Don’t get things mixed up: Cyber Troopers Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram is not a virtual tangram simulator. It’s one of Sega’s most beloved arcade fighting games, only with robots… and crazy captions. VOOT for short, it began its run on arcades in Japan in 1998, getting a Dreamcast port shortly after. Not to be fooled by the extra version number, this Xbox Live Arcade port doesn’t stray far from the original.
[image1]The big deal with Virtual On back in the day was its dual analog controls. Remember, back in the 1990s, there was only a handful of games that employed the concept of moving with one stick and aiming/turning with the other. Virtual On took it to the next level, using a complex control layout on top of the dual analog setup that went as far as Sega actually putting out a special controller just for this game’s Dreamcast port. The transition from this special controller to the 360’s dual analog, rumble-supported pad might seem rocky to veterans of the series, and confusing and clunky to newcomers.
While there are different button placement options for various tastes, controlling your mech still feels more cumbersome than necessary at points. Most of the mech models, or VR (short for VirtuaRoids), are nimble and make up a bit in speed, while others just don’t. They also have the ability to boost sideways and jump to the air, but the aiming and firing feels stiff, due to the less-than-smooth synergy between both analog sticks, one aiming and turning your bot and the other actually moving it. On most occasions, you won’t see a difference between shots that land and damage your opponent, and shots that don’t. On the upside, melee hits make up for this with highly satisfying close quarters hits.
[image2]Playing VOOT by yourself gets boring quickly, due to the dumb and cheap computer-controlled opponents. Some simply stand around letting themselves get hit over and over again, acting out an intelligence script that repeats itself ad nauseam, while others are the cheapest bots this side of Captain Commando. That’s especially evident with hidden characters like Ajim, who have moves that take about 80% of a VR’s life bar.
The real fun of Virtual On is the multiplayer mode, and getting to play with friends or strangers over Xbox Live. The game is virtually (*cough*) lag-free in online matches, and button-mashing bouts with friends are still remain as enjoyable as ever. There is a lot of depth to be found in VOOT, and playing online, like in most fighting games, is the best way to discover it.
[image3]It’s worth mentioning how smooth the visuals look in high definition. While none of the robots or environments stand out in terms of detail, the rich colors and sharpness more than make up for it, with little to no slowdown. A lot of the presentation from the Dreamcast version of the game also made the jump heere intact, with a VMU and console here and there thrown in menus and even in the mechs themselves.
There’s no denying Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram has a lot of charm – it’s a robot fighting game. While the controls could’ve been less finicky, there’s certainly something special about going against your friends on Xbox Live and just button mashing just for the hell of it. Seeing Sega’s treatment of their arcade franchises lately is starting to give us hope that more and more beloved franchises will make the jump over to the current generation. If Virtual On and OutRun Arcade Online are any indication, the future is certainly something to get excited about.