What do you think of when you hear the words virtual reality? Does it conjure up images of a futuristic world full of robots and flying cars, or do you just picture a 40-year-old dude with too much spare time and not enough mountain dew? Whatever you associate VR with, it’s almost undeniable that it will eventually be part of our everyday, in some form or another—if we don’t blow ourselves up before getting there.
Although, for all its promise, VR hasn’t been without issues. The idea of VR has been around for well over a century, and in the last few decades, various versions of the technology have been attempted, with not much success. Although it feels like this wave is different. For the first time ever, VR is now in reach of the common man, in the grasp of anybody who wants to fork out the cash for an Oculus Rift, or a PlayStation VR, or a—you get the point.
We live in exciting times, but there’s still a negative connotation often associated with VR—motion sickness. A huge barrier of the tech has been this problem. So, in an attempt to see if modern VR is as bad as versions of the past, Tokyo Survival Channel challenged me to try out as many of Tokyo’s top VR experiences as I could in a day—all without throwing up. Let’s get on with it then.
Address: 15-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-8377
Hours: 10 am – 9pm
I began my virtual adventure at Shibuya Parco “one of the coolest shopping centres in Tokyo”. After two years of renovation works, the centre had just reopened its doors to the public. I was originally on my way to another VR experience, but upon walking by I couldn’t resist—I had to see what all the hype was about.
Look, it’s a cool mall. But it’s just a mall. If you’re after shit to buy, you’ll find shit to buy here. So in that respect, it is serving its purpose—which is more than can be said about most of us. As I roamed around, my purpose found me—in the form of a pop-up VR experience on the fourth floor. What are the odds hey?
I mean, we’re in Japan, so the odds are pretty high. Anyway, moving on. The name of this five-minute experience was “World’s end supernova Discont”, which I personally found to be pretty ominous. Or at least, the first three words were.
I wasn’t quite sure what a discont was, and when I googled it my phone just kept asking me if I meant discount. And by that point nothing mattered anymore because it was my turn to enter the World’s end Discount supernova.
This was my first VR experience, well actually, that’s a lie. I had tried VR once before at a pop-up tent at a music festival in Australia years ago, but I was a few tabs away from sobriety during that experience, and I don’t remember much besides floating through ancient Egypt and then being blasted into space. And there was a flying puppy that followed me around the whole time? I digress. Back to the World’s end supernova.
Overall, it was a weird five minutes. The whole thing was just really fucking odd. Basically, you get strapped in, one of the friendly staff members guide you to somewhere you won’t be a hindrance to other people, and then you’re just left there.
Everything is black for a while, until it’s not—and you begin to experience the creation and subsequent end of the whole universe. I know this all sounds really cool, but the graphics were pretty basic, and in the end it was all a bit confusing. But then, isn’t that the point?
VR Park Tokyo
Address: 150-0042 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Udagawacho, 13−11
Hours: 10am – 11:20am
Price: 3,000 yen for unlimited games
After the somewhat underwhelming world’s end, I was pretty stoked to find Shibuya’s VR Park Tokyo—home to eight different games, utilizing a combination of Oculus, PlayStation VR, and physical props to aid the experience. At 3,000 yen for a 110-minute all-you-can-play admission, it’s not cheap, but if you are keen on trying all the games on offer, it’s pretty worth it.
I stuck around for the entire 110, which was more than enough time to play almost all the games twice—and wow man. Just wow. There were some real crackers here. See the bloke strapped on that swing? He’s about to experience “Jungle Bungee VR”—he’s about to be transformed into a monkey swinging around the jungle canopy with a bunch of monkey pals, before, well, I don’t want to spoil it.
This was the first experience I tried and I couldn’t believe it. I knew I was in a chair, I knew the “falls” were all artificial, and yet, I shat myself every time. If you’re interested, this video gives you a fairly good idea of what to expect. Head’s up, it’s all in Japanese, but don’t stress too much if you can’t understand it. Screams are the universal language.
Look, I could go on and on rambling in-depth about all these experiences, but I don’t want to ruin them for you if you ever get the chance to try ‘em. I gotta reiterate though, I was not expecting to have this much fun.
So far, so good. Despite basically being in virtual reality longer than regular reality for the past two hours, throwing up felt worlds away. Time to step it up.
JOYPOLIS VR SHIBUYA
Address: 6th floor of the “MAGNET by SHIBUYA109” building. (150-0041 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jinnan, 1 Chome−23−10)
Hours: 10am – 9pm
Price: 800 yen per game, excluding Terminator Salvation (2,500 yen)
There was a real “action” feel to Joypolis. VR Park Tokyo drew in a wide range of people, from families to couples, young and old. This felt like a different story, it was basically just me and a bunch of Japanese high school boys all vying for the coolest games. It seemed everyone was keen on trying their hand at the Terminator Salvation VR experience.
Even with its hefty price tag, the line was long, so I roamed around and found something that didn’t have a line—“Just in time! High Altitude VR”. I fucking cannot stand heights. This was a mistake.
Basically, the whole gist of this is that you’re on the edge of a crumbling skyscraper, overlooking what seems like well over a hundred metres above street level.
