Back in 1996 there was a Sega arcade game you could play called Virtual On: Cyber Troopers, in which you and a friend could control giant robots (via two pilot joysticks, mad scientist-style) and attempt to beat each other up. Some things happened, and then in 2018 a new game of this sort was released for the PS Vita and Playstation 4 in Japan. This game is called A Certain Magical Virtual-On, and features characters from the light novel series A Certain Magical Index. (There was a crossover novel written by Kazuma Kamachi that was released beforehand.)
That’s right, local punch-boy Touma now gets to pilot a mecha. And not only him, but also all his many friends, enemies, and frenemies. Index gets a mecha. Mikoto gets a mecha. And even Accelerator gets a mecha. What kind of light novel fan would I be if I didn’t import this game? A normal one, I assume. But let’s go ahead and see if I can win a single match, and keep Touma’s friends from wrecking the city.
The game starts off with a nice little anime opening by JC Staff. The theme song “Get Ready!” is sung by the voice actresses for Index (Yuka Iguchi) and Mikoto (Rina Satou). The opening ends with Touma and Accelerator having at it with their giant robots. Some on the internet call this a bizarre and unexpected development, but personally I feel it was only a matter of time.
Here you can see the title screen.
I figure I should start with the tutorial. An energetic virtual girl named Lilina tells me all about Virtual-On, which is apparently the future of sports in the world of A Certain Magical Index. I’m not sure if letting a bunch of children operate giant robots is the safest idea, but I suppose it would at least be entertaining.
The tutorial seems to just be her talking about everything, so I decide to skip the rest and go to the story mode. I can press buttons and see what happens.
I am playing as Touma, who is entering a Virtual-On tournament with Index it seems. We have nothing better to do, I guess (though, granted, what would be better?). My first opponents are these girls. On the right is Mikoto, the angry child who wins the light novel character contest every year. I’ve always wondered what anyone likes about her, but now it’s finally become clear. As you can see, she is taking the sport of Virtual-On more seriously than the rest of us, dressed in her Formula One racer outfit. You have to dress for the job you want, as they say.
I must admit I don’t know anything about the girl on the left, but she seems funny. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were the actual best girl of the series. Her name is Misaki, and she has a permanent glint in her eyes. She’s got her eyes on the prize, as they say.
I won’t be intimidated by either of these pushovers. Touma and Index are in it to win it! You can’t expect the protagonist and the character the entire series is named after to lose, right?
The battle begins. Our robots are inside a giant stylish arena, which I assume cost about the equivalent of a hundred or so ice rinks. Hopefully each game sells out. Will Virtual-On have lasting appeal, or is it just a passing fad, like badminton?
I swiftly and mercilessly take down my enemies. Touma’s robot can not only shoot energy bullets, but he wields a sword as well. Attack from a distance, or rush in to strike the opponent down. The strategic possibilities are endless. The only thing stopping you is your own lack of skill.
I win! As if there was ever any doubt. Now, to the next round! I am one step closer to the Virtual-On Grand Prize, and its accompanying 100 trillion yen–all of which will go directly to funding the production of bigger and deadlier robots. (What else is there to spend all that money on?)
My next opponents are the girls from A Certain Scientific Railgun, namely Ruiko and Kazari. Judging by their expressions here, they’re scared stiff by the prospect of having to battle Touma and Index. They probably saw how easily we mopped the floor with their friend Mikoto, whose popularity availed her nothing.
I must say I do have some cause for concern. The robots that these girls pilot are massive! Kazari’s mecha might just step on me, and that’ll end the match. You really do have to watch out for the quiet ones…
The battle is fast and furious. I’m flying left and right, shooting everything I’ve got. I lob a grenade to lure the enemy toward me, then fire from above. Index meanwhile is shooting cat-shaped energy beams that make meowing noises. Because why not.
Just when I’m about to win (okay, I have no idea), Kazari unleashes some kind of SUPER attack from out of nowhere. Missiles. Missiles everywhere. Not even Touma’s punch can stop a missile.
“This is the moment before you died, Touma. Next time, I recommend not getting blown up by missiles.”
It’s over. No more A Certain Magical Index. No way there will be a season 3 for the anime now, with both Touma and Index killed. And for what? A pointless robot battle royale. I imagine the world will be doomed without us. Most likely Accelerator will level the city with his mecha, but I won’t be surprised if the fiendish Kazari and Ruiko help out.
But first, there’s still some more of the game to play. In the mission mode, you can simply select a character and jump straight into a battle.
I will attempt to defeat Accelerator as the sparkle-eyed girl. My robot wields a magic staff, so I have that going for me at least.
It is one of the most epic battles in history. My robot can shoot giant snowflake shurikens, as well as giant ice stalagmites. I guess that’s magic for you!
I also figure out how to do my SUPER attack, by tapping the Vita’s screen. I summon what looks to be an ice dragon, which lunges toward the enemy.
My mecha also sprouts four angel wings. I don’t know if that helps me in some way, but it looks cool.
It’s all for nothing though. Accelerator is simply too strong. Perhaps I should just stick with visual novels and Puyo Puyo Tetris.
It’s time to review the game! I’d say the graphics are practically photo-realistic, the gameplay is smooth as butter, and the robots are indeed as large as they claimed to be (if not larger!). A 10 out of 10 game through and through. A Certain Magical Virtual-On is unarguably the best video game release of the year, and might very well be the title that defines this generation of entertainment just in general.