Virtual-On Force lacks mechs-appeal

We recently took a look at Choatic: Shadow Warriors – an Xbox 360 card-based RPG released only in the US, but import friendly due to being region-free. Feedback about the article was positive so this month we’re going to look at another region-free Xbox 360 game not released in Europe – Sega’s Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Force from 2010.

Sega has never had much faith in the Virtual-On series outside of Japan. The Saturn original made it to Europe but it sold poorly, even by Sega Saturn standards. Sega let Activision publish the Dreamcast sequel in the US while Virtual On: Marz on PlayStation 2 was again denied a European release. It’s not surprising then that nobody other than the Japanese received Virtual-On Force.

It’s a conversion of a 2001 arcade game and boy does it show – there were better looking games on the original Xbox. It’s not creatively redundant however – the mech designs are instantly likeable, including a robotic Asian maid and a skeletal robot with a huge metallic ribcage.

Battles take place in small areas which have a few obstacles randomly placed to use as cover. Two teams of two battle it out with an AI controlled robot playing alongside you. You can shoot, melee, throw grenades, and also fly in the air and shoot while airborne. Controls feel sluggish at first but it would seem that their sluggishness is on purpose to add a degree of strategy. If you boost and miss your target then there’s a short period of time before you’re back on your feet, which thus leaves you open to attack.

Your AI buddy learns as you play, gaining an IQ boost at the end of each battle. You can also give it commands, although we have no idea what these are due to the language barrier. The menus are easy to navigate in Japanese, thankfully. We managed to create a character and play through the tutorial without too much hassle.

The arcade mode only takes around 20 minutes to finish but there are extra modes to play though and extras to unlock. Even though the game is a few years old and a Japanese-exclusive there are still people playing online. We managed to get into a game straight away, much to our surprise. This suggests that Virtual-On series has a bigger cult following than anybody previously imagined.

If Sega had released this over here in 2010 then it would have reviewed poorly – it’s game of niche appeal that feels dated. No doubt reviewers would have only recommended it for the easy achievements – after two hours of play we had already gained over 500G. Unlocking all 1000G only takes around 5 hours apparently. Incidentally, if you pre-ordered the Japanese version you were treated to an exclusive item that increased the size of the bust of the two female mechs. Really, Sega?

A copy of will set you back about £30 on the likes of eBay. Considering Cyber Troopers Virtual-On OT is available on Xbox Live Arcade for 1,200 MSP it’s even harder to recommend. Not Sega’s greatest moment.

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