We check out an import version of the game that takes Sega's arcade franchise to the PlayStation 2.
We received an import copy of Virtual On Marz today. The game, which uses characters from Sega's Virtual On arcade series, was first shown off at last year's Tokyo Game Show. Unlike the first two arcade games in the series, which were one-on-one fighters, Virtual On Marz features a traditional mission-based structure that includes elements from the third Virtual On game, Virtual On Force. We fired up the import to see how the game finally came together.
You'll find three main game modes: dramatic, challenge, and versus. Dramatic is a single-player mission-based mode that is tied together by a narrative. You'll collect items that will unlock new virtuaroids that you can use. Challenge is a single-player mode that's essentially a series of battles broken up with boss fights. It features the added gameplay element of an AI-controlled support virtuaroid that helps you during battles. You'll be able to perform combo attacks with your AI partner that are reminiscent of the attacks seen in Virtual On Force. Versus is a two-player mode that lets you take on a friend in a split-screen fight. The multiplayer combat is a bit more complicated than in the Virtual On arcade games, due to the fact that both players will select an AI support virtuaroid for the fight. The roster of virtuaroids we've seen so far includes a number of familiar faces from the Virtual On games, such as Temjin, Raiden, Apharmd, Fei-Yen, Specinef, and a variation of Angelyne. You'll find new virtuaroids thrown into the mix as well.
The gameplay in Virtual On Marz is pretty straightforward. In the dramatic mode, you'll be briefed on what to do--it usually involves destroying all enemies in an area--and sent into a level. An onscreen radar will direct you to enemies and serve as a compass when you're trying to make your way around a level. Making it through a mission is a bit of a challenge, due to the game's control scheme. Every virtuaroid will have the same basic abilities--three attacks, a dash, and the ability to jump--but their ability to execute those maneuvers will vary according to their individual size and weight. While you'll find several control options to choose from, including two variations using the PlayStation 2's analog sticks as stand-ins for the twin-stick control system used in the arcade and Dreamcast games, the control isn't as responsive as we'd like.
The graphics in the game are a bit inconsistent. The virtuaroids look good and retain the clean look that's been a hallmark of the series. The special effects and explosions in the game are solid and suitably impressive, although they aren't as dramatic as those seen in the fighting games. The environments we've seen so far are a bit less impressive, featuring basic design and conservative detail. The frame rate is fairly solid in the single-player game, but it's a bit inconsistent in split-screen play.
The audio in Virtual On Marz draws heavily on the voice, music, and sound effects used in the previous entries in the series. So far, we've heard quite of few familiar tunes, remixed or sped up to some degree, in the game. Fans of the series will also recognize many of the sound effects and voice effects.
From what we've seen so far, Virtual On Marz looks like a solid action game, albeit with some quirky controls. Look for more on the import version shortly. Virtual On Marz is currently slated to ship this fall for the PlayStation 2 in the US.