Virtual On

Developer: Sega-AM3
Pubkisher: Sega

I remember the first time I saw this game in the arcades, I was mesmerized by the spectacular 3D graphics, they were bright, colorful fill explosions, the gameplay was fast and furious and I just loved the double-stick arcade cabinet, seriously I need to get a controller like that.

Unfortunately at the time I didn't have a Saturn and it wasn't until much later that I finally bought the console version but playing it today I don't enjoy it nearly as much as I did the arcade version back then.

Yes, the gameplay is still fast if a little jerky... but boy is it shallow, at its core, Virtua on is a 3D fighting game, but unlike other game of its genre there's really very little distinction between 'characters' or even a battle strategy, each mech has three attack styles in common, melee, a long ranged one and short range explosion, and finally they have a special move who's usefulness varies between characters, amidst all this you're able to move freely in a fairly open stage. That's it really, there's really not much more to it, the game is very fun for the first 15 minutes, but it gets old, by the time I beat the last boss with one character I was already sick of the game.

Doesn't help that there aren't even that many modes to it, arcade, versus and a 'ranking' mode in which you get a score depending how well you do, I suppose this last mode is the closest thing you get to replay value, but it still doesn't excuse the repetitive nature of the game.

Graphically the Saturn version is a bit of a mixed bag, the mechs and environments look pretty good enough, but the explosions and lasers look pretty awful, mostly due to the terrible transparency effects on these (Saturn fans are probably used to this).

Overall this is the sort of game that is fun in short bursts or when played with a friend, anything more than that and it just becomes a repetitive chore.

- Fast Gameplay
- Mechs and environments look pretty good by Saturn standards
- Fun in short bursts
- Gameplay is pretty repetitive
- Very few game modes
- Explosions look pretty bad
- Occasional jerkiness
- The game is called 'Virtual On'...what does that even mean? Is the game only virtually on?

 Final Grade: D

The game comes in one of those early flimsy Saturn boxes, moreover it features yet another mid 90's CGI cover of our mechs in a standard, boring pose, at least the fact that they're not humans helps disguise the CGI flaws.

As for the manual, I'm honestly baffled by it, it's over 100 pages long... but it says very little, you get a little background information on the setting and each mech and then rest of it is just padding... lots and lots of padding it tells you everything about the game, it's options, modes, screens, everything, I know that this is what a manual is supposed to do, but a lot of the explanations just seem so needlessly drawn out, I'd understand the need for this if this were a strategy game, an RPG or a simulator, but on a fast paced arcade fighting game? Hell, you barely got any instructions on the arcade cabinet, regardless, if you're a huge fan of Virtual On, you might enjoy reading the manual.

Packaging Grade: D+


  1. A D-ranked game, huh? But it has mechs in it, so according to my sliding scale it's an A++++. Squared.

    Actually, IIRC there was an Xbox Live release of this game a little while ago -- and while it sounded awesome on paper, I think that reviews mentioned the same problems you did. Kind of a shame, but I guess it can't be helped. If nothing else, I'd assume that it made for one awesome arcade experience -- alongside The Simpsons arcade game, I hope.

    1. I love mech games as well, unfortunately Virtua On isn't the strongest in its genre.

      And yeah, it's strange, but the Xbox 360 is the only console to feature all of the games in the Virtua On franchise in its library.

      If sega were to launch a physical compilation of all games I'd buy it day one, yeah they're not very good, but I still enjoy them in short bursts.

      Besides, as you said, mechs are awesome

  2. I guess this just proves that games with mechs don't necessarily have to be good.

  3. I agree with you, it does get repetitive. I found it really fun the few times I was able to play it in the arcades though.