You’ve never feared Bowser like this. Pushing rudely in front of you at the start line, before the action kicks off, he is massive, twice the size of Mario, his spiked shell dripping with cartoon menace.
The friendlier faces of Luigi, Yoshi, and Princess Peach pop into view to your left and right as your opponent players don their HTC Vive headsets and enter the game, and before you’ve had the chance to fully drink in the magic of your colorful surroundings, the race is on.
Above: Thirty seconds of gameplay clips from Mario Kart Arcade GP VR.
Simply being among Nintendo’s flagship characters VR is an incredible, moving experience.
We’ve all played Mario Kart, but playing Mario Kart Arcade GP VR is a whole new experience. As a game it’s fantastic, but it’s more than that. This is the very first time Nintendo’s flagship characters have been recreated in VR, and simply being among them is an incredible, truly moving experience.
The game is one of the attractions at Bandai Namco’s new Tokyo arcade VR Zone Shinjuku, opening on July 14, and it is based upon Bandai Namco’s existing Mario Kart arcade cabinet, with a seat, wheel and pedals. But the experience has been reworked for VR.
If you play as Yoshi you can see his bulbous snout bobbing under your eyes.
You now play in first-person. As you look down you can see your hands on the wheel, their movement corresponding with the Vive Tracker units strapped to your real hands, while your feet rest on the accelerator and brake pedals. But those are Mario’s hands and feet, or Luigi’s, Peach’s or Yoshi’s. (Nicely, if you play as Yoshi you can see his bulbous snout bobbing under your eyes.)
Items no longer come from Question Blocks, but instead float above certain parts of the track on balloons. Raise your arm to grab one of the three available items; you can then throw a green shell or banana in any direction by simply flinging it, or use the hammer just as Mario does: by jerking your arm up and down. It sounds exhausting, but it’s a fun way to bring the items to life in VR.
The cabinet is on a hydraulic platform that throws you into every curve, while fans blow wind into your face as you hit the gas.
The cabinet is on a hydraulic platform that throws you into every curve, while fans blow wind into your face as you hit the gas. The sense of immersion is absolute.
But what really kills is the sense of scale. It’s breathtaking. Thwomps are now terrifying blocks of danger, crashing down from above with visceral power. Weaving between Piranha Plants at speed is edge-of-the-seat exhilarating, as their jaws come chomping right by your head (or onto your head, if you’re unlucky). Even the humble Bob-omb can mess you up enough to be scary.
Even at full speed, I never once felt a trace of VR sickness.
Meanwhile, the playfield is a delightful chaos. Knock an opponent off course with a well-aimed shell and their kart tumbles across the track, while getting hit yourself causes your kart to spin giddily around your field of vision. Jumps that cause your wings to deploy give you a chance to glide slightly-less-than-gracefully to the ground. But even at full speed, I never once felt a trace of VR sickness. The execution is impeccable.
Also, it’s worth noting that while the game was developed by Bandai Namco, it was made in consultation with Nintendo and with input from Shigeru Miyamoto himself. VR Zone producers Junichiro Koyama and Yukiharu Tamiya told IGN that Nintendo even reworked its IP rules to take the special requirements of VR into account.
Mario Kart Arcade GP VR supports up to four linked players in a single race and currently features just one track. It is one of 15 attractions at VR Zone Shinjuku. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to camp outside of VR Zone and wait for it to open again so I can play some more!
Daniel Robson is Chief Editor of IGN Japan. Racing next to Princess Peach turned his legs to jelly. Follow him on Twitter at @NoMoreDaniels.
Source: IGN Video Games