||Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram
We're turning Japanese I really think so - Review By Subskin
Once you get used to the frantic gameplay, though, you're in for a treat. VO:OT demands strategy and hand-eye coordination to really put down your enemy. Limping away to a corner with your last bit of energy is humiliating, but launching a squadron of heat-seeking missles to even up the damage is more than satisfying. Personally, I still prefer traditional one-on-one fighting games like Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive 2. Virtual On 2, though, provides a great alternate way to beat the snot out of your friends.
The red arrows points toward your enemy when they're off-screen. Quite useful.
First of all, the storyline is confusingly Japanese. Reading the background story is a laughable experience at best, and a migraine headache at worst. Then again, who cares? All you have to know is how to move and kill.
And that's another problem: movement. Virtual On was designed for two joysticks with multiple triggers on each. To walk sideways you moved both sticks that direction. To spin, you had to press one joystick forward and the other backward, creating a clockwise or counter-clockwise walking motion. Since that functionality cannot be duplicated on a Dreamcast pad, in VO:OT you cannot walk and spin at the same time.
To get the same effect on the Japanese DC, Sega released the Twin Stick peripheral, which closely mimicked the arcade experience. For the U.S. version, Activision avoided the high cost of producing or importing the twin sticks. Since the Dreamcast controller is incapable of accurately recreating the movements of its Japanese counterpart, there are five control types to choose from. They try to sumulate the ability to walk and turn, by allowing you to hold down a button to switch from strafe to spin. Needless to say, it's just not the same. If you can get the Twin Sticks, do so by any means necessary. You may get used to the awkwardness of the DC controller, but you'll never accept it as equal to the Twin Sticks.
Boom! The weapon effects rock.
We're also missing the netplay feature that was in the Japanese version. By all accounts, playing VO:OT on the net is an enjoyable, nearly lag-free experience. Activision chose to remove this from the American release, leaving only a split-screen mode. Let me tell you something: split-screen isn't going to cut it much longer. Breaking a 27" TV into two 13.5" ones is a recipe for squinting and sneaking peeks at your opponent's viewpoint. While VO:OT provides a nice two-player experience, netplay is necessary. If Quake III were to come split-screen only, I'd use it as a pizza cutter.
Lastly, the maps in Virtual On are kind of weak. I've heard many people rave about the bright lights and huge playing fields. Nonetheless, these are pretty much just big, plain squares with a few blocks here and there. You can hide behind or jump on top of them, but that's about it. There are undersea and space battles, but they're not exactly mind-blowing. It's clear that the focus in VO:OT is on the brilliant character design, with the levels just there to give you ground to stand on.
The Final Word
Virtual On: Oratario Tangram is a great game with stunning graphics. The gameplay is nicely balanced, and the computer puts up a good enough fight to keep you involved after your friends leave. The lack of Twin Sticks and netplay, however, severely hurt its playability and replayability, respectively. VO:OT is a keeper, but it could have been so much more.
Highs: 60 frames per second of highly detailed, mech beatin' fun.
Lows: Awkward control on the DC controller, loss of twin sticks and netplay.
Other: 1-2 players, VMU compatible (main save takes 4 blocks, replays take from 2 to 130), Jump Pack compatible.
Gameplay 1 (MPEG) - Fighting the mid-boss, and winning by a hair. [Med (3.8M)] - [Small (834K)]
Gameplay 2 (MPEG) - Tangram, the final boss. My lack of skillz is quite evident. [Med (6.1M)] - [Small (1.3M)]
Gameplay 3 (MPEG) - Multiplayer: Angelan vs. Specineff. [Med (5.7M)] - [Small (1.2M)]
Gameplay 4 (MPEG) - Multiplayer: Specineff vs. Cypher. [Med (6.7M)] - [Small (1.4M)]
(out of a possible 10)
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