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Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Marz: How Fighting Game Mechanics Make a Horrible Story Mode

For the fifth game I’ve beaten this year, I wanted to keep the Mech trend going and realized that I owned Virtual-On Marz for the Playstation 2.  Virtual-On was a fighting game franchise that started in the arcades, however unlike most fighting games the thing that made Virtual-On stand out was that you sat down in a cockpit and controlled the mech using two flight sticks. Virtual-On was a novel game that made you feel like you were piloting a mech from your favorite mech anime. Against another player, Virtual-On was always fun as each mech was unique with their own attacks and special attacks as amazing upbeat songs played.

The developer Hitmaker accomplished bringing the Virtual-On experience to the Playstation 2. Hitmaker even went so far as to not only provide multiple control layouts for people who never played the arcade game but also re-created the twin stick control experience using the analogue sticks and the shoulder buttons. The soundtrack also comes with songs that fit the arcade game.

However, this is where the praise of Virtual-On Marz stops because Virtual-On Marz comes with a story mode called Dramatic Mode. It is always unique when fighting games include a story mode and I had an expectation that the story mode involved picking a mech fighting each of the mechs that exist in the franchise with a brutal boss fight at the end. Dramatic mode has you play as part of the police force known as MARZ who oversees bringing order from corrupt organizations on the planet of Mars. What starts as being a beat cop explodes where you travel the galaxy uncovering a conspiracy.

What makes Dramatic mode so painful to play is that they took what should have been a simple fighting game and made an overly complex game mode that shows the flaws of Virtual-On as a fighting game against computer opponents.

The gameplay and controls provide the Virtual-On experience and that is great when you are playing against a friend. However, playing through a 12+ hour long story mode only reveals how poor Virtual-On works against computer opponents. One of the big issues is how immobile you are in fights. While you can move forward, back, left, and right without an issue, rotating is incredibly slow that even trying to turn will result in being an open target to the computer’s precise movements. 

Another issue is the targeting and camera. Virtual-On Marz relies on an auto lock system, where if you are facing your enemy you will fire where they are. The flaw of this auto lock system is that the camera does not keep you facing your opponent. To face your opponent, you either must jump, dash and attack, or rotate the camera manually. This makes combat incredibly difficult against the computer as they are constantly mobile and able to turn and attack on a dime.

Finally, there are repair disks that you can use to heal yourself during missions. The problem however is that repair disks are either found in item boxes during missions or dropped by enemy mechs and the drop rate from mechs is extremely rare. Meaning you can find yourself up against a mission or boss with zero repair disks which means is that you’ll have to load an earlier save (if you made multiple saves) or the worst-case scenario being that you must start the story mode from the beginning.

These flaws are what makes playing through Virtual-On Marz’s Dramatic mode a painful experience that the amateur story and voice acting cannot make up for. While most of the gameplay involve fighting other mechs, Dramatic mode decided to go in another direction by having each stage be a mission. Missions can be simple and fair just fighting a single opponent to crushingly difficult that I would like to share with you.

Two of the most brutally difficult missions are escort missions. The first escort mission has you defending multiple caravans against two mechs. However, since these are AI they will aim directly for the caravan and while you can destroy the first two mechs, other mechs will be instantly replaced. You are fighting an infinite number of enemies that directly aim for the caravan that if destroyed result in failing the mission. It was a miracle that I was able to beat that mission. What was more difficult was the second escort mission but instead of protecting the caravans, I had to destroy the caravans that were being escorted by the computer. So not only did I have to fight an infinite number of enemies, but I also had to destroy the caravans. With a broken targeting system, poor camera controls, and being outnumbered beating that mission was an exercise in pain.

What makes Dramatic mode even more horribly designed shift from missions to a race against time trying to acquire fragments to access the final fortress. You select an area, go through a gauntlet of missions and if you make it to the final mission you fight either a team of mechs or a boss that you have previously beaten. If you win there is chance that you get a fragment. It is complete RNG. If the corruption gets to 100% it is game over. If you somehow make it to the final fortress then you better hope you have some repair disks because the final fortress throws in the worst thing any fighting game could throw at you, platforming.

In the final fortress you are not only doing another gauntlet but fighting even more bosses as well as platforming where if you fall off, you are going to take damage from the electrified floor. Where once again, if you find yourself going into the final battle with no repair disks you better hope you have an earlier save file.

Virtual-On Marz’s Dramatic mode is a mode that you should never play. Virtual-On is a novel arcade fighting game where you have the most fun playing against friends or other players. Mechanically the game has not aged well and shows flaw after flaw that works in an arcade setting but not as a single player story mode.

If you would like to watch the streams you can watch here.

Part 1 – https://www.twitch.tv/videos/865600196

Part 2 – https://www.twitch.tv/videos/869332089

Part 3 – https://www.twitch.tv/videos/870617577

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Zone of the Enders The 2nd Runner: A Story Told Too Quickly

The second game I’ve beaten this year has been another remastered title from the sixth generation of home consoles, and another mech game. Zone of the Enders the 2nd Runner is an overly ambitious game for its story telling and gameplay but rush too quickly both narratively and mechanically to appreciate the game.

