Freddy Valle writes from New York Comic Con 2017:
At this year's NYCC, I had the chance to do my first VR experience through Square Enix, Project Hikari, which has been in development for quite some time now. The project is an immersive, interactive VR experience that allows you to explore the world of a manga story. The message on the game's website states:
"At the R&D group of Square Enix, we are continuously pursuing compelling new ways for our fans to experience the stories crafted by our creators. Project Hikari is the latest result of our research to combine high-end game technology with the unique style and form of Japanese manga. Our aim is to make it possible for our fans to travel beyond the pages, and to experience your favorite manga from a perspective never seen before. We hope you enjoy this sample of our work in progress, brought to life with the latest in VR."
I'll admit, I wasn't convinced at first glance. I couldn't imagine how the concept would be able to compete with current VR video games. But all of that changed once I strapped on the headset. Immediately I was immersed into a whole new world.
The demo offered a few chapters from Tales of the Wedding Rings. It began with me on a street, and the characters Hime and Satou chatting a few steps away from me. When I looked around I saw apartments, trash bins, fences, and sky. All of the details were beautifully rendered in traditional Japanese manga style. The scenes were black and white. Giant rectangular panels would zoom in on characters, emphasizing their reactions. It felt as though I were accompanying the characters through their lives.
One moment that stood out was a scene in Satou's room. I was able to explore the room and step into a new dimension of the character's life, all while he was monologuing. It was sad having to depart from these characters, I was eager to continue following their adventures. Taking my headset off felt like Morty after playing Roy; I had to take a minute to ground myself to reality.
The experience only offered a few chapters of the manga; a mere tease of its potential. Most scenes were tame, and it felt more like an introduction. I can only imagine how more action packed stories can play out. Square Enix hopes to release Project Hikari some time in 2018. It's an engaging way to read new stories or revisit old favorites.