Before Shaheen There Was (Almost) Siba

Shaheen, a fighter hailing from the scorching deserts of Saudi Arabia, brings in a new cultural representation to the Tekken universe, and it’s refreshing to see new types of characters. While the reveal of Shaheen may have surprised a few, this isn’t first time we’ve seen the Middle East get some representation in major fighting games. Street Fighter IV introduced the excessively oiled up Hakan, representing his country Turkey. Tekken 6 also introduced a female assassin Zafina, who was Egyptian. Still, having a pure Arabian fighter in the form of Shaheen feels relatively new, but still not the first time we’ve seen a fighter of Arab descent in a 3D fighter. It almost happened back in 1993, when the very first Virtua Fighter — which was also the very first 3D fighting game — changed the gaming world.

Virtua Fighter featured a roster of eight combatants and a bonus boss battle against Dural, all of which have become iconic and recognizable, and recently guest starring in Dead or Alive games. Prototype materials for the game will show you different and mostly silly names for the characters, but they also reveal that there was one character that almost made it to the final build, an Arab fighter by the name of Siba.

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Siba (Fighters Megamix)

What’s fascinating is that Siba almost took the spot of the franchise’s protagonist and poster fighter: Akira Yuki. That’s right, we almost didn’t get one of gaming’s most masterful and legendary fighters. It was a last minute decision to ax Siba in favor for a brilliant recreation of the Hakkyokuken style of martial arts that Akira offered .

Siba never appeared playable in any of the canonical Virtua Fighter games–not even in the 10th Anniversary tribute disc that shipped with Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution— and probably never will. Gamers still, however, had one opportunity to battle as this lost Arab warrior in the SEGA Saturn only Fighters Megamix.

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Shaheen (left) and Siba (right)

Siba appeared for the first and only time in Fighters Megamix as a secret boss character, fitting for a game that was all about assembling a wide cast of popular and highly obscure SEGA characters in an all-stars tournament. Siba’s hand-to-hand combat approach vaguely resembles that of Akira’s, but with its own nuances. Unlike other Virtua Fighter characters, however, Siba brought a sword to the fight and dished out some swift and high damage blows. His choice of bringing a blade almost seemed like it was done in protest over him being banned from the inaugural World Fighting Tournament in Virtua Fighter. Swinging his sword for some easy K.Os in Fighters Megamix was Siba’s way of sticking it to Virtua Fighter and its no-weapon policy.

Siba may forever be known as the lost Virtua Fighter combatant, but at least his legacy will live on in some form when Shaheen makes his way in Tekken 7. Virtua Fighter and Tekken were always big rivals, and it’s interesting to see Tekken righting some wrongs of its competition nearly 23 years later.