Pin-san and his fellow writers at Yuzumo Design have done several phenomenal self-published game history books about important titles like Space Harrier, Darius, Phantasy Star, and Wizardry. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Virtua Fighter, he's assembled a truly amazing book packed with interviews with key figures in the history of the VF community (including one with our own Myke!), features on aspects of VF's history, original artwork and manga, and stories about personal experiences with VF.
Clocking in at 224 pages in a mix of B&W and color, Virtua Fighter no Neppa/Virtua Fighter Heatwave is a massive fan-made undertaking by people who are truly passionate about VF and what it represents. It will first be made available at the Game Legend doujinshi event on November 4. Afterwards, it will be available on consignment at Japanese specialty stores like Tokyo's Comic ZIN, Osaka's Game Tanteidan, and various locations of the Media Max retail chain. It will also likely be available to order online through Pixiv's BOOTH online ordering service at https://yuzumo.booth.pm (blurb provided by @Zero-chan).
After being contacted by Zero-chan for the interview, I later reached out to Jason Moses (translator) for permission to re-post my interview for VFDC (included below), and not only did he grant that but he also passed on a message from Pin-san about the book.
Message from Pin-san, creator of Virtua Fighter Heatwave:
There's also a message from Jason Moses (translator):
Huge thanks to @Zero-chan and Jason Moses (@mosesplan) for their involvement with this project and contributions to this article! Jason also mentioned to me that he might be able to translate some interviews from the book later in the year, so be on the look out for that!
Exclusive Feature - Interview with Myke
Below is the original transcript of the interview I did for Virtua Fighter Heatwave, re-posted with permission.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Mike Abdow, and go by the handle "Myke". I live in Sydney, Australia and work as a Systems Engineer. In addition to being a lifelong fan of Virtua Fighter, I also play football (soccer) competitively and enjoy snowboarding, programming and graphic design. I'm also the administrator of Virtua Fighter dot com (VFDC) which has now been running since 1998! This year is VFDC's 20th anniversary!
Where were you born?
I was born in Sydney, Australia and have a Lebanese heritage.
What was your childhood like? When did you first play video games?
I spent much of my childhood playing outside with other kids in the neighbourhood, practicing karate, playing soccer, and watching Bruce Lee and Sho Kosugi movies. Computer gaming was not that popular when I was growing up so the first time I actually saw and played a video game was at my friend's house. His father had bought a home computer for his home office and it happened to have some games available. I can't even remember what those games were, but my friend and I would spend hours on it whenever I would visit, which I'm sure his father didn't appreciate! That's the moment I got hooked on video games.
What games did you enjoy as a youngster?
This was the mid-to-late 80s and I spent much of my youth playing Shinobi, Double Dragon, and Wonder Boy. I was so addicted to Shinobi that I would spend my spare time drawing scenes from the game. I would be so absorbed while playing that one day my bicycle stolen outside the store where I was playing, and I didn't even notice until it was too late!
What was the first fighting game you played?
Showing my age here, but technically, the first fighting game I ever played was an arcade title by Konami called Yie Ar Kung Fu. I was too young to go to the arcades by myself at the time, but there was a take-away food store nearby my house that had it which I would spend all my pocket money on to play. However, in terms of competitive, versus style fighting games, then Street Fighter II was the first.
What did you do to improve at fighting games?
I was in my final year of high school when Street Fighter II was out, and my closest friends were also big fans, so we would often stop by at the arcade on the way home every day just to play. Playing in the arcade environment motivates you to improve, otherwise it starts to become an expensive hobby, especially for students without an income! One of my friends was Japanese, and he would import gaming magazines every month (like Gamest) and share the latest tips and techniques with us, which also helped us improve. So this cycle of playing in a high stakes environment, getting exposure to different people with different playing styles, and the sharing of information was key to my personal development.
Some years later while I was in University and had regular access to the Internet, I would frequent public newsgroups on the Usenet (a kind of text based forum) to discover new ideas and information on fighting games. This was at a time before the World Wide Web was even invented!
What sort of fighting games were popular back when you first got into the genre? Where did you play them?
Well, when I first got into the genre, Street Fighter was literally everywhere. Not only in the arcades, but in convenience stores, fast food stores, service (gas) stations, etc. It didn't take too long for other game companies to start making their own 2D fighting game, but Street Fighter 2 was always the most popular. So my personal fighting game history and early development was entirely in the arcades, and it centred around the Street Fighter series until, of course, Virtua Fighter came along!
When did you first play a VF game, and what did you think of it?
