This past Tuesday in Tokyo, Bandai Namco Entertainment showed off the line up for their new VR arcade, VR ZONE SHINJUKU—including some hands-on time with the new Mario Kart VR game.

©Nintendo Licensed by Nintendo, ©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.

MARIO KART ARCADE GP VR is exactly what you’d expect when hearing the name. You begin by climbing onto a platform with a seat, two pedals, and a steering wheel. Then you attach two large sensors to the back of each of your hands before putting on headphones and an HTC Vive.

Once the goggles are on, what can I say? It looks like you’re inside Mario Kart.

©Nintendo Licensed by Nintendo, ©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.

As Bandai Namco Entertainment has been releasing Mario Kart arcade games since all the way back in 2005, this is far from their first foray into the world of Mario Kart. Racing another reporter (Yoshi) and two CPU opponents (Bowser and Wario), I drove through a long and varied track full of Thomps, Piranha Plants, and fireballs on my way to first place.

Of course, it didn’t just look like I was in the colorful world of Mario Kart, it also felt like it. The entire steering column and seat is set up on hydraulics that tilt with every turn, buck with every pothole, and vibrate in different ways depending on the road surface.

©Nintendo Licensed by Nintendo, ©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.

But the aspect that really stands out from the home and arcade versions of Mario Kart is how the weapons work. In the home version, you run into an item bubble or block, get a random item, and fire it with a press of a button on the controller. In the arcade version, it’s the same basic thing, except you press a button in the middle of the steering wheel to fire. However, in MARIO KART ARCADE GP VR, it’s a bit different.

As you drive along, there are items hanging from balloons across the track—in my case, three kinds of weapons: green shells, banana peels, and squeaky hammers. As you drive by, you reach up with your hand and, thanks to the hand sensors you’re wearing, literally grab the item you want. To use the turtle shell or banana peel, you simply throw it as if it were a real object. For the hammer, it is attached to your hand for a limited amount of time, allowing you to hit any other racers in range as you flail it about.

While I only played against one other human player, at the actual VR ZONE SHINJUKU you’ll be able to race against three other players—and taunt them over voice chat.

Of course, MARIO KART ARCADE GP VR won’t be the only game at VR ZONE SHINJUKU when it opens on July 14, 2017. Most of the games from the previous VR ZONE Project i Can (that closed earlier this year) will also be playable—including the mecha games I played there last year alongside the experience of being held in the hand of the old Odaiba Gundam.

Being a Mecha Pilot In the Shadow of Tokyo’s Giant Gundam


But more than old stuff, there will also be several new anime-related VR games to play:

Evangelion VR “The Throne of Souls” puts three players in Shinji, Rei, and Asuka’s Evangelions and sends them out to battle the 10th Angel together.


Dragon Ball VR “Master the Kamehameha” lets players practice shooting Dragon Ball’s most iconic move.


Ghost in the Shell Arise: Stealth Hounds gives a group of players self contained VR units and sets them loose upon each other in a giant open room—though the VR goggles, the open room appears to be anything but.


VR ZONE SHINJUKU will also contain several non-anime-related VR games, a projection mapped climbing wall, and a restaurant. On an important note, children under thirteen will be unable to play any of the games that require VR headsets.

For more information, check out the official website. VR ZONE SHINJUKU will open for business on July 14, 2017. Tickets are on sale now.

In addition to VR ZONE SHINJUKU, a second location, VR ZONE LONDON, has been announced. However, the VR game lineup is currently undetermined.

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