As the development of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset continues, software developers are experimenting with ways to utilize the new piece of video gaming hardware. Given Japan’s well-known accepting attitude towards dating simulators and other, more adult forms of electronic entertainment, it wasn’t such a huge shock that the country is already hard at work on Oculus Rift games that allow you to date, peep at, at straight-up paw anime-style virtual girlfriends.
But how about a VR application that feels incredibly Japanese without simultaneously being incredibly pervy? In that case, perhaps this simulated roller coaster ride on a revolving sushi conveyor belt through the Tokyo skyline is more your style.
Ultra-Sushi-Go-Round is a new title in development by software house Cubic9, and can be downloaded for free here. The designer’s inspiration comes from his childhood visit to a kaitenzushi restaurant, one of Japan’s eateries where diners pluck plates of sushi off of a conveyor belt as they flow by.
“When I was a kid,” he recalls, “I wanted to use [anime character Doraemon’s] Small Beam to shrink myself down and ride on one of the plates. The Small Light doesn’t exist, though, so I had to give up on that dream, but now I can achieve it in a virtual reality environment.”
The demonstration starts out inside the restaurant, and from the perspective you can see that you’re in line behind two pieces of shrimp sushi on the belt.
With Tokyo’s electronics mecca of Akihabara serving as the setting, a bit of a sci-fi twist isn’t completely unexpected, and it turns out this restaurant is staffed by robots!
That’s not the only bit of surrealism in store, though. Just before the conveyor belt is about to complete a full lap of the restaurant’s interior, the track makes a quick turn to the left, heading out the door and off into a low-altitude cruise through the nearby skyscrapers. As the perspective moves outside and leaves the din of the restaurant behind, there’s a brief moment of silence before a tension-building rattle like that of a roller coaster climbing to the top of a peak.
By far the video’s scariest moment is the loop, when for a heart-stopping moment it seems like all of that delicious sushi is going to be wasted as it falls to the concrete below. Other highlights include zooming past the Akihabara branch of electronics retailer Yodobashi Camera and buzzing one of the trains passing through Akihabara Station.
To add to the realism, Cubic9 included little touches like the plates vibrating as they make their high-speed trip around the neighborhood, plus having different-colored plates to denote different prices of sushi, as is standard operating procedure at kaitenzushi joints.
In the end, no one grabs your plate of sushi, so as the thrill ride comes to an end you pull slowly back into the restaurant.
▼ Oddly enough, while Akihabara has at least two kaitenzushi restaurants in real life, neither is in the location shown in the video.
Just remember, the conveyor belts at kaitenzushi restaurants are a closed circuit, so if your goal is maximum immersion, you’ll want to immediately hit the replay button.