Say what you will about Hideo Kojima telling stories through the medium of video games, despite all the flaws that came with trying to tell a story when this game was released on the Playstation 2, he is at least ambitious. You’ll play as Dingo, a miner who discovers the orbital frame Jehuty abandoned on Jupiter and uses Jehuty to protect his friends who are being attacked by BAHRAM a martian independence military movement.

The story of Zone of the Enders the 2nd Runner however is a rushed story. Constant jumps and plot twists show how amateur Kojima was as a producer trying to tell a story that was bigger than him. Zone of th Enders the 2nd Runner also doesn’t take the time for characters to build relationships. Interactions between characters result in jarring conversations as the game stumbles trying to develop connections which stands out even more as the game is fully voice acted with some decent performances and others that are flat.

The gameplay of Zone of the Enders has always been unique. Thankfully the game provides a training mode and in game tutorial that will help learn the mechanics and the unusual controller layout. Unfortunately, like the story the gameplay is also rushed constantly introducing new subweapons that are rarely or never used due to the length of the stages being so short. The combat against enemy mechs is enjoyable as you learn to fight enemies in both melee and range but fights are often over as soon as they begin. I should also make note that the game’s targetting system works on a small scale but later stages involve so many enemies that it becomes insufficient for the larger scale stages.

The bosses also involve novelty mechanics as well. Some boss fights go so far that combat don’t involve an actual mastery of the combat mechanics but are more focused on stripping down the gameplay to coincide with the story. While this does make some boss fights interesting, the climax of the game takes the concept so far that makes the battle tedious and drawn out.

Despite all these gripes, I appreciated the amateur story telling and unique gameplay. It reminds me that I’d rather have developers shoot for the stars when telling a story and designing a game that is flawed but ambitious. Zone of the Enders the 2nd Runner is a game of its time for better and for worse. It’s a short experience that I’d recommend to those who would be interested in Hideo Kojima’s works outside the Metal Gear series and for those who enjoy sci-fi mech games.

If you would like to see my first playthrough of Zone of the Enders the 2nd Runner you can find it on Twitch.

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/862022780

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Metal Wolf Chaos XD: Believe in Your Own Justice

If you would ask me what are the only two games that the developer From Software makes it would be Dark Souls and Armored Core. While most people know From Software for making Dark Souls games starting with King’s Field to now having a remastered version of Demon’s Souls. The same could be said about Armored Core games even though that is the lesser known franchise today. However, one of least likely of the mech games that From Software developed has gotten a remaster as it was the one of the few games they developed for the original Xbox as well known as Metal Wolf Chaos.

Metal Wolf Chaos XD put simply is just an upscaled version of the original Metal Wolf Chaos. There are no added game modes or any extras bells and whistles. Nor does this game have the standard in depth customization that is traditionally offered in an Armored Core game where you get to design your mech from top to bottom. What makes Metal Wolf Chaos XD enjoyable to play is how cheesy and corny the story is. If you are a fan of B-movies then you’re in for a treat with the most over the top voice acting that will remind you of watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

You play as Michael Wilson, the 47th President of the United States that just suffered a coup by his Vice President Richard Hawk. Your mission as the President is to take your mech, known as Metal Wolf, to take back the United States by liberating the nation from sea to shining sea and there is no better way to liberate the United States than by blowing up everyone and everything trying to stop you.

The gameplay of Metal Wolf Chaos is a mission based third person shooter. Each stage you will have a main objective that you will need to complete usually consisting of destroying buildings or other mechs. In each stage you’ll have the option to fulfill side objectives by liberating prisoners or finding energy pods which will result in unlocking new songs and make Metal Wolf more durable.

While you won’t be able to design the parts of Metal Wolf, like Armored Core, you’ll be able to spend your resources to research and build a wide variety of weapons to customize how you want to liberate the nation. Handguns, Machine Guns, Rocket Launchers, Missile launchers and more is at your disposal as you get to bring a maximum of eight weapons into a mission. While you can only use two at a time, you’re able to swap through your weapons on the fly. However, swapping between weapons is cumbersome. There is no quick select to access any weapons. You press the swap weapons button and then you are left scrolling through a list of all the weapons you brought into the mission. When you’re in the middle of a fire fight, having to switch weapons on the fly can result in blowing up prisoners as you fumble picking the wrong weapons.

In terms of difficulty, Metal Wolf Chaos XD is overall straight forward and simple. Some missions will take a bit of trial and error deciding which weapons are the best to use and what objectives or enemies you should focus on first. However, where Metal Wolf Chaos XD difficulty ramps up to an unfair degree is the final boss. Beating the final boss was an exercise in pain that the only way I was able to beat the final boss was being as cheesy as the voice acting to win.

Metal Wolf Chaos XD is a corny, cheesy and simple game to enjoy. The game is self-contained and can be beaten in an afternoon. If you wanted to try out one of From Software’s strangest mech games then you should try out Metal Wolf Chaos XD.

If you would like to see my playthrough, the VODs are available on Twitch.

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/858490122