At the Tokyo Game Show, I learned one solid fact about virtual reality headsets: you cannot wear one and look good.
I also learned that I like some games in VR, others not so much. I also also learned that even a guy like me, who neeeever gets motion sick on roller coasters, planes, boats, or in cars, can become queasy after just a few minutes of the right (wrong?) game.
First, up, the good: Danganronpa
Spike Chunsoft and NIS America's series of visual novels has carved itself out a loyal following on the Vita, and its VR version captured all the style it's become known for. 3D Monokuma (the bear) was pretty cool, and though I'm not too familiar with them myself, it was fun to see the world and characters in virtual reality. Danganronpa ended with a more tech demo-y portion of my riding a conveyer belt and stuff getting crushed in good sinister fun. I enjoyed this one thoroughly.
The bad: Summer Lesson
Don't let the screenshots fool you, this game looks like ass.
So many screenshots from this VR tech demo (game?) show beautiful skies and bright sunflowers but no, none of that is actually in. It all looks terrible. It looks so bad that I thought there was maybe gunk or sweat on the VR's screen and I had the booth attendant clean it before I got rolling. I simply couldn't believe how grainy and… and… PlayStation 2.5 everything looked. Again, the screenshots here and the stuff on the TV monitors looked fine. But in the actual VR headset? No, it sucked.
My demo featured an American girl named Allison trying to learn Japanese, but speaking so slow you'd think it was warming up for a patience contest. The answers to her yes-or-no questions mattered little (but thou must!), players couldn't explore the environment, and everything moved painfully slow. To quote myself: "While I would have loved to examine the sunflowers, the beach, the watermelon, or the house itself, I was chained to the conversational equivalent of Randy Newman.
It ended when Allison… slowly… aaaaasked… meeee… where… her guitar pick was. I stared at it. I motioned back and forth from Allison to the pick. Fucking forever and three reads of War and Peace later, the dumbshit found the bright purple pick sitting in the middle of a gray flat rock — you know, where I'd been directly staring the whole time.
For fuck's sake.
The queasy: Final Fantasy XIV
Man, FF14 is a great game.
Man, FF14 was not a great experience for me on VR. While it looked great, the HUD bled off the VR headset's screen at times, meaning reading certain things got frustratingly hard and became a strain on the eyes.
On the DualShock 4 I was given, he right stick didn't control the camera. To turn any direction, I had to turn my head. As it turns out, however, sometimes characters in Final Fantasy XIV need to go directions other than straight forward, maybe even needing to turn around. Not only is this a pain in the ass to have to do with only your head, it's impossible to keep track of all the cables that are tied to you and where the walls and shit are in the actual room you're in. It was a mess.
And then came the slight headache and the not-so-slight motion sickness. Very soon into the battle against Titan, I began to feel a little off. Gradually, it got worse. I said aloud that I would have to quit soon, so you can imagine my relief when the fanfare played. Despite these booths being closely monitored and staff liking to be the only ones who touch the hardware, I couldn't wait. I had to get that thing off my head. I closed my eyes to give myself a jump on recovery while I undid some stuff myself, then felt the hands of Sony people joining in.
Later in the day, Janelle asked if I wanted to try a co-op VR game at the Gree booth and the thought turned my stomach. Yuck.
Here are some screenshots of the stuff I did in VR:
As a note, I've had eye surgery and most 3D things tend to give me headaches (3DS included), but neither Summer Lesson nor Danganronpa had any ill effects on me, so that's cool. It was only Final Fantasy XIV whose VR version made me sick.
In this post-TGS podcast below, I describe this experience while Janelle talks about some patently Japanese stuff from TGS, and we mutually lament what the coolest booth turned out to be.