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Reviews: Senko no Ronde DUO (8/10)

Posted on : 06-06-2010 | By : | In : Reviews

Hardware:

19

Contrary to popular, and often ignorant, belief Virtual On has inspired a varied progeny of games over the years. From the rather flawed ZOE series, to games like the original Senko no Ronde. G.rev’s approach was very much well wrought, in the sense they didn’t just blindly copy elements of the game without understanding how they worked. No, instead they took the core of the fixed vectored dash combat system and brilliantly added a danmaku framework alongside it.

What transpired was a game that allowed the player to transform into an actual boss that spewed impossibly complex geometrical patterns of death, whilst the dashing mechanics were in place to render that almost irrelevant in the hands of a competent opponent. Even without the boss mode activation, the original game was awash with danmaku leanings all over the place and it added a very fresh dimension to the Virtual On lineage.

Unsurprisingly, the original arcade game gathered quite the fanbase in Japan and consequently received a 360 port, which was comically retitled as “Wartech” in the West. G.rev have since followed the original game’s success with an arcade sequel and it wasn’t long until another 360 port followed. Put simply, it’s bloody amazing.

Before I kick off on DUO it’s worth clarifying how Virtual On dealt with its sequels. The first Virtual On was relatively slow paced and instigated dash freeze once the player had finished their dash attack. This embedded the game with a level of tactics that was unique at the time. Following on from this, Virtual On’s sequel Oratorio Tangram ran much faster and almost negated the dash freeze entirely. As such the tactical element had effectively gone but the combat system was so solid it didn’t really matter.

DUO is in a similar situation to Oratan; the game is a lot faster than its predecessor and whilst some may be concerned at the supposed loss of tactics compared to the original G.rev have sidestepped this issue in a very cunning way. Aside from the “normal” game there’s also a “command” mode now, this basically takes direct control away from the player and allows you to issue commands to the Rounder. In short, it turns the game into something not to dissimilar from an RTS but the brilliant offshoot of this is that it makes you watch how each game plays out. Forcing you to interpret your opponent’s movements in a more tactical manner. It’s really quite clever and very obvious, as when you return to “normal” mode those tactics are almost baked into your head and you suddenly start playing the game in a much more tactical way.

The “normal” game has also received multiple re-workings to the core combat system. The dashes themselves have been made subtly more potent, this is tied to the direction and orientation you dash in relation to your opponent. This means you’re constantly looking for an optimal vector before your attacks will do their most damage. Unlike in the original game, where you could almost fire and forget for a lot of the dash attacks, you have to really focus on getting your dash attack right otherwise you’ll waste your shots.

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Following on from this, you now also have a partner that can initiate an attack. These partners are picked from a initial selection and each offer a similar, though more localised, bombardment that you would see once a boss is initiated. Partners are useful at herding an opponent and as such link into your dash attacks, as you can often place your foe in harms way with the aid of your partner helping you out.

The combat isn’t the only thing that’s been given a work over, as DUO looks far more polished than the previous game. With lots more dynamic lighting as well as bloom on various attacks (don’t worry though, they’re still clear in terms of how the game plays). The real shift though is that the texture detail has been upped and all the Rounders have undergone an interesting design shift.

Whilst you could almost argue the original game had an art deco feel to the proceedings, with wonderfully minimalist designs for the Rounders. DUO, by contrast, is far more commercial somehow. The Rounders themselves are still obviously streamlined but the various aspects that adorn their frame have become more complex, such as Mika Mikri’s Rounder that sports a form of zip up tracksuit “armor”, everything now looks very funky.

This then brings us onto the narrative and characters, in the case of the latter many are overtly androgynous and whilst this seems to put some gamers backs up it doesn’t really bother me. There’s also a healthy dollop of moe now as well, as many of the female characters have suddenly adorned a pair of engorged chesticles. This is then maximised to dating-sim-esque effect in the new Story mode, where the characters square off in various audio drama type scenarios followed by a bout of robotic fisticuffs. Admittedly, without knowledge of Japanese, all this plot will be lost on most importers. However, the games have engendered a pretty fervent following in terms of the narrative and a new separate audio drama CD was packaged with the game. Still, I’m not really fond of all this new fangled jiggling boobage in games such as this and consequently your mileage will obviously vary.

