This morning I woke up quite early and made my way to Game Taito Station arcade in Shinjuku, Tokyo. My objective: trying out VR Sense, Koei Tecmo’s virtual reality arcade cabinet based on PlayStation VR technology with a lot of additional flavor.
It was a rainy morning, with a typhoon rapidly approaching the Japanese capital, but being the last day of the cabinet’s location test, I couldn’t miss it.
On the second floor, A Sales Department Manager of Koei Tecmo’s Arcade Games Business Division was handling the small operation equipped with a single cabinet. Among the first in the morning, I was given two reservation tickets worth 15 minutes each.
My adventure was about to begin.
The interior of the cabinet is actually rather spacious, with a comfy seat equipped with seat belt and vibration motors, a camera, a PlayStation VR headset, headphones and even a locker to store your belongings while you play.
According to the rep, the games run on a standard PS4, yet they’re nicely optimized to look pleasant in VR. Each play costs 800 yen, which translates to just north of $7.
Available for the location test there were four of the six games of the initial VR Sense line-up, which apparently might even make it to the home console version of PlayStation VR sooner or later (without the bells and whistles, of course): Dead or Alive Xtreme Sense, Super Dynasty Warriors, Horror Sense and GI Jockey Sense.
In my half a hour I was able to test the first two, which at about fifteen minutes each, were a rather satisfying experience.
The “bells and whistles” mentioned above are what really sets VR Sense apart from similar experiences. Besides the rocking and vibrating multi-purpose 3D seat, it comes equipped with a tactile feature to provide unexpected surprises, a wind feature to give the feeling of movement, heating and cooling to convey the changes in the environment, and a mist feature to simulate the climate (like rain and moisture) and even a “fragrance” feature to enhance the tickle your sense of smell.
Dead or Alive Xtreme Sense was the first game I tried, and if you know me this probably won’t surprise you at all.
It includes two minigames which come almost straight from the console version, tug of war and rock climbing. Three girls are available: Kasumi, Honoka and Marie Rose. I selected Honoka and off I went.
Tug of war works almost in the same way as on console, but it’s in first person. You have to pull and push the stick in order to tug and feint, making the lady fall into the water without losing your balance yourself. If she falls, you’ll be rewarded with one of the iconic “bikini malfunctions” and a refreshing splash of moisture in your face. If you fall, you’ll get just the splash.
Winning rewards you with the ability to ask your chosen lady to change into a new bikini, and you’ll be asked to look the other way. Like in the home version, resist the temptation to take a peek, and she’ll be happy and wear the new swimsuit for you. If you look, she’ll get angry, and won’t change, but you’ll get a sexier scene on the short term.
Of course, as you get closer to the girl, you’ll start feeling her scent, which in Honoka’s case felt like a sweet vanilla-based perfume.
The second minigame was rock climbing. The prompts are much easier than those on console, and your objective is to keep up with the girl, getting a rather good observation angle and another changing scene as a reward.
In the end, I was awarded with an A-rank, which netted me about 7-8 minutes of “Appreciation Time,” that simply equates to watching and “feeling” Honoka as she dances, plays with a hoola-hoop, relaxes on the beach, and polishes the usual golden statue (funnily, from the statue’s point of view).
The whole experience was certainly fun and rather immersive, with the features of VR Sense proving to be more than simple gimmicks. It’s hard to say without a side-by-side comparison, but the visuals of the girls appeared to be improved compared to the console version, with resources shifted away from the environment and focused on the lady, her hair, skin, clothes and inevitable physics.
The second experience I tried was Super Samurai Warriors, which was slightly more complex in terms of controls and sensory stimulation.
You start by selecting your companion between Xu Shu and Guan Yinping, and I’m sure you already know who my chosen partner was.
The first battle is a typical Dynasty Warriors scene, with a horde of soldiers to fend off in first person. A blast of cold air and mist underlines every time you receive damage, turning your head tactically to counter the waves of enemies from different directions is the trick to get a swift victory. It’s fairly straightforward, but things become more complex as you head into a duel against Lu Bu, where timing parries and attack correctly becomes more crucial.
After defeating Lu Bu, fatso Dong Zhuo will kidnap the charming Diaochan, and things really pick up. You’ll mount on a horse, and the chair actually lifts you so that your feet don’t touch the ground. As you feel the wind on your face, and the gallop of the horse under your backside, you have to pursue the enemy while shooting his goons with bow and arrows.
Interestingly, if you turn all the way around, you can see Guan Yinping riding behind you. Unfortunately technology isn’t yet advanced enough to feel her arms around your waist and her chest pressing on your back, but I guess we’ll get there, sooner or later.
Riding among the houses on fire of a ransacked village will send heat on your face, while moisture will follow immediately after as you canter on a narrow rope bridge across a giant waterfall.
The following scene has you traversing a dark cave, illuminating the way with a torch. You actually feel its heat when you hold it close to your face. Waves of bats will fly against you, and you’ll feel their touch on your hair, and the air moved by their wings.
Following a battle against a pack of hungry wolves, you’ll have to fight Dong Zhuo and his goons on the other side of the cave, to finally release Diaochan, whom will reward you with a good look at her beauty and a whiff of her perfume. Different endings are available depending on how well you performed, but I won’t spoil them.
Both games were quite satisfying, providing an enhanced sensation of presence compared to standard PlayStation VR thanks to the various features of VR Sense. Gameplay was simple but fun, and lasted long enough to provide a fulfilling experience.
It’s hard to say whether we’re looking at the future of arcade entertainment or not, but it’s certainly a good step in the right direction, providing elements that standard virtual reality experiences lack.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture footage directly, but below you can see a quick and dirty off-screen recording of a promotional video that was being displayed at the location (alongside the instruction sheets of the two titles I didn’t have the time to try), giving you a pretty good look at what the games look like.