I started on the original Virtua Fighter, back in 1993. I was in my second year of University, and I think Super Street Fighter II was the latest SF title in the arcade at the time. Every Friday night was the peak time for fighting game competition, and the arcades would always be packed. As a kind of tradition, my friends and I would always meet there after class and stay until closing or the last train ride home. One particular night, the arcade manager was setting up a new arcade cabinet for a game called "Virtua Fighter". He told us that we should stick around to check it out, guaranteeing that it's unlike anything we've seen before. And boy was he right! So when we eventually got to play it, we were literally blown away by the graphics, the fluid animation and the sense of realism it portrayed. With only a handful of moves listed on the arcade cabinet for each character, and an unusual button layout, we spent the remainder of the night just playing and experimenting with VF. We started to discover more moves by accident, and this only made us more curious to try to find more. It was really an exciting time!
How popular was VF in Australia?
Popularity of VF in Australia exploded with the release of Virtua Fighter 2. We had a number of Megalo 2 machines that would have crowds of people gather around waiting to play. If you lost your match, it was usually a long wait until the next one! Because of the tough, competitive environment at the time, my friends and I would arrange to meet up during the week, when it was less busy, just to practice and try out new things. We would also check Usenet groups daily for the latest information, and even share our findings with the international audience. People would be compiling command lists based on everyone's findings from around the world, so the fun of discovery and information sharing was a daily experience! You also have to remember that for us, outside of Japan, we did not have access to complete command lists so it was very much a international group effort!
Over the course of the series, the popularity of VF in Sydney arcades was fairly constant right up until Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned. It was never the most popular fighting game, but always had a strong and loyal following. The tradition of meeting up every friday night in the arcades to play until closing was maintained for many years. When VF5 was eventually released, it had a very limited arcade distribution so for those of us in Australia, the first chance we had to play it was as a launch title for the PS3. Following that was the release on Xbox 360 which included online play, and that opened up the game to a brand new audience. Since then, and to this current day, VF5FS still has active presence in the Australian fighting game landscape, with monthly tournaments taking place in Sydney as well as being featured on our national stage.
Do you have any interesting stories about your VF experiences?
I have three stories to tell.
The first, which I think is the most interesting is also my most humbling one, and probably a story shared by many others. It's the time I played against some really strong players from Japan who happened to be holidaying in Sydney during the VF2 era. One of the players was really strong with Lau, and while I had read about his 2_3P "rush" style, I had never experienced it before. This was the same style made famous by Daimon Lau, and I remember feeling utterly helpless when I played against him but I was also in complete awe to witness this skill first hand! Unfortunately, these visitors were never to be seen again, but that experience left a lasting impression on me. It made me re-evaluate everything I knew about the game. Before this day I thought I was a pretty good player and among the best in Sydney, but this one event made me realise that I knew nothing, and that we all had so far to go! On a personal level, this was like the age of VF enlightenment.
The second story occurs during the VF3 era. It was Saturday, 11th October 1997 and a special VF3 tournament sponsored by Java Tea event was being held at Sega World in Sydney, Australia. Four Japanese VF players were flown to Sydney to compete in this event, and two of those players were quite famous in the VF world: Kurita and Mask do Hijitetsu. Kurita had a bit of a reputation having recently won the Java Tea Battle Kōshien tournament with Taka-Arashi, and Mask, although unknown to me at the time, was simply amazing with Jacky. To watch the level of skill on display was really inspiring, especially seeing someone play Taka and Jacky they way they did. This was also the first time that we played in a tournament that seemed like a "big deal", with casual spectators and complete with live commentary too! Hearing the crowd getting exciting seeing big damage combos, or even throw escape animations was really great! Once again, to play against these really strong players, showing us things we never thought were possible, was truly a memorable experience. Many years later during trips to Japan, I would bump into Kurita at special VF events, and while we can't speak each other's language, he was always kind enough to say hello!
Caption: Scan from Japanese magazine (source unknown, Gamest maybe?) of the VF3 Java Tea in Australia
The third story occurs during the Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution era. It was the 2003 Evo tournament where Virtua Fighter first appeared as an official title at Evo. Quite a few famous players from Japan were in attendance, including Chibita, Ohsu Akira, Neo Tower and Koufu Megane. Also in attendance was the one-and-only Yamagishi-san, famous Beat Tribe commentator! There were also some international guests such as Mad-Dog Jin from South Korea, myself from Australia, and many from the US had travelled to be there. What was really memorable about this was that it was the first time the international VF community came together for a big event, and Yamagishi-san's live commentary during the Evo finals was the very definition of hype! Even though the overwhelming majority of the Evo audience couldn't understand Japanese, the energy and excitement was palpable! Best of all, however, many of the friendships that were formed back then still last today.
