When people hear “VR,” or virtual reality, it doesn’t register much of a reaction. It’s something you might see advertised on TV or on a small poster in a department store. If you are like I was, it’s not something you would ever imagine yourself being interested in. In Japan, however, VR attractions are going mainstream! What even is this VR craze, and how can you experience this unique Japanese attraction?
I arrived at hexaRide for the bi-hourly English session where I queued into one of the three color-coded groups. Staff in orange jumpsuits guided me to a futuristic triangular platform propped up by a complex network of hydraulic pumps and decked out with pulsating LED lights. With a little apprehension, I sat down and was assisted in putting on a pair of headphones and high-tech goggles that looked straight out of a Star Wars movie. As soon as I put on those goggles, my reality changed. I looked around in wonder, floating in a Matrix, with text in front of me so real I felt I could touch it. Beeps and boops told me I was somewhere high tech and far in the future.
I was enthusiastic, but I wasn’t convinced. I still remembered the frustrating commute to work that morning, as well as that my feet were killing me from walking throughout Tokyo the day before. However, the screen went black, and suddenly I was soaring rapidly in the sky. If I say suddenly a lot, it’s because from this point on the experience felt so shockingly real. Wind blew into my face, I bounced with the turbulence, I leaned forward as flew through the clouds. This is virtual reality.
hexaRide is an immersive virtual reality experience that first places you in the universe of Attack on Titan, a hit Japanese comic, animation, and film franchise. Gigantic deformed people, called Titans, threaten the very existence of mankind. The narrator updates you on the grave situation the protagonist face as Titans surround you and your team who rest utop an isolated tower. Flying towards this tower, I flinched as I thought I would nick my legs on a crumbling wall. But this was only the beginning.
Soon I was jumping from wall to wall of the crumbling tower, dodging and attacking Titans while flying through the air with my team. However, one situation led to another and soon I was sliding down the tilted floor into a Titan’s mouth! I vocalized in fear and tried to kick my legs. Luckily, my teammate saved me in the nick of time, but I was definitely sweating. The incredible effect of the hexaRide experience is that it controls all 5 senses masterfully to make you believe the danger, whether it’s sliding towards a Titan’s gaping mouth or, in the case of the second scenario, barely avoiding sharp debris from an explosion.
Yes, there is a second scenario, so don’t take off your headset. Based on the popular Ghost in the Shell franchise, your mission is to thwart a terrorist plot to assassinate the prime minister. This is your classic post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi car chase – flipping 18-wheelers included. Giant skyscrapers, roads, bridges, cars and helicopters crash around you as masterfully finesse your way through robot mercenaries, bullets, debris, and explosions. This scenario is just plain cool, and every character on your team of elite military team, including you, gets in on the action.
hexaRide isn’t interactive – you can think of it like two short movies. In a movie, you fear and cheer for the characters on the screen. But in virtual reality, you are the character on the screen. Fear for yourself, cheer for yourself, your emotions and reactions are your story on hexaRide.