When we heard Mario Kart VR was a thing, I’m pretty sure every single person on the team were crazily excited that the concept actually existed. Mario Kart is a classic Nintendo game that has brought joy to all kinds of gamer…not to mention has also aided in ending relationships with one well-timed blue shell (my sister still doesn’t answer my calls).
So when I recently was given the opportunity to play the game in Japan, how could I say no?
Shinjuku in Japan is the home of VR Zone – a theme park like facility centred around Virtual Reality and really showing how it should be experienced. Upon entry you are given 4 tickets (red, blue, yellow, green) with the colour on each corresponding to a certain group of games. There are 15 VR activities to choose from and it’s insanely hard to choose which 4 out of the 15 you want to spend your time in.Mario Kart VR was the first activity that I was eager to try and boy does VR Zone know how to really immerse you in a game. The Mario Kart area boasted 12 karts (4 racers in 3 different races). I’m talking actual karts on moving platforms, rigged with pedals for acceleration and brakes, a steering wheel and a wind machine. You can choose from 4 of the iconic Nintendo characters – Mario, Luigi, Peach and Yoshi. Upon choosing my kart, the attendants helped place the Vive VR goggles on, wrist straps and headset with mic for voice chat. The controls were what I expected: use the pedals to go and stop, steering wheel to steer and use your hands to grab items and toss them at your opponents. The race was on!I can not describe what it was like once the headset turned on. You are suddenly at the starting line on a Mario Kart course. You look to your left or right and there’s Peach or Mario staring back at you, then the player controlling that character waves at you or does the Macarena.
OMG THIS IS SICK!! MY HANDS ARE YOSHI HANDS!!
*Insert other over excited, yelling phrases that make you sound like crazy person*
Whilst in 100% gamer awe, you’re suddenly rear ended by Bowser and Wario (AI players) in HUGE karts as they push through to pole position. The moving platform you are seated in performed not only at great accuracy (it didn’t just jolt generically, if you were hit on the side, back, front, corner…it made sure you knew), but with quite a punch. It’s the first time I actually thought about needing a seatbelt whilst playing a game. The countdown began and we were off.
It’s important to mention that VR Zone and its games are powered by Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. So going into Mario Kart VR, I didn’t expect it to be an authentic Nintendo experience, whether that was through design elements, map configurations or just the sheer vibe, but I was 100% wrong on that. It is super authentic. You race through 3 different sections of a course each representing classic moments or tracks in the other games. You drive along roads lined by Giant Piranha Plants hungry for drivers, dodge flying bullets whilst paragliding after a jumping, try not to be crushed by those angry, huge block things in Bowser’s Castle – all of which are way more intimidating in VR. The feel of the kart is quite accurate too.
Unfortunately there was no power sliding, but the kart controlled exactly like it would if I was playing with a controller in hand; the back would slide out around corners and that frantic speed at which you turn or crash into other players were all there. One of the coolest features was definitely collecting items. Instead of driving through item blocks, green shells, bananas and hammers were attached to balloons floating just at arm height. Driving past you needed to reach out and grab that item to equipped it and then throw it forward or backwards to spin out the other racers or actually whacked them continuously with a hammer (by far the greatest feeling). It required you to not only drive with one hand (which only aided in the chaos) but also had you waiting for the right opportunity to aim true and let your friends have it. No aim assist available here #sorrynotsorry.
The only drawback to this whole experience is the motion. You really need to be prepared if you suffer from motion sickness or find yourself even feeling a little queasy after any of the VR games you find with Playstation VR, Oculus etc, you will definitely feel it with Mario Kart VR. I’m not too bad with motion sickness when it comes to VR, but after winning and dominating in the race (for legal purposes I will say the winning occurred in the second race), I needed a little rest. But other than that I will say that by far Mario Kart VR was and will be one of the greatest gaming experiences in my life! I HAD YOSHI HANDS, I MEAN COME ON!
If you ever go to Tokyo, be sure to hit up VR Zone and try it out, not to mention other games like Dinosaur Survivor Run, Winged Bicycle, Dragon Ball VR and more. Fun for the whole family and gamers of any age. I went up against a couple that were in their 70’s.
Also if you hear a story about a guy throwing up all over the Yoshi Kart…it definitely wasn’t me.