Taking on missions with an AI partner is one thing, but throwing in a human partner really livens things up. Mission Mode supports not only 2-player split-screen but also online co-op. It's a shame Arcade doesn't also have online co-op, but I suspect most importers will stick to local multiplayer anyway.
In both Arcade and Mission Mode, you’ll randomly earn EX Option points that can be used to boost your team’s life or attack power. The point-collection mechanic sort of ties the modes together since whatever you find in one can be used to make things easier in the other.
Force’s final random collectible is AI Points. See, you can actually create and customize an AI partner for those times when you lack a split-screen buddy. The game even doles out several Achievements for doing so. The customization interface is just as unwieldy as Force’s other menus, but again, fan guides pick up the slack. Customization elements include color, friendliness, long-range and melee attack, defense, and more.
When you’re through completing Arcade and Mission Mode for their many Achievements, Versus will provide a bit more replay. This 2-vs-2 competitive mode supports 4-player split-screen or online play. Playing a full game with four humans is a blast. Achievement hunters will at least want to complete 30 online matches (win or lose) for the associated GamerScore.
Virtual-On Force is probably the best entry in SEGA’s arcade mech-combat series. The variety of expertly-designed unique and variant Virtuaroids is impressive. Co-op play, the decently-long Mission Mode, and the choice between four different soundtracks (including the original game’s and Oratorio Tangram’s) also make this the most robust ‘traditional’ Virtual-On game yet. It does take a while to get used to dashing in order to turn and focus your view on opponents (an awkward series convention), and I can see no logical reason for the non-dashing turn rate being so slow. But if you love the series or just want a unique co-op import on your shelf, don’t let that nuisance stop you from ordering Force right away.
Cultural quirks: Force’s Virtuaroids are a brilliant example of Japanese mech design. The colors and soundtracks also resonant with a classic Japanese SEGA vibe. On the downside, that poorly-conceived turn speed would never have come from a western developer.
Chances of coming to the US: Low. If SEGA had planned to bring Virtual-On Force to America, they would have done so a year or two ago. Given the game’s pleasant-but-undeniably-aged visuals and relatively light amount of content, it would probably have been better received here as an arcade release instead of a retail disc.
Language barrier: Medium. Without help, Force’s sub-menus would be daunting for people who don’t at least read Katakana. I’ve already linked to several resources, but you can also rely on Achievement Guides from TrueAchievements and Xbox360Achievements.org for more guidance. The actual gameplay is quite simple once you learn the controls though.
Difficulty of importing: Low. For a while, the Games on Demand version of Virtual On Force could easily be purchased from the Hong Kong Marketplace for less than $30. Sadly there is now a regional-downloading restriction, meaning you need to use a VPN to download it from the Asian Marketplaces. Forget that technical nonsense; the disc version of Force is region-free! Even better, it just got rereleased as a Platinum Hits, making the game relatively affordable to boot. Play-Asia and YesAsia both sell it for ~$45 shipped. If you want the two DLCs (Third Mission and Fourth Mission), you'll need to set up a Japanese account and purchase the content with 800 international points, but the extra missions are really only important for Achievement hunters.