" I was a weird combination of turned on and put out... "
Title: Virtual On by Activision
Format: DC Fighter
Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult
The Hype: Virtual On, arguably the game that brought big robot combat to arcade greatness and unarguably one of the biggest coin-op games of all time finally lands on the console. Activision worked hard to try and pack everything from the arcade into that little disk…Some of which they shouldn’t have.
What This Monkey Thought...
Graphics: When I first started playing I was a weird combination of turned on and put out by the graphics… They’re pretty solid and decently rendered, but have serious clipping issues and are kinda off in the color scheme department. They also lack any real texturing. Then, suddenly, I realized that basically I’m seeing the exact same graphics that are in the arcade! In some ways that’s great- because it makes the experience more authentic. However, the game came out like four years ago so it’s a bit behind the times. 3 out of 5
Sound: Again, the sound comes straight from the arcade version. Overall, that’s okay because they’re nice and anime-sci-fi-ish…I really would have loved some ramped up effects to use the DC’s stereo sound. The music also could have used some help. 3 out of 5
Game Play: Now, this is an odd area to comment on- and I’ll tell you why. Well, first I’ll say that the engine and design, again, were taken straight from the arcade-, which is cool. Slide around, use various weapons, and blow the Monkey Dung out of each other. Really, as far as that goes, it’s all good. The weird part comes in the interface. The controls, as far as form and function, were snatched straight out of the arcade. Normally that’s not bad, but Virtual On was designed for use with a 2 stick and 4-button tank-style interface. Knowing that, Activision decided that if it used 2 sticks in the arcade it should use 2 sticks at home. So, rather than change some of the vital directional controls to the diamond patterned buttons (like just about every FPS has ever done on console) they put one stick as directional movement and the other as rotation. Now, in case that isn’t exactly clear to you, it means if you want to move left, right, forward, or back you use 1 stick. If you want to turn to face your opponent (as there is no automatic facing), however, you have to take your thumb off the first and use the other (since the Dream Cast does not have 2 dual thumb analog sticks like the Playstation). The result is that it is virtually impossible to move effectively. It is definitely impossible to do fun things like move and face your target at the same time. And, of course, as if to put that final nail in the coffin, the control setup only gives you a choice of 4 pre-programmed designs- all of which suck like a whino on a keg spout, so you can’t even reprogram them yourself. We here in the office spent hours on that game trying to get the hang of it and no one could. What’s more, we all agreed that a few minor changes to the controller would have made it just fine. I guess this is what happens when the development team doesn’t let anyone else beta test their set-ups. Frankly, for us, the controls are bad enough that it took the game from the "play it all the time" pile into the "what a waste of a great idea" pile. 3 out of 5
Level and Environment Designs: The levels, again, are straight from the arcade. Basically, big open arenas with some barriers to hide behind, skid around, and jump on top of. 3 out of 5
Multiplayer: Ah, the second reason to rant on Virtual On. Multiplayer is done via vertical split screen-, which is just fine. Not fine, however, is that, rather than make each side rectangular (as is normal) they limited the viewable area to basically a square. So, instead of each player getting a nice 20x12 or so inch screen, they get a wee 12x12. Even on the big ass TV we have here in the office it felt like you were playing on a Game Boy. It sucked ass, it made us angry, and it made us never want to play it multiplayer again. 2 out of 5
Replayability: Well, if you can get past the crappy controls and multiplayer I guess you could want to play it more…We, honestly, gave up. 2 out of 5
Story/Dramatics: Really, there just aren’t any. Basically, it’s a fighting game with big robots. What more do you want? 2 out of 5
Instructions and Learning Curve: The instructions are just fine and they do tell you how to play. As for the learning curve…We still haven’t gotten to the top of it. 3 out of 5
Installation and Real System Requirements: Does run well on a DC with little load time. Graphics sure could have been sharper, though. 3 out of 5
What could have been a great game was thrown to a horrible, messy, and foul smelling death by lack of beta testing. Though, if you’ve got the right joystick it’s a solid 3 out of 5.
The Good: Faithful to the arcade.
The Bad: The controls and multiplayer experience KILLS it.
The Overall Ugly: Maybe it would be better on a joystick or a dual thumb analog setup….
What it's Worth: Nothing unless you have the right joystick.