Moe aside, one of the more refreshing points in DUO is how G.rev have finally fixed the lag in their online multiplayer. As the original game had almost catastrophic lag in online matches where anyone wasn’t on the same continent, considering that the biggest proportion of players were in Japan this meant pretty much all online games played appallingly. This time around though, the game is super smooth with almost no sign of crippling lag at all. Naturally, this is very much a positive development and considering the amount of improvements elsewhere in the combat system only makes the game more worthwhile in terms of versus longevity.

That’s the crux of DUO’s brilliance; it’s a resolutely focused versus game. Understanding the dashing system and the nuances of each Rounder are what makes this so very compelling and deeply refreshing compared to other beat-em-up type versus games. Whilst many have been somewhat forlorn with the lack of any new real Virtual On games, G.rev have taken the premise into fascinating new ground and for that they should be applauded.

Tamashii: 8/10

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Comments (19)

Excellent review and I am happy the game turned out to be great. Is It region free? Definitely have to add this to my shopping list if it is.

Unfortunately, no. The game is region locked to Japan.

Bah. That sucks. I wonder whether anyone will be bringing this to PAL territories. Not sure how well the first one did.

The news about the improved netcode is also a major bonus for me. Being in Nigeria, playing the original online was an exercise in masochism.

Hopefully the improved netcode will mean I have more than one person and the AI to play against!

If I found the first game boring, will this one change my mind? I knew how to play the game, but I could never get into it. Has the core bullet hell spam gameplay been revised enough, or is it still the same?

Well, the bullet spam could be easily avoided in the original so I’m not sure what you mean here.

The core game hasn’t changed in DUO that much though, if that’s what you’re wondering.

Yeah, that’s what I meant while trying to troll the game a bit. I really want to like the game, but couldn’t get into it. It was a bit like Tekken to me, I could try to play it properly, or just mash buttons and get the same result. I’ll grab the Platinum Hits or Korean version eventually just for completeness sake.

I really, REALLY, hate region locking. F#&$!

Thanks for that review, couldn’t find others in the net!

I quite enjoyed Senko no Ronde Rev. X and was lucky enough to find good players to fight agaisnt offline.

Gonna get it from Play Asia soon 🙂

Also, how would you rate the original Senko No Ronde?

I think Rev.X is excellent but DUO is definitely better.

just placed my order for the game 🙂

My copy just arrived, will post my impressions here soon =)

So far I have only tested the arcade mode, and I gotta say your review is spot on.

This game really feels alot faster, fluid and responsive. The close range melee attacks were kinda sluggy in the first game but in DUO they are much more accurate and fast. The controls are beautiful and the game plays really well. I’m happy =) and its so awesome to see so many playable characters =D

When I first heard about DUO, i was expecting more of an expansion that retained the same mechanics. Thankfully, this one really is a significant improvement! they really fixed alot of the things that were kinda sloppy in the first game and made them much better.

Will post my own review on PALGN soon, thanks for the review cacophanus, really happy with this purchase.

P.S

Cant read a word of Japanese so gonna spend some time navigating menus XD

Oh jeez, I didn’t even know this website existed until now.

I’m slowly helping on a wiki project for this game, which you can find here:

http://dakanya.ath.cx/snrduo/index.php/Main_Page

It’s still under construction and there’s a lot of details missing at the moment, but it’ll be all up in due time.

Personally, the presentation quality of the game dropped quite a bit (the main menu for the 360 port is very fugly, not to mention that the FINAL BOSS animation sequences aren’t that cool as the first one for example), but the mechanics have been improved to Oratan levels, just as I hoped it would.

Whats the difference between Alpha and Beta versions of characters?

The base weapons behave differently, with Mika his gun has more spread and the missiles home differently (more like the first game).

Hey Cacophanus

I live in Australia, and I get a pretty laggy connection with Japanese players, sometimes its actually quite decent.

Was wondering if we could have a few matches sometime, perhaps we can have a better connection.

My gamer tag: Draconisrei

Any plans of reviewing Senko no Ronde Rev.X?

since ya reviewed DUO, why not Rev.X?

The game was released before I founded this site in September 2009. I have covered the game already elsewhere though:

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2008/03/robotochan_zeta_no_ronde.php

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