Publisher:Sega Platform:Xbox 360 Price (as reviewed): 1200 MS Points
What could be better than taking control of a 50 feet tall metal robot with swords half its height and several target-seeking projectile weapons, being shoved into a massive arena with a similarly powered adversary, and being left to kick the utter crap out of each other in a high speed frenzy of violent arcade goodness? The answer is, of course, not much. They may look like they were painted at some kind of playschool art project, but these robots pack some awesome firepower. Welcome to the world of epic mechanical combat, Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram.
For those that are unfamiliar with Virtual On, it originated back in February ’95 in the arcades where its reputation for fast-paced action and Über fighting robots quickly gathered momentum. The robots or ‘virtuariods’ are designed by a chap named Hajime Katoki who was heavily involved in the beautifully animated Gundam series. The incredibly strong design style accompanied with biblical combat (I've not read the Bible but I'm pretty sure there's fighting robots in there somewhere, otherwise why would it be so popular?) ensured the arcade captured the hearts, imaginations and repetitive strain injuries of teems of arcade gamers.
Not long after, it was released on the Sega Saturn and a few years later on thebestconsoleevermade, also commonly referred to as the Sega Dreamcast. Now, after much anticipation, you can download it from Xbox Live for a mere 1200 points. Although a twin joystick peripheral (like the one seen on the original arcade and also Dreamcast) has not yet been made for the Xbox, you can make one Blue Peter-style as shown on Kotaku.
Much like any other beat’em up, you really need to have at least a basic grasp of the moves in order to get anything out of Virtual On. For this reason we’d recommend starting with the training section of the menu which consists of two parts, tutorial and practice.
The former shows a quick example of how to execute a move and shows the animation involved in doing so. Tutorials cover, for example, basic attacks, navigation and close combat fighting. Practice mode pits you against another mecha. Options are provided to have it stand still while you beat the crap out of it, or have it beat the crap out of you back. If you set the difficulty level to ‘hard’ you can absolutely expect the latter. Even in the 'normal' difficulty setting you are presented with a decent challenge and the level of AI on display is often surprising for such an old game.
In addition to training mode, you are also provided with a score attack mode which sees your huge mech kicking the crap out of your opponent for maximum points. As with any good fighting game, there is also a vs. mode. However unlike other fighting games and in an almost impossibly epic oversight, you can only play against another player online via Xbox Live Arcade or by linking two Xboxes together. So, even if you have two controllers and two human beings ready and able, you can’t play against one another on a single console. Clearly, this is akin to buying an Audi R8, lifting up the bonnet to admire the engine only to find a large, moist slice of Fail cake in its place. I mean, what good is a car with a slice of cake for an engine?
In meagre compensation to this lowest of blows, there are ranked vs. battles in which you can gain military inspired ranks such as Private 1st class and Sergeant General. The online vs. mode is an awesome touch to the game, and one that we didn’t have any trouble getting to work (aside from Joe spending an alarming amount of time trying on different dresses and eye-liner styles for our Xbox Live Avatar) but for the love of all that is technologically advanced in this world, the lack of regular offline vs. is a real humdinger.