Japanese Arcade Jungle Special: The Shinjuku VR Zone Experience

“Project i Can,” one of the best collections of Virtual Reality gaming experiences in the world

(Photo Credit: Tim Taylor)

Japan has long held the title of “coolest place in the world” where games and technology are concerned, and today is no exception.

From right now till October, anyone in the greater Tokyo area can head over Kabukicho in Shinjuku and experience the beauty that is Shinjuku VR Zone.  This arcade, run by “Project i Can,” (Bandai/Namco’s VR division) is, quite simply, one of the best collections of Virtual Reality gaming experiences in the world.  While there have certainly been other attempts at making a VR styled theme park, they all come up short by comparison because of two little words: Mario. Kart.

That’s right, headlining this palace of cutting edge fun is an immersive Mario Kart experience in VR.  Meant to be an extension of the popular “Mario Kart Arcade GP” series, this game puts you and three friends in a full-size go-kart harness and transports you into the hectic world of Mushroom Kingdom kart racing.  The rules are, however, a little different than the Mario Kart from your childhood.  You, the player, wear motion tracking devices on your hands (in addition to the obvious HTC Vive VR headset), which allow you to reach up and grab items from balloons floating overhead.

An experience words can’t describe

To keep things simple, there aren’t any lightning strikes or blue shells; you only get green shells, bananas, and a squeaky toy hammer to make your friends’ lives miserable.  Other than that, though, the game plays much the same as you’d expect: go fast, bump people, and bean them with items to win.  The only difference is: you *are* Mario this time (or Luigi, Peach or Yoshi), you’re not just playing him.  Powerful rumble motors, tilting karts, and a fan built into the dashboard all contribute to the illusion that you really are tearing it up on the streets of the Mushroom Kingdom.  Unfortunately, as it always happens when describing VR, though…words and pictures really can’t describe the whole experience adequately.  At the end of the day, there’s no better way to describe Mario Kart VR than to say… “go do it yourself and see!”

  • Virtual Reality Japan
    The player wears motion tracking devices on your hands. (Photo Credit: Tim Taylor)
  • Virtual Reality Japan
    (Photo Credit: Tim Taylor)
  • Virtual Reality Japan
    (Photo Credit: Tim Taylor)
  • Virtual Reality Japan
    Pictures really can’t describe the whole experience adequately. (Photo Credit: Tim Taylor)
  • Virtual Reality Japan
    Pictures really can’t describe the whole experience adequately. (Photo Credit: Tim Taylor)

Speaking of things to do yourself, Shinjuku VR Zone is full of them.  In addition to Mario Kart, here’s a quick list of everything else on offer:

  • Fear of Heights, The Show (basically walking on a thin board, perched at the edge of a skyscraper
  • VR Fishing Gijiesta (Exactly what it sounds like: VR fishing)
  • Dragon Ball VR (Kamehameha people IRL like when you were 8)
  • Argyle Shift (a mech piloting game where a girl bounces around your cockpit as you drive. Click it or ticket, chica…)
  • Evangelion VR “The Throne of Souls” (Pilot an EVA unit, just like in the anime)
  • Ski Rodeo (an unsettlingly accurate depiction of just how little control you have on skis)
  • Winged Bicycle (a stressful tour of grand scenery, riding something that looks like Da Vinci’s flying machine)
  • Hospital Escape Omega (escape a zombie-nurse-filled hospital)
  • Armored Trooper Votoms (rock-em-sock-em robots in VR…and you’re in the robot)
  • Dinosaur Survival Experience: Despair Jungle (think de-branded Jurassic Park; there you go)
  • Gundam VR (surprisingly, you’re not piloting the Gundam in this one. You’re an innocent bystander, trying not to get crushed.  Then the Gundam picks you up on its shoulder; it’s cool)

These games as well as a kickass café, a gift shop, and various other showcases of VR technology await you at Shinjuku VR Zone.  It’s only here till October, so don’t miss it!

 

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Tim Taylor

Tim Taylor

Contributing Writer
Tim Taylor is an otaku and cosplayer with aspirations toward working in Japan as a game designer. He owns every commercially popular game system from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo Switch, and can often be found dancing to ParaPara music in his spare time.
Tim Taylor
Tim Taylor