In the latest video for his personal YouTube channel, Tekken series director Katsuhiro Harada spoke at length about this week’s release of Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, sharing that he’s always viewed surpassing Sega’s foundational 3D fighting series as a personal goal.
“There was an 11-year gap [between releases], but I’ve been thinking about [Virtua Fighter] for over 25 years,” Harada told an off-screen producer. “I’ve been making fighting games for about 27 years. So, the whole time, you know? I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”
Harada took over as the director of the Tekken franchise with 1997’s Tekken 3. At the time, Virtua Fighter was still considered the undisputed king of 3D fighting games among serious players, making it a perfect target for a young upstart looking to make his mark on the genre. That said, when asked by his Bandai Namco superiors how long it would take Tekken to overtake Virtua Fighter in terms of financial success and popularity, Harada didn’t bullshit, instead proposing a lofty timeframe of at least 10 years.
“Virtua Fighter was like that at the time,” Harada said. “When I told them it’d take at least 10 years, they said, ‘Then keep making it until then.’ I made up my mind. I was helping other titles too, but I could make Tekken for 10 years. I thought, ‘I’ll do my best to beat them!’ [Beating Virtua Fighter] was a target for me.”
It’s clear Harada took his self-imposed rivalry to heart. But when Sega stopped releasing new Virtua Fighter games after 2007’s Virtua Fighter 5, he felt he had no one else in the 3D fighting game space to compete against. Watching high-profile Virtua Fighter competitors — now without a new game to move on to — migrate to Tekken gave him an “indescribable feeling” of disappointment.
They weren’t choosing Tekken over Virtua Fighter, but merely doing so out of necessity once Sega stopped making new fighting games. I mean, what were they going to do, play Dead or Alive? As if.
But now, with the release of Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, Harada has seen some fight from the company he once considered a rival. Sure, it’s not an entirely new game, but enough work has been put into making the old release feel fresh that it’s possible Sega is priming itself for Virtua Fighter 6. And if so, Harada is more than ready for another round. Where before he likened the rest of the 3D fighting game genre to a locker room devoid of challengers, Harada now feels like an opponent is finally waiting in the wings.
“In a few years, I hope I’ll be saying, ‘Man, they made that?!’” Harada said. “I won’t let them win. I will surpass them next time. Let’s have a showdown. I don’t want to end my career as a developer without it. There’s not much time left for me as a developer. So, Sega, please do me a favour: Let’s play one last game.”