You start off on that brown ledge with your back against the wall, and slowly make your way towards that black bit, and that’s where shit gets real. I shit you not, it probably took me over five minutes to almost complete this course. I say almost because I fell off the tower near the end. I bloody fell off a 10-centimetre ledge.
I had to duck out for a cigarette after that. It really rattled me. Japan knows how to VR. Upon coming back, school must’ve been back in session, as all the high schoolers had bounced, leaving me and a couple other people with the whole park to ourselves. I tried every game and experience available, but nothing was making me throw up.
Finally a spot had freed up. Time for the main event.
A pair of goggles and a quick 30-second safety speech was the extent of prep for the VR experiences I’d participated in thus far. Not this time. This gear was next level. It took a while to have the backpack, oculus rift headset, and four sensors strapped to my hands and feet. Once everything was in place, my face was scanned, and I was ushered into another room, about as big as a boxing ring.
I was then given a big fuck off gun, and sent on my way to fight some evil killer robots from the future. What can I say? This was an absolutely incredible experience. It was the kind of good old fashioned shooter we’ve all played. But this time, I was really in the game.
It was honestly exhilarating at times, although one huge factor that kind of ruined the experience was the staff member in charge of the game. Although this was mostly a shooter, there were some cool puzzle elements which involved you trawling through the virtual environment as you search for certain objects to aid in your progression of the game.
Though, for some reason, even though I had asked him not to a few times, the dude kept telling me exactly where to go, and later telling me where to shoot to defeat some of the enemies towards the end—essentially taking the whole game element out of the experience.
Sky Circus Sunshine 60
Address: 60th floor of “Sunshine 60” building. (170-0013 Tokyo, Toshima City, Higashiikebukuro, 3 Chome−1)
Hours: 10am – 10pm
Price: 500 yen per ride
Sky Circus Sunshine 60 is located in Ikebukuro, which is a really fun word to say. Go ahead, say Ikebukuro—nobody is listening. It just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? How fun. Anyway. Here we are; the 60th floor of Sunshine 60 building. This floor is home to the 251-metres-above-sea-level observatory which offers some spectacular 360-degree views of Tokyo, but more importantly, it’s also home to five solid VR experiences.
Four out of the five attractions are experiences, leaving just one actual game. But don’t let that put you off, the experiences were the best part by a mile.
This is the Swing Coaster, which sends you “speeding through the skies of Ikebukuro on a virtual swing”. It switches between day and night courses depending on what time of the day you get on, which is a nice touch.
Now, this was one of the coolest experiences of the day. If you’ve ever wanted to walk around with real life dinosaurs—which c’mon, of course you have—this is basically it, or at least the closest you’re gonna get in 2020.
You start off flying with pterodactyls, and eventually make your way across the prehistoric globe, hanging out with all the classics—stegosaurus, brontosaurus, triceratops, you name it. It was so fucking cool to get the chance to truly grasp the size of these guys—a really fun, educational, wholesome VR experience. Fuck yeah.
What a sunset. And look at Fuji!
This was apparently the “scariest” ride. Tokyo Bullet Flight basically transforms you into a human cannonball as you’re blasted out of a cannon and out of the observatory, sending you on an extreme tour of Tokyo. Again, I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but this is really bloody fun. It has you flying around the whole city, past all of Tokyo’s biggest tourist attractions, before you come crashing down to reality. It really does feel like you’re flying.
SEGA VR Area Akihabara
Address: 101-0021 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Sotokanda, 1 Chome−11−11
Hours: 10am – 11:30pm
Price: 800 – 1,500 yen per game
My final stop for this journey was SEGA VR Area in Akihabara. By sheer chance, I managed to end my adventure with the best VR game I’ve ever played. But first, let’s talk about Taboo.
Don’t play Taboo. Just don’t.
Do, however, do what this guy is doing, and play Mortal Blitz. If this existed in Melbourne, I’d be there at least once a week. I would buy this shit if I could. It’s such a sick game. Up until this point, every single game I’d played had felt like a basic demo—doing a great job at showcasing the technology, but not exactly holding a lot of substance. Kind of like the early arcade games – simple, straightforward, not much going on. And hey, there’s beauty in simplicity—space invaders was one of the first games ever, and it’s still fun.
But Mortal Blitz was the first game that made me actually consider buying a VR console. Later, I learned that the game I played is also available on PlayStation VR. Here’s a trailer, it will give you a fairly good idea of what I saw.
VR #TokyoChallenge BEATEN
And so, the day was over, and I still hadn’t thrown up. Throughout the day, I’d had a few conversations with staff members—I asked them what they thought of the future of virtual reality, and of course, whether they’d seen anyone throw up. The consensus was more or less the same—VR gets a bad rap thanks to some crude iterations that have surfaced in the past few decades.
The idea of virtual reality has been around for almost a century, but we’ve lacked the technology to really do the experience justice—until now. Yes, there is a connotation of VR and motion sickness, but this was way more prominent with cruder tech. Modern VR has apparently made huge strides towards minimising motion sickness, to the point where it affects only a small fraction of users. And the tech is getting better and better every year.
As far as Tokyo Challenges go, I guess I lucked out on this one. I got a day full of fun, and not even a hint of nausea. But that’s more a testament to modern technology than my gut resilience.