Cyber Troopers Virtual-On (電脳戦機バーチャロン Dennō Senki Bācharon), also subtitled as Cyber Troopers Virtual-On: Operation Moongate, is a 1996 video game developed by Sega AM3 and published by Sega Enterprises. A 3D action fighting game featuring robots, it was released in arcades and for Sega Saturn and PC, all in both America and Japan.
There were also two-player online versions of the game released in America and Japan for the Sega Saturn using the NetLink and XBAND services.
Initially, the game was to be released under the title "Virtual-On" in Japan and "Cyber Troopers" in North America, but ultimately these two names were combined into a single title for both regions.
A remake was released for the PlayStation 2 on October 25th, 2007, as part of the Sega Ages 2500 line, featuring improved framerates, music and additional features not found in the original versions. The original game was also rereleased on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network as a part of the Sega Model 2 Collection.
A twin stick controller was developed and released for the Saturn specifically to be used with Virtual-On.
Virtual-On is set up similar to a Versus fighting game. Two Virtuaroids (Mecha) face each other on a certain arena. The player(s) use a variety of firearms, bombs, melee weapons, and other techniques to destroy the enemy for a set number of rounds, usually a single battle, or best two out of three rounds, like fighting games.
The game is made to be played with a two-joystick setup, known as the twin-sticks. Each stick is equipped with a trigger and a button on top of the stick.
The twin sticks control the Cirtuaroid on screen much like a bulldozer. Pushing or pulling both sticks in one direction makes it move in that direction, while pushing one stick forward and pulling the other back makes it turn in the forward direction. Pulling the sticks apart causes the Virtuaroid to jump into the air, and automatically turn to face the opponent. Pulling them towards each other while pulling a trigger causes the Virtuaroid to prone while firing.
The top buttons are Turbo buttons. Pressing a Turbo button while moving causes the Virtuaroid to dash for a few seconds. Dashing is used to avoid enemy fire, or to maneuver quickly around the map. Virtuaroids can fire while dashing. While dash-firing, as with during a jump, the Virtuaroid turns to face the enemy before shooting.
Each Virtuaroid is armed with three weapons, which are different for each Virtuaroid. Two of those weapons are associated with either the left or the right trigger, and are referred to as the Left Weapon (LW) and Right Weapon (RW) respectively. The Right Weapon is generally a Virtuaroid's main weapon, usually a rifle or gun of some description. The Left Weapon is commonly a support weapon, often a bomb or other explosive. Left weapons usually have a blast radius and can inflict splash damage even if they miss the target directly. The third weapon is called the Center Weapon (CW), and is activated by pulling both triggers simultaneously. Depending on the selected virtuaroid, a Center Weapon attack can be extremely powerful, but can only be used a few times in a row before they run out of energy. Each weapon's size, power, and rate of fire is varied by the Virtuaroid's actions when the player pulls the trigger. For example, a standing Temjin's RW is a single shot from its rifle, but while dashing, the RW unleashes a rapid burst of shots at once. While dashing, the Virtuaroid's direction may also have an effect on the attack.
On September 22nd, 1994, location testing began for the arcade version of the game, held at Shinjuku Sportsland in Japan, with rollout of the finalized version starting January 12th, 1995. The Saturn version of the game was first released in North America on November 8th, 1996, followed up by a Japanese release on the 29th. The European release of the Saturn port came out the same year. On June 13th, 1997, the PC version of the game was released in Japan, and in North America on September 11th the same year.
Reviewing the arcade version, a Next Generation critic described the game as "phenomenally intriguing". He found the use of full three-dimensional movement, heat-seeking projectiles, and defensive sprints to be strong innovations which set the game above rival Namco's Cyber Sled. He additionally praised the 60 frames per second frame rate, quick-moving camera, use of robots as combatants, and dynamic combat strategies, and expressed concern that US gamers would pass by the game due to its distinctively Japanese character designs and initially confusing up-close combat.
The Saturn version was widely held to be an extremely accurate translation of the arcade version, but critics were divided about the game itself. One issue was the controls, which most critics said take adjusting to unless the twin sticks controller is used, but a reviewer for Next Generation pointed out that this was an expensive option, since Virtual-On would in all likelihood be the only game to support the peripheral. Unlike most reviewers, GamePro's The Rookie said the game looks and sounds "16-bit", though he felt it offered enough fun to be worth trying as a rental. However, the main point of disagreement was the gameplay. Next Generation, Rich Leadbetter of Sega Saturn Magazine, and Shawn Smith and Crispin Boyer of Electronic Gaming Monthly all said that while the game is deceptively simple, it offers numerous possibilities for sophisticated and cerebral tactics in the heat of combat. On the other hand, Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot and Dan Hsu and Sushi-X of Electronic Gaming Monthly all found the game shallow and mindless due to the small number of moves and the availability of homing attacks. Gerstmann elaborated that while Virtual-On made a good arcade game, it was ill-suited for console release, since the lack of depth prevents it from holding the player's interest for more than a few minutes. Next Generation summarized, "When considering Virtual On for Saturn, it's important to remember just a few things. First, it's a very nontraditional action/fighting game, which means it won't instantly appeal to everyone. Second, those who do like this game tend to like it a lot, and for good reason."