Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

Goodbye Cyber Troopers: Virtual On

February 28, 2015

A brief bit of history, growing up my father was very big on PC games. He played everything from Wolfenstein 3D to the space sims like the long forgotten “The Last Dynasty“. there was no shortage of the types of genres that my sister and I were privy to. We were introduced to almost every genre that was available. I still remember my sister poking around in point and click adventure title called “Robot City” and the hours she and I would spend trying to solve a murder of a scientist in a city ran by robots who all happened to follow the Asimov’s Law (the law of robotics that basically stipulate that a robot can not harm a human being”.

Out of all the genres we experiences, none was as influential in my development as a gamer as the Mech genre did. In the early 90’s, Mech games were a fairly big deal especially on Personal Computers. My Father had several games that ranged from the venerated ‘MechWarrior‘ franchise and it’s expansions to the lesser know just as good ‘EarthSiege‘. I’ve forgotten what age I was but I still vividly remember how much awe and amazement I was in  watching my Dad pilot the lumbering mechanical beasts of destruction.

The sound of the calm A.I. alerting him that his machine and it’s armaments were online, warning him when he was nearly out of ammo on mid combat, my eyes would widen in pure excitement as I watched him calmly cycle through his weapons and tear down his opponents with a hails of missile fire and eviscerate anyone that got in his way with barrages of laser fire that would light up the screen and sound as amazing as it looked. To my young mind, MechWarrior and EarthSiege were in a class of their own, in terms of action that is. The landscapes my father waged war in were usually flat, never-ending plains or deserts  or dark gray canyons, just very drab and depressing but worked perfectly in terms of atmosphere. I mean this was war on a massive scale, you were too busy watching your radar as your Fifteen meter robot slowly marched across alien landscapes. It all made sense, that’s the way Mech games should be right?

                                                                     Doesn’t look much now but this was amazing back in the day

Or so I thought.

It’s several years later and my father had just bought a new Compaq computer. I had just come back from school when he called me to his office. As I neared him, I heard very unfamiliar sound effects along with very unfamiliar music that was unusually cheerful sounding. By the time I had gotten to the corner of my father’s office my curiosity  was in overdrive. It wasn’t until my eyes witnessed what was on his monitor that my young adolescent mind was suddenly blown apart.

On his screen there were two brightly colored  machines jetting around firing off bolts of even more brightly colored  laser beams and projectiles at one another. The arena they battled though tiny in comparison to the maps that were present in MechWarrior, were brightly lit. Despite the arena size you could tell these machines were huge in scale because the obstacles they y dodged behind for cover to escape one another’s onslaught were buildings..

My father had just introduced me to Virtual On  and the the world of Japanese giant robots and inadvertently began my life long obsession with the genre.

The Raiden Unloading some beams on an enemy. This was my Dad's favored machine.

The Raiden Unloading some beams on Temjin. This was my Dad’s favored machine.

After years of watching my old man mow down other slow moving machines, it was absolutely engrossing to witness him fighting a machine one on one while literally flying around an arena non-stop. ‘Virtual On ‘became an integral step in my development and growth as a gamer. It opened me up to an alternative take on a genre for which I was only familiar with on one side.

‘Virtual On’ was an extremely popular arcade game released in Japanese arcades by Sega back in 1995. The game saw subsequent releases for the Sega Saturn and PC several years down the line. The first version of the game, which was ported to PC’s in America and Japan was titled ‘Cyber Troopers Virtual On- Operation Moon Gate’. The plot of ‘VOOM‘ was not unlike the that of the 80’s cult film ‘The Last Starfighter‘.

You, the player is playing an arcade game but is unwittingly  actually controlling their machine. The arcade machine itself was sent from the future to seek out players who were capable of controlling the giant robots or ‘Virtuaroids’ as they were called in game. Virtuaroids came in all sorts of shapes and colors there were some that looked reminiscent of Western Mecha with an emphasis on firepower over speed. Some that were references to other Japanese Mecha like the famous ‘Mobile Suit Gundam’ and what Japanese game would be complete without a school girl themed robot?

The "Fei Yen"

The “Fei Yen” very small, very fast and very cute!

The ‘Virtual On’ series has a storied history that might not get to continue on. Sega’s recent layoffs and refocusing on the PC and Mobile Phone market instead of game consoles and arcades has a long time ‘Virtual On’ fan like myself very worried. I’ve done my best to follow the series through it’s paces. From the awesome sequel “Oratario Tangram” to the not so awesome “Virtual On:Marz“,  even going as far as to import ‘Virtual On: Force’ for the Xbox 360 . As a long time fan, I’ve done my best to keep up with the series and it’s community which is still very active both here and in Japan.

Despite not having a sequel to ‘Force’ in years, ‘Virtual On’ is still celebrated in Japan. The Virtuaroids have had crossovers into other games like the famous Super Robot Wars  series of strategy role playing games that feature different Mecha from different Japanese anime and video-games taking on various enemies from their respective TV shows. In fact Super Robot Wars: UX which is available on the Nintendo 3DS in Japan has a crossover within a crossover in the form of a Hatsune Miku version of the Fei-Yen (the pink mecha pictured above).

                                                                                           Hatsune Miku “Fei-Yen”

With Sega slowly looking like it’s going to close it’s doors on console gaming, I can’t help but worry about what will happen to the games that jump started my love for Japanese giant robots. Like I said earlier, there hasn’t been a new ‘Virtual On’ in nearly a decade, with ‘Force’ being released to arcades in 2001 and receiving a Japan-only Xbox 360 port several years later. Things don’t exactly look well for the series but one could hope that someone at Sega  remembers ‘Cyber Troopers: Virtual On’, because the fans will always remember to “Get Ready”.

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