Caption: Yamagishi-san, Neo Tower and Ohsu Akira at the Evo 2003 House Party
Video source: Evo 2003 House Party: https://youtu.be/EoRadyDVRL0
Can you tell us how VFDC was founded?
VFDC was originally founded by Jeffrey Yuwono (ice-9), a VF fan from Singapore, in 1998. The world wide web was still very much in it's infancy and game dedicated web sites were very rare. During this time, all of the international VF community would gather and exchange ideas on a Usenet newsgroup called rec.games.video.arcade, and repositories of information (e.g. command lists, character guides) would be made available via FTP servers. When Jeffrey came along and invited everyone to join his new website, it was initially met with a lot of resistance. In parallel to this, some other VF fan sites started to appear, but since Jeffrey registered the domain virtuafighter.com, that seemed to attract the most attention and slowly, but surely, most of the online community migrated across.
When VFDC first began, it had a very basic message board system. As with most online communities, the more popular it grew, so did the arguments and flame wars. Things were made worse by the ability to post anonymously as it allowed people to post messages under false or duplicate names. It became apparent to me that Jeffrey was out of his depth technically to maintain the site, so that's where I stepped in. I offered to help him technically with maintaining the message board software, and essentially replaced it with something more secure and offered better features.
So from administering the forum, I gradually assumed additional responsibilities over time to eventually being responsible for the entire site, including the bills! Over its two decades, VFDC has undergone many changes and upgrades, on both the front end and back end. When I had taken over, my mission was to make VFDC the perfect companion for any fan of Virtua Fighter. In addition to having a rich forum environment where players all over the world could discuss various topics, I wanted VFDC to set a benchmark for resources such as the command and combo lists. It's everything I wished I had when I started learning how to play Virtua Fighter over 20 years ago!
What is VFDC like/how active is it nowadays? How do the members like to play (i.e. online, in-person meetups)
There are still pockets of VF communities around the world that are active today. It is more common nowadays to arrange and play games online, but in places like New York City and Sydney there are regular offline meetups. VFDC is still used by many around the world, and although the forum activity is quite low and that's partly due to the rise in popularity of social media, resources such as the VFDC wiki, command lists and combo lists are still accessed quite often from all around the world.
What do you see happening with VFDC from this point onward?
VFDC has now been running for 20 years, which is pretty remarkable when you think about it! Some site members weren't even born when it was first launched! If we don't see another VF release, or even a port to a current generation platform (PC or console), then as time goes on it will become increasingly more difficult for new players to "discover" the game. By making it playable within Yakuza 6 is a nice way to help introduce the series to a new, modern audience, but where do they go next if they want to play the game seriously?! Hopefully, SEGA has the answer to that question!
So how much longer VFDC will run for is not something I've really thought about, but as long as players keep playing VF then I think it will continue to exist in one form or another. And of course, should SEGA release a new title then I'm sure it will provide VFDC and the international community a massive boost!
Have you been to Japan?
Yes, I have been to Japan many times, although I haven't been for a couple of years, I was going to Hokkaido every year during the winter season for snowboarding with friends. During these trips I always made a point to stop-over in Tokyo for a night or two just to get my VF fix! I've also travelled to Tokyo purely for VF competition and entered with my friends as team "Aussie Beef" in Beat Tribe Cup 2005, and Tougeki 2007.
But, my first ever trip to Japan was in 1997 during the VF3 era. While I was there I met up with my friends from Japan, Chihiro and Taka, that I had met in the arcades the previous year in Sydney. They were there on an exchange program and when they eventually returned to Japan we had kept in touch. It was great to see them, hang out, and one particular night we went to a game centre in Chiba and stayed there until sunrise the next day. The photo below is of us the following morning at breakfast.
Caption: In the foreground is Rod (a friend from Sydney) and myself, with Chihiro and Taka in the background.
Do you have any parting words for Japanese VF fans or Sega?
To Japanese VF fans:
I hope that some day we can have another international VF event that brings together the communities around the world to compete, learn from and inspire each other, and celebrate the best fighting game ever made!
Thank you for making games that have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and especially for Virtua Fighter. You created a virtual mountain that I can never stop climbing, enabling me to express myself through solutions to the never ending challenges thrown my way. Along this journey I have met many wonderful people and formed life-long friendships all around the world. Congratulations on Virtua Fighter's 25th anniversary, and I sincerely hope that you can continue to pioneer, innovate and inspire people through Virtua Fighter for another 25 years!
Oh, and when's VF6?