There was always a quality that Virtua Fighter had that seemed to always push it up to the top of my playlist. Sure, there was the depth, there was the control, there was the awesome visuals, but there was something else that seemed to escape me. Then, I picked up Soul Calibur again, and found it.
A lot of people (i.e. Tekken fans) complain that VF is too stiff. Moves don't naturally flow into one another and make the characters seem unresponsive compared to Tekken or Soul Calibur. This same complaint is laid out for DOA on occasion, but for now let's stick to Tekken and VF.
There is a reason for that. Yes, people, it was a conscious attempt by AM2 to make VF 'stiff'. This is to prevent 'accidental execution'. As I mentioned, I played Soul Calibur recently, and found myself frustrated that I'd be executing another move instead of the move I wanted to.
That doesn't sound right, but let me explain. I choose Mitsurugi and dash forward by double tapping forward. I press Y (oops, Dreamcast control scheme, bear with me) twice, wanting to perform Mitsurugi's basic vertical combo. Instead, I perform a rising slash (non-technical SC terminology, I know, but I'm sure SC players get it). What happened?
Fighting games program in a certain leniency when it comes to executing attacks, so when I want a Dragon Punch, I don't need to tap Forward, Down, Down-Forward with clockwork precision. It allows for a bit of human error, otherwise all fighting games would be nigh unplayable.
Namco programs in a good deal of this leniency (Eddy Gordo, I'm looking at you) to allow beginners to get to grips with the controls, and still have fun kicking some butt. Sega AM2 on the other hand, created a much, much stricter window for Virtua Fighter. This creates frustration in a new player, because it is harder to 'discover' a character's movelist. This is probably why VF has mainly tap-tap moves. But then, this tighter window for execution means that there are rarely cases where you go, 'Hey, I didn't wanna do that, I wanted to do this!' For a master VF player, every move has to be deliberate, and the game's genius lies in the system's ability to discern if a player executes a tap-tap move after a forward dash. This allows for buffering, a concept that VF inherited from Street Fighter (remember the two-in-ones), to be a major part of strategy, and advanced VF players have learned to anticipate opponents 2 or 3 moves in advance (including the Throw escape system mentioned in previous posts) much like chess players often do. The way some of those expert Japanese VF players move though... even I can't believe what they are capable of.
Couple that with VF's much more intuitive movelists, sense of momentum, counter and stagger system, and you've got my reasons why I adore VF over Tekken. There is a definite learning curve to VF, but once you've hurdled that... man, oh man, it's HARD to go back.
Before you think I've got too much VF on my brain, I played a lot more of Tekken 1 than VF2 in the arcade.