately comes to mind: Jin. I don’t think any more needs to be said here.
In SC2, there are a couple “scrub” characters. The most obvious is Xianghua; you can easily do well with her in good tournaments by sticking to a set of 4 or 5 moves. Hell, even the best X players do this; what separates them from the rest is merely a better sense of when and how to use those 4 or 5 moves. The other “scrubby” character is Cervantes; he does have a lot of hidden depth to him that X doesn’t, and you need to take advantage of this depth if you want to be a truly elite Cervy player, but you can still do well against above-average players by keeping things simple and defensive. For proof of this, look no further than JOP; he outright hates this game and isn’t unwilling to let that be known, yet he still made top 16 in it at Evolution. The reason: He plays an efficient, basic Cervy that sticks to a few key moves and always looks for his easy, high-damage combos.
The point of all of this: VF is harder for mashers to enjoy, which means less arcade money, and it doesn’t offer any characters who can win with little effort, which gives it less appeal to some tournament players.
- My final theory: Aesthetic reasons. This is one I hear a lot. This isn’t just with scrubs, either; legitimately good Namco players (at least the ones I know) often tend to say “VF sucks cause the characters look too floaty when they get launched” (this one astounds me, as a lot of these people play the game where you can MOVE YOUR GUY AROUND IN THE AIR WHILE HE’S GETTING JUGGLED, but I digress) or “VF doesn’t appeal to me because the character movements never look fluid” or “VF has way more boring character designs than Namco games”.
Anyway, these are just some thoughts I have. Anyone more knowledgeable of the VF or Namco scenes than I, feel free to offer your own 2 cents.