This is a port of a popular Japanese arcade title. It is a mech fighting-game, a simple enough concept though as a genre that aligns itself primarily to dedicated, hardcore players, it is very challenging to master.
The graphics are aged, and it really shows. While the vibrant colors are nice, it seems the transition to an HD output really offers nothing special. The game is blocky and pixelated. Other than the vibrant color scheme this is an overall letdown. Given it decided against a realism approach, one would have hoped for something attractive in an old-school, cartoony style. Instead, one gets this. I'm sure it's great for frame-rate reasons, but given the technological advancements that have been made since the arcade game first came out, so much more could have been done. A better face-lift than this was in order for the 360.
Audio is better but not great. Those who love the classic sound effects won't be disappointed, but it's nothing to write home about. Likewise, I found the musical fare to be frustrating with its surprisingly "happy" tone. Definitely something I'd play my MP3 collection over. All-in-all, one isn't going to want this game for its cutting edge look and sound.
The initial control scheme will come across as frustrating to some, but there are customization options to reassign buttons to more preferable layouts. However, unlike most fighting games, it felt to me like I was spending most of my time fighting with the controls to keep the enemy within my field of view. Jumping re-centers the enemy, but nothing else seems to, resulting in either continuously hopping (and all the downsides that go with it) or else trying in vein to pan and keep up with the enemy (not an easy feat, especially if they are in anything but the slowest mechs). A lot of this is, I'm sure, intentional, but for someone with familiarity with other types of fighting games I felt that overall I was spending a bit too much time looking for the enemy to target and not enough time actually fighting him. The game wasn't originally designed for the 360 controller, and that shows at various points.
What story? About all I figured out is the mechs are called Virtuaroids. I have no idea which were "good" or "bad", or if there was any rhyme or reason to the fighting. To me, while definitely not the focus of the games, the fighting genre has always symbolized one where a basic story exists to provide some sort of cover as to why everything is happening. As near as I can tell, Virtual-On is devoid of this feature.
Replay Value (5/10)
I would rate it about average for a fighting game. It lacks a lot of different fighting modes, but does allow customization of the robots. Like all fighting games, it's something that is somewhat easy to get into (on paper), but requires a time commitment to master. With online play mode supported, there is the standard potential for a lot of time investment in the game.
Achievements for replay value are a waste. I gained all of them in approximately 40 minutes, and I was terrible at it. They will not keep anyone interested for long.
Also, in what I view as a major oversight, the game has no support for local split-screen multiplayer. Very disappointing.
"Fun" Factor (3/10)
I did not enjoy this game. One's mileage will vary, but the opponents I fought online so totally and completely dominated me that it was clear I would have to invest substantial time to properly master the controls, learn which mech units are best to use against the others, and figure out any particular customizations that may be seen as critical to have a sporting chance. The single-player is pretty short (like most fighting games) but set a poor example, at least on Normal difficulty, to teach me about the tactics and skill used by those I met online. The learning curve is really, really steep.
This game may have inspired some key elements of games like Zone of the Enders and Armored Core, but as a stand-alone title I think its time has come and gone. Online play was difficult to find, and almost everyone I did face off against was in Japan (where I assume the title remains popular). My recommendation is if you love classic mech games you may want to give this a whirl, but if you are just a fighting game fan there are a lot better looking games out there which are easier to get started in while still rewarding those who want to invest the time to become masters.
Overall score average: 3.8
Score-to-Star Translation Guide:
5 stars: 9.01 to 10 (out of 10)
4.5 stars: 8.01 to 9
4 stars: 7.01 to 8
3.5 stars: 6.01 to 7
3 stars: 5.01 to 6
2.5 stars: 4.01 to 5
2 stars: 3.01 to 4
1.5 stars: 2.01 to 3
1 star: 1.01 to 2
0.5 stars: 0 to 1