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Fei-Yen the Tiger

Virtual-ON: Oratorio Tangram
by yo go re

In 1996, Sega released an arcade game called Virtual-ON. The story, set in the future, involved a company named the DN Group (a merging of Dyna-Tech and the Nova Corporation) that discovered ruins on the moon containing large robots they called Virtuaroids - or VRs for short. The VRs became too hard to control, so DN went all Ender's Game/Last Starfighter and released a series of videogames in our present in an effort to have the VRs controlled by the public at large, using them to confront a berserk AI at the heart of the ruins. The game itself was a glorified fighter with a complex control scheme (dual joysticks for each player), but it was popular enough to earn several sequels. And, for our purposes, action figures.

The subject of today's review is from one of the sequels, Cyber Troopers Virtual-ON: Oratorio Tangram (or "VOOT" for short). There's lots of text on the package, but no one answered our request for translation, so I can't tell you what it says. How are we to tell you anything about the character? To the Googles!

Fei-Yen was one of the fighters in the first game - she was basically a pink robot magical girl, complete with a sailor uniform and long ponytails. She fought with a rapier, and fired heart-shaped beams as a ranged attack. The VOOT version of Fei-Yen is an advanced model of the same design - she's the fastest VR, but has weak armor, using agility and speed to protect herself. When she drops below 50% health, she enters "hyper mode," turning gold, speeding up even further, and gaining an increase in both attack and defense.

Which is all great, but this is "Fei-Yen the Tiger," which for no clear reason re-decos the femmebot in orange and black stripes. Why? Why not. She loses her skirt and her ponytails, but she gains a real tail in exchange. The body is molded in translucent amber plastic, with painted stripes, and various areas of black and white paint scattered around the rest of the body - on the feet, ankles, knees, thighs, stomach, hands, elbows, shoulder pads, throat, and head. The heart symbol on her chest is still visible even through the concentric circles painted on it, and it's painted opaque orange itself.

Her head is feminine, but only in the broadest sense - it's a giant, bulbous helmet, but round instead of angular. Her "eyes" are a broad pink visor, with a thinner pink stripe above that. The lower part of the face is a smooth white plate with a single small black stripe in the area of the nose. There are two squarish bumps on top that almost look like cat ears - a permanent part of the design, not something created specifically for this version, though it may seem like it. She may not have her ponytails, but she does have the big hearts where they would attach. The robots of Virtual-ON were designed by Hajime Katoki, who also did a lot of work for G Gundam, in case you were thinking that "a robotic schoolgirl with a hyper mode" sounds familiar.

This figure is made by Kaiyodo/Xebec, the same people behind Monev the Gale. If you remember the beast that was Monev, you may recall how weirdly his articulation was done. Fei-Yen, released at about the same time as Monev, is just as weird. She moves at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, tail, waist, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, and neck - that sounds like plenty of joints, but they're made in a very weird way. For instance, the shoulders have a series of swivels, rather than any hinges, and the elbows are hinged at such an angle that the pin only connects to one side of the forearm. It's hard to describe unless you're looking at it. With some finagling, you can get pretty much any pose you want, but it's not natural or intuitive. So weird.

The back of the packaging shows a series of 10 photos, identified as "scenes," depicting her in various cute or flirty poses - basically, giving you some ideas of how you might like to pose her. As someone who often has trouble coming up with neat ways to display their figure collection, I legitimately wish more companies would do this. Judging by the shapes of the legs, she's meant to have them bent in front of her, not standing straight upon them, but you can manage it.

Fei-Yen comes with three alternate hands - two right, one left - and a display base. The hands have various poses, including the popular peace sign, while the base is a big pink heart (which is why this review is being posted today). It's hard to get the figure to stand by herself, thanks to the weird design of the joints, so it includes a large clamp that fits around her foot to keep her upright.

VOOT was a quite rare game - allegedly, only two copies of the arcade cabinet were shipped to America. It was available on the Dreamcast, but unless you were willing to drop big money on a specialized accessory, you didn't get the game's unique control experience. This toy has weird joints and an inexplicable colorscheme, but she's still kind of a fun little oddity.

-- 02/14/17

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