Sega Gives Us More Retro Love
By Damien McFerran - 19 May, 2009
As well as throwing its considerable weight behind retail-based retro collections, Sega has also been giving fans of downloadable games a treat recently. Not only has the company announced that it will be bringing more Mega Drive-related games to services such as Xbox Live Arcade (we’ve already had the excellent Sonic 2 and Streets of Rage 2 - get them downloaded if you haven’t done already) but Sega has seen fit to grant us some slightly more ‘modern’ retro games (there’s an oxymoron if ever there was one).
A while back we had the most excellent Outrun Online Arcade, which was spruced up with high-def visuals and online play. Coding duties were once again handled by the supremely talented Sumo Digital and to be perfectly honest we can’t praise the game enough; granted, it’s a somewhat shallow experience at times (but then it is based on a coin-guzzling arcade racer) but there’s a good reason why Outrun remains one of video gaming’s most treasured franchises; it showcases sexy cars driving fast through breathtaking locations. Had Sega simply provided us with a visually-enhanced replica of the arcade machine then I would be happy as a pig in shit but thankfully the online side of things adds a whole new element to proceedings; power sliding past your mates in a Ferrari F40 is one of those solid gold video game moments.
At the slightly more obscure end of the spectrum we have Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram. An XBLA-exclusive port of the robot-battling arcade hit, this game is a celebration of mechanical mayhem. Stomping around in huge robots called Virtuaoids, you face off against rival pilots in an enclosed arena. There are several Virtuaoids to choose from and each has its own strengths and weaknesses; some are nimble but delicate while others are lumbering giants that pack one heck of a punch.
The arcade original possessed a unique control setup. You were presented with two joysticks with which to control your cybernetic alter-ego. To move forward you pushed both sticks forward. To move back, you pushed them both back. To turn left you pushed the left stick down and the right stick up…I’m sure you get the picture now. The home conversion for the Dreamcast supported Sega’s Twin Stick controller but it was an expensive beast and a pain in the arse to store when you weren’t playing. Thankfully the 360 pad has two analogue controllers and it does an excellent job of imitating the coin-op configuration.
As was the case with Outrun, online multiplayer has been included and is quite frankly a masterstroke. Taking your skills online is often a humbling experience, especially if you’re as rusty at this game as I am, but there are few titles that accommodate two-player action as well as Virtual On. In fact, one might even argue that it’s the games modus operandi. The single-player portion is perfectly enjoyable but it pales in comparison to the amount of fun the multiplayer side offers.
The only fly in the ointment as far as this port goes is the lack of graphical splendor; while Sega has done much to clean up the visuals of the original (which ran on the Dreamcast-based Naomi board) and high-def quality is now a reality, the robots are pretty basic in terms of design, the arenas lack detail and there’s little in the way of ‘modern’ graphical effects. Of course, there shouldn’t be - this is a game that is going on ten years old now - but after being spoilt by the graphical opulence of Outrun, we were expecting a little more glitz here.
Both of these games are well worth downloading if you’re in a position to do so. In the case of Virtual On, it’s an opportunity to own the game for a reasonable price (the Dreamcast version was Japan-only and consequently sells for a pretty penny on auction sites). With Outrun, there’s a chance you might already own the original Xbox version but even so, the online integration is so masterful that it’s worth another purchase.
Outrun Online Arcade is currently available on the PlayStation Network (GBP 7.99) and Xbox Live Arcade (800 points). Virtual On is currently available on Xbox Live Arcade only (1200 points).
Nathalie Gibson - 06 Jun 2009, 19:05 GMT
this is fun and a great game
Dan - 10 Jun 2009, 14:38 GMT
Good old Sega