SEGAbits at Tokyo Game Show 2017: A Certain Magical Virtual-On Hands-On Preview

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What started seemingly as a one-off (potentially joke) crossover between a popular anime and SEGA’s Virtual-On has turned into a potential resurrection for the much-loved Virtual-On series.

The playable build I got my hands on started with a tutorial, where I got my first experience of A Certain Magical Index. Honestly it’s quite jarring to turn on a Virtual-On game and be met with what looked like high-school students talking in high pitched voices with a long-winded introduction to the game. The characters seem very out of place and different to the usual Virtual-On style and I was initially a little jarring. Thankfully when I got to actually control Temjin, I found the game surprisingly familiar. I still don’t like some of the new designs for mechs, but for the most part it manages to gel nicely with the old games.

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Coincidentally, I got to play the Virtual-On: Oratorio Tangram arcade machine just the day before trying out this new game. I was disappointed there weren’t any Twin-Stick controllers for the new game, which I really enjoyed about the previous releases. In reality though, most people would have played Virtual-On using traditional control pads, so it made sense that we used it for the demo. The control scheme was similar to most third person games, with one stick for moving, one for look control.

The button scheme is similar to previous Virtual-On games with a button for left and right attack (usually bomb and gun, respectively) and then a button for jumping and one for dash. Instead of combining Turbo/Dash with an attack, there were now dedicated buttons for these attacks. Combined Left/Right attacks were still possible by pressing both attack buttons simultaneously.

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Overall I was pleasantly surprised by how similar the game was to the previous entries when you got to the actual gameplay. Even the visuals and sound were reminiscent of the old entries. The gameplay was fast and the controls were very responsive and intuitive once I got used to them. One new addition to the games and controls was the addition of a dedicated melee attack button. The move felt quite powerful, maybe even too powerful.

The demo didn’t give me a chance to see how the game handled the system to encourage aggressiveness. My understanding is that the game will encourage aggression to stop overly defensive plays and to keep the game moving quickly by docking points from a player who doesn’t land enough attacks, even if they have a life lead.

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I do hope it ships with offline and online multiplayer as this is a staple and one of the most important aspects of the game for the old school fans. Not being a long time hardcore fan of the old games, it’ll be interesting to see what the competitive and die-hard audience makes of some new features like melee buttons and the introduction of supers. The aggression/point system might end up being a great feature for the game, but time will tell how positive this change is for the game.

Overall I’m quite optimistic for this game, and really hope that it manages to live up to the previous entries. It’s a strange mix for sure, but if Virtual-On fans can ignore the strange anime inclusion they’ll likely find a very well-intentioned follow-up to the series. It’s too early to say if it’ll live up to the heights of the previous games, but I really do hope it manages it. It’s a great thing to see the return of a loved series like this, even if it’s a curious mix with another IP.

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For fans of Magical Index it seems like there should be a nice addition of story and characters that they love, along with some Index inspired mech designs. I know they’d love a new season of the show, but hopefully this goes some way to pleasing fans of both the anime and the Virtual-On series.

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One response to “SEGAbits at Tokyo Game Show 2017: A Certain Magical Virtual-On Hands-On Preview

  1. Virtua Sanus says:

    Sounds real good to me! I never had an issue with overly defensive play but the point system seems like a decent enough idea. Lets get this game to EVO!

    I feel like this will be right up there with the quality of Oratorio Tangram. The music is by Yuzo Koshiro too so the only major concern I had was washed away by that.

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