a big fan of competitive Sega Arcade games. Until the day I die, I will fight
for the recognition that the Virtua Fighter series deserves. All you Namcophiles
can take your Tekkens and Soul Whatevers
and go play in traffic, because Virtua Fighter is the true art, and as we all
know, there can be only one. In
fact, if you’re feeling especially saucy,
you can… never mind. I’ll deal with you people later.
to our regularly scheduled program.
Troopers Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram (VO:OT) is the next installment of the
Virtual On franchise and can easily set standards for both visual detail and
title lengths. The premise couldn’t be simpler…you choose a giant robot
(called a virtuaroid…you feel like a Godzilla extra just saying
it, don’t you?), then you beat the life out of another giant robot.
This is all done from a third-person perspective, and occasionally you take on a
boss to break the monotony.
that monotony is usually stronger than the diversions in place to alleviate it.
This is mainly the result of two factors, one being control, and the second
depth. But before I get bombarded by fanboy e-mail berating my capabilities as a
reviewer and lack of appreciation for subtle, grandiose gameplay, I ask you to
take a deep breath. Then let it out while saying: ‘He
is not implying that my life lacks meaning simply because I spend ungodly
amounts of time memorizing every last movement of a polygonal robot…which is
really just me in front of a television with a gray piece of plastic with a
slightly glazed and decidedly vacant expression on my face.’ Feel
better? I do. Anyway, spending an extra four or five hours desperately searching
for elusive depth in a game simply because some guy in your favorite Sega
diehard newsgroup said it deserves to be recognized is slightly less ignorant than
telling the police officer your real name. But you’ll figure that out after
you get your driver’s license. You know who you are.
reason this game lacks depth is simply because most of the matches boil down to
an insane battle of turbo-boosting all over the arena while unleashing one of
your three available attacks in the vain hope that your opponent will either
stop moving or change direction in time for your trailing projectiles to nail
them. You see, there are three offensive techniques, and the attacks they
generate depend on which direction you are headed on the horizontal plane. But
only a handful of vectors have this altering ability, and half of this game is
learning which one of the resulting maneuvers is most appropriate for the
distance and motion of your target. While this is very strategic on paper, when
you’re in the midst of a match, the only thing really on your mind is
attempting to avoid the copious amounts of unfriendly fire and praying that when
you do decide to fire, the
automatic targeting is sufficient. Sure there are some sad people out there with
nothing better to do than figure out and author detailed faqs regarding each of
these moves and their implementation, but at the end of that road is the
depressing realization that not a single person you know will be even slightly
interested in playing with you a game that required a week of study just to
obtain an intermediate skill level with a single character. Assuming, of course, they are even willing
to pick up the controller after you demonstrate the manner in which it will be
is, of course, the first problem I had with the game. You see, VO:OT is an
arcade game first and foremost, and designed for use with a dual-stick control
that was part of the arcade cabinet. The control schemes provided for the
standard controller are passable as input methods, but wholly inadequate if you
wish to experience the same ease of use provided by most fighting games. Note
that I said most, because as of
yet, no way has been discovered to make any
Toshinden title even remotely
playable. The Dreamcast peripheral for use with VO:OT (called Twinsticks)
is nearly impossible to locate unless you are willing to pay through the nose
because it was only released in Japan. Partly because of the prohibitive cost,
but mostly because it’s useless for any other game and Americans generally
don’t leap at the chance to pay an extra $60-100 just to make one $50 game
worthwhile. So it appears they dumped VO:OT on us to make a few bucks off of the
hardcore community and the handful of suckers who didn’t know what they were
in for until it was too late. Needless to say, the plan didn’t reach the
‘assume control of the free world’ stage if the bargain bins are any
this is a true shame because, underneath it all, there is a viable engine that
could have been very enjoyable. There is also the astounding graphical prowess
to consider, and I mean prowess in the raw, king of the jungle,
take-no-prisoners polygon rendering way that only the best programmers are able
to provide. VO:OT makes me want to suffer through the painful control and
monotonous play just to see the winning poses, despite the absence of the female
form, which is usually the only way to achieve that reaction. It’s also the
only reason to ever use Cammy in a Street Fighter game, and anyone who’s tried
it will back me up on that.
for the sound…eh. It was there, in the same sense as my hangover is there the
next morning. At first it’s something new reminding you that you’re alive,
followed closely by being something unpleasant, and ending finally as a
lifestyle feature you just don’t notice anymore. The black coffee of this
scenario being the remote control, I suggest you brew a fresh pot and take the
volume down a tad. Unless you revel in hearing your neighbors and, by extension
through my precarious analogy; VO:OT’s music, through your fillings. Which is
the other had, you could just as easily give your fillings a break to do the
more important things like punish you for chewing ice, and leave this game in
the store. It’s not that you can’t derive pleasure from a little virtuaroid
action, I just don’t know how you would at this point. If there were Twinsticks
or cerebral implants available in the US for use with the Dreamcast, then it
would have scored higher. As it stands, it’s another in a long series of
arcade games that have been shoehorned onto a console to make a buck.
Load times aren’t too bad, though there are a couple intro
This would have been an 8 or higher if the Twinsticks could
be used (could I harp on this a bit more?). Unfortunately, you have to suffer
with the five pre-set schemes. The control is still responsive, it’s just
nearly impossible to make it feel natural. The move lists are also far too
Wow. Almost rivals Soul Calibur, except that it’s not as
difficult to make metal objects seem real as it is for flesh. However,
considering that this was a first-generation DC game, I’m impressed.
Dull and repetitious sound effects, with a soundtrack easily
This relationship is the inverse of that seen under ‘gameplay.’
If the Twinsticks were available
(apparently I can harp even more),
this would be lower. Significantly.
Robots fighting? Methinks this may have been done before.
Still, the designs are tight, and the idea sound.
If you can find someone willing to sweat and toil as much as yourself at
perfecting their skills, this is one hell of a two-player game. If you can’t,
it’s money far better spent on (-gratuitous Activision plug coming…) Tony
Hawk 2 or the upcoming Spider-man.