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Mini Review: Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram & TriggerHeart Exelica enhanced

A double bill this week as I don’t really think they warrant a review each. The 2 games have had several iterations released by now so most people who are interested would have played them by now.

I’ll start with Exelica.

Triggerheart Exelica Enhanced is the PS2 version of the game which is now 3 years old!! It also happens to be the 3rd version I own as I have both the previous dreamcast and Xbox live versions. I’m guessing that this is meant to be the definitive version, hence the “Enhanced” in the title and it has had a makeover. The most noticable difference between the PS2 and the previous versions are a new anime opening, completely redone story mode which now includes far more speech and cutscenes and finally, the ablility to play as Faintear, the antagonist in the game which you can battle several times during the game, assuming you’re good enough. (they redid the story to make the evil one a clone tho. That was never really expressed in the dreamcast version).

Mode wise, Enhanced follows the Dreamcast version more closely, with arcade, practice and story mode included. The Story mode now goes into much more detail about the plot with lots of dialogue and scenes which are completely lost on the player unless they can understand japanese. The scenes are also REALLY LONG!!!

The main enhancement is the ability to play as Faintear. To differentiate her from the 2 other leads, Exelica and Crueltear, she was given a very powerful main weapon in the form of lasers and a blinding speed advantage. In fact, she’s so fast that it can be a hinderance when the screen gets busy as you can easily move too far and move into the path of a bullet. Her anchor is also relatively weak so the best way to play as her is to do so like a traditional shooter and ignore the anchor swing system which makes the game unique!

Overall, I would say that it’s the second best version and I would recommend it over the others for the simple fact that it’s the easiest one to get. The Xbox live version looks prettier with it’s HD graphics but the game never feels quite right when playing and the controls feel a little too sluggish. It’s also incredibly spartan with it’s modes. The dreamcast version is the best with tight and responsive controls as well as the most comfortable feel. But you’ll need a bit of luck to track one down.
The PS2 version may not have HD graphics or quite as good controls as the DC version but it’s still pretty good. And Faintear can provide a distraction when you tire of throwing enemies around.

Next up: Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram!

To say I had reservations abou this title would be an understatement!! I grew up loving this series back when it was released on the saturn. I struggled to play it with a control pad but when I went to Hong Kong and played it in the arcades with the twin sticks, everything made sense!! This game NEEDS the sticks!!!! Heck, I bought my own set and brought it back with me and I use it with the Dreamcast version of VOOT (using an adaptor)!! The first hurdle presents itself straight away!

The problems with this game are numerous. On the surface, it’s technically sound so anybody watching the game won’t notice anything, but it’s when you play that things start going wrong. Ignoring the lack of twin sticks, the controls are just horrid! Movement is controlled with the left stick, dash and jump are mapped to buttons and the weapons are mapped to the triggers. On paper it should work. In practice, you will often find that the wrong weapon input is detected. You end up using your right weapon instead of center for example, and that can cost the match!! An attempt to mimic the twin stick configuration was met with total failure due to the asymetric design of the pad. It feels really weird and does not work!!! Buttons can be configured so I have made a custom setup which does improve things a little but it doesn’t remove the problems.

Another problem is that, lets face it, this game is a pretty niche title. As a result, it’s often very hard to find players online!!And when you do find them, they’re usually japanese players with over 200 wins under their belts!!!!
Then there’s the lag. And I’m not talking about “screen slowdown” lag, I’m talking about “missiles appearing from nowhere” lag!!! There were also many occurrences where I wanted to jump to avoid an enemy attack, only for it to hit and my virtuaroid jumped after getting up!!

Then there’s the cost… 1200 MS points, I feel, is too steep for what is presented.

Overall, I can only say that this is one for the hardcore. the title won’t appeal to everyone but the quality of the game is such that those with fond experiences of previous titles played the way they are supposed to be, will be left bitterly disappointed. If you’ve had to endure control pad controls before, I would still be wary.
Some fun can still be had but this version is very much living in the shadows of it’s predecessors.

Time to dig out my twin sticks and Dreamcast with VOOT…