Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram is a stupendous sequel

Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram
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Sega’s Virtual On will always have a place in my heart as one of my all-time favorite Saturn titles. It also is a title responsible for me spending a lot of money at the local Dave & Buster’s a few years ago. It is such a simple game to get into, yet a challenge to master. True one-on-one mech combat against another human opponent is now possible, and as a result, long lines were common. It was just as much fun to watch a battle as it was to play.

Pictures of Virtual On Oratorio Tangram (henceforth known as Virtual On 2) were posted in several magazines last year, and I vowed anything to play it. Unfortunately, the arcade game never arrived in the States, a mystery that puzzles me to this day. Even worse, there were no plans by Sega to release it for the Dreamcast. The situation looked grim for many a VO fan.

That is, until Activision announced at the beginning on the year that they would license Virtual On 2 for the Dreamcast, and thank God they kept their word, because finally we get the sequel that fans have demanded.

VO2’s combat is the same as before. Two anime-style mechs fight it out in a simple arena, both surface and space-based. Each mech carries three different standard range weapons, several melee weapons, and a special attack. But new to VO2 is the ability to supercharge each of these attacks.

Each of the available arenas are littered with obstacles to take cover from direct blasts, but don’t really protect well from splash damage. Strategy takes a heavy toll in using your mech to its full potential.

For a title that is fully optimized for one-on-one combat with another opponent, I was both pleased and disappointed. The versus mode is done quite well. Where the original VO incorporated both a vertical and horizontal split screen feature (which unfortunately cut off one of the axes), VO2 provides two smaller screens to accompany both players, and although it will be a pain on a small 13-inch TV, it works well for anything above 17 inches.

The disappointment factor comes in for the fact that there is no play via the Internet. Considering the original VO had a special NetLink enhanced version, I don’t see why Net capablities are not added here.

As for the control, the arcade game used a dual set of joysticks similar to the ones used in Battlezone. Since these controls aren’t available here, we have to use the standard DC pad, which I have no problem using at all. The triggers fire each hand weapon (pressing both fires the center weapon), the A button guards, Y jumps, the X and B buttons control left and right thrusters respectively, the D-pad handles leg movement, and the analog pad controls turning (however jumping or firing after thrust will automatically center on your foe).

Since VO2 was an earlier Model 3 title, you can easily see the simplicity in the arena settings. They aren’t really much to brag about, but the mechs themselves are very detailed. And since it runs at a constant 60 fps (even in versus mode), it looks as good as it plays.

I only wish that Sega and Activision could offer Internet gameplay, as this is one title that could easily take advantage of it. On the other hand, it is a great title for two people to get involved with, and the deep combat engine warrants an excellent 4 1/2 Gem rating. Now, Sega, about that Net play"

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