By now, Yu Suzuki could do no wrong. His AM2 team were making all of Sega's best games, completely eclipsing all of the company's other work. AM2 made one final game for the Space Harrier arcade engine called Enduro Racer, which was heavily based on Hang-On but with a dirt bike theme. Yu-san spent most of the time around its development working on his next major hit, After Burner.
1987 saw the release of both After Burner and its sequel, After Burner 2. The game concept was simple. Yu Suzuki had gathered international praise for Space Harrier and with the success of Hollywood movie Top Gun, it was a no-brainer to adapt his biggest hit to the jet fighter theme. Add to this winning combination a stylish tilt motion cabinet and inspired throttle lever mechanism and Yu Suzuki had done it again. After Burner and its immediate sequel were massive successes.
Yu-san was then given the opportunity to take a bit of a break while Sega focussed on its Master System console and then the Sega Genesis (or Sega Mega Drive outside of America). With the rise of Sonic The Hedgehog, Sega had began to focus more on the home console market and they were happy to let Yu Suzuki contemplate his next masterpiece over time. He decided to look into 3D graphics, an adventure that took several years before anything was to surface. While studying the possibilities in that area, his AM2 team put out a few low key games like G-LOC, Power Drift and an update of Out Run, all of which sold well to big arcades on the strengths of the earlier titles.
Yu Suzuki began using the term ?Virtua? to describe his vision of true 3D graphics. Wire meshes and 3D vector designs were appearing in game development tools and Sega, particularly AM2, were one of the first to get a game released in full polygon 3D. They built up a new arcade engine called the Sega Model 1 and in 1992, Yu Suzuki's vision appeared in the form of arcade hit, Virtua Racing. The game's visuals were unlike anything seen before and required a massive amount of hardware clout to pull off. As a result, the game was very expensive to produce and thus costly for arcade owners and players, but even at a higher price-point it was a huge success once again for Sega and AM2. The Formula One style cars and circuit racing was coupled perfectly with time attack excitement and a nice balance between simulation and arcade style handling.
Clearly delighted with his investment in 3D graphics technology, Yu-san spent the next 14 months working on what was to become the turning point in his already illustrious career. He followed Virtua Racing with an entirely different game: Virtua Fighter. Anyone who saw Virtua Fighter in arcades was immediately blown away by every aspect of it. The visuals were from the distant future. The character animations were so fluid and realistic that it was hard to believe that they were hand-programmed. Virtua Fighter was a completely 3D game with an entirely new scope for videogame entertainment.
Every game made in 3D from this point in time on, whether it was Super Mario 64 or Halo: Combat Evolved, owed its existence to Yu Suzuki and AM2's research and investment in Virtua Fighter. Upon its release in November 1993, players were demanding a home version of this revolutionary game. If they could bring Space Harrier and Out Run to home systems soon after their arcade release, surely it could be done with Virtua Fighter, right?
Not really. Sega couldn't possibly hope to bring Virtua Fighter to the Genesis, certainly not in all its glory. It was a technical impossibility. Demand was so huge that they began to consider rushing forward their next home console, the CD-based Sega Saturn. Just over a year after the revolutionary arcade game launched, lucky Japanese fans were able to buy the Saturn with Virtua Fighter. The end of 1994 was huge for Sega's home console ambitions, but it was also the most incredible year of Yu Suzuki's arcade career. Sega's Model 2 arcade hardware was available and the first AM2 game for it, Virtua Cop, was bringing the light-gun genre to maturity.
While the Japanese Saturn was hitting shelves, Yu Suzuki's arcade masterpiece, Virtua Fighter 2, was arriving in arcades worldwide. The level of awe that was met with the original Virtua Fighter was doubled up for the sequel on Sega Model 2 arcade system. AM2's understanding of 3D graphics technology was advancing beyond previous limitations and the even newer hardware had provided Yu Suzuki with the chance to make the perfect fighting game. VF2 was the best balanced, most evenly matched, enjoyable and refined arcade game ever to be released. When coupled with enormous 50 inch screens and a sit-down cabinet, VF2 took Sega's already major presence in the arcade industry and turned it into utter domination overnight.
With Virtua Fighter 2 taking over the world's arcades and getting universal acclaim on the Sega Saturn with outstanding reviews across the board, Yu Suzuki's destiny was somewhat set in stone. Virtua Fighter was a bit like the Grand Theft Auto or Modern Warfare of the mid-1990s. It was everywhere. Everyone was playing it or wanted to play it, especially in Japan and Europe. Yu-san was given a new arcade hardware unit, Sega Model 3, to play with. After finishing the lacklustre Virtua Cop 2, he set about making the inevitable Virtua Fighter 3. He was eager to get back to designing more racing games, but Sega were insistent that he get his AM2 crowd behind this most important of sequels. They had their AM3 team working on Sega Rally, which was to become Sega's racing king in arcades. With Virtua Fighter the only thing Sega were truly interested in from Yu Suzuki, perhaps understandably so, he tried to fit in an idea of his to the franchise. He wanted to make a home game, a Virtua Fighter RPG. To keep him happy, Sega promised him a big budget to make this game as long as he continued making the Virtua Fighter main series. AM2 were finally going to make a game that was not initially for arcades. Yu Suzuki started writing the game's story and the name changed very quickly from Virtua Fighter RPG to Project Berkley. This was the beginning of Yu Suzuki's rise to worldwide superstardom...