We’ve been to some cool VR arcades in our time at Upload but Japan’s are, somewhat unsurprisingly, in a league of their own.
A commitment to lavish production values and access to some of the most legendary pop culture brands on the planet make for an experience you can’t get anywhere else in the world. Nowhere is this truer than Mazaria, Japan’s best VR arcade.
This enormous park, run under Bandai Namco’s VR Zone project, features a wide range of amazing attractions. There’s everything from Dragon Quest to Mario Kart along with some amazing original VR content too. We already gave you a quick glimpse of some of these experiences in the last episode of The VR Culture Show, but we thought we’d give you a more in-depth look, too. Here’s
Dragon Quest VR
Square Enix’s legendary role-playing games are notorious for stretching on for tens of hours. This VR experience, meanwhile, lasts just 10 minutes but manages to capture the heart and soul of the series in that short amount of time. Up to four players take on various class roles, including mages and warriors and are then fitted with the respective kit.
A fighter can expect to wield a hefty sword and shield for example (they’re literally very heavy), and then swing them at slimes as you walk around a large area. It’s all a little hectic; there’s not much of the series’ staple strategy in place beyond reviving downed team members, but it captures the air of adventure and joy incredibly well.
Pac-Man helped kick start the videogame revolution and now he’s here at the beginning of VR too. Granted this two-player virtual maze might not be as telling a glimpse of the future, but it’s a lot of fun all the same.
Wearing Oculus Quests, you hurriedly navigate classic levels, eating up pellets like the man himself. You’re against the clock and hunted by the iconic ghosts, now far more terrifying than they’ve ever been before. Working together to snap up every last pellet is a giddy delight, although you’re strictly told not to run.
Armored Trooper Votoms
Here’s a more obscure anime hit, though one that’s perfect for VR. Armored Trooper Votoms comes to VR in the form of a two-player mech battling game. You sit in motion chairs and glide around an arena, trying to take each other out. This is a visceral VR experience; the chair rattles violently when you’re peppered with machine-gun fire and sparks fly as you screech across the environment. The controls are a little difficult to get the hang of, but it’s still a pretty fun time.
Taiko no Tatsujin
Everywhere you look in Japan, there’s a good chance you’ll see one of the impossibly happy critters from Taiko no Tatsujin staring back at you. The arcade drumming phenomenon continues to be something of a hit. In VR, it somewhat inevitably makes for a Beat Saber-like rhythm game, albeit in a much cuter world.
Vive Trackers stuck to controllers with shifting weights make for a tactile experience. All you need to do in this one is hit the beat as it arrives; there’s no need to swing in certain directions or with a certain hand. It’s a lot more manageable than some Beat Saber tracks, which came as a bit of a relief to us.
The legendary anime has a VR arcade adaptation to call its own. Similar to Armored Trooper Votoms, this has you sitting in a cockpit-style setup, though this time you’re working with friends rather than against them. You take on a huge enemy against the clock, smashing down buildings and dodging enormous laser beams as you go. While the sense of scale is amazing, grasping the controls is a little confusing and the time limit makes this pretty easy to fail.
That said, the suiting up scene at the start, which includes famous characters from the series, is recreated to perfection, drowning you in nostalgia as you’re submerged underwater. It’s worth a look for the intro alone.
Mario Kart VR
We’ve been hands-on with Mario Kart VR before, but it remains no less enjoyable as when it debuted over two years ago. You sit in a kart and grab the wheel, Vive Trackers attached to the back of your hands for tracking. The race that follows is a colorful celebration of Nintendo’s beloved racing series, made all the more fun if you’re competing with friends. We’re still hopeful for a full Mario Kart VR game at some point.
Fortunately, this isn’t just another mech battling game. Instead, this Gundam VR experience wisely captures the thrill of watching giant robots punch it out as if you were a helpless onlooker. At one point you even get to sit in one robot’s hand as it protects you from danger, with a physical version of its giant thumb to cling on to for safety.
A fun one to end on. This dinosaur escape game is a little scrappy, but it’s got a unique setup that makes it memorable. You ride on virtual scooters, with jets of air blasting your face for immersion. Speeding through the dark with dinos snapping at your heels is a little terrifying, especially when they take a swing as you, but you’ll mostly be laughing at how ridiculously funny this is.