Independent development circle Spicy Tails announced on that it is developing a virtual reality anime based on Isuna Hasekura's Spice & Wolf novels. Hasekura himself is writing a new scenario for the anime. It will have English subtitles. The television anime's voice actors Ami Koshimizu (Holo) and Jun Fukuyama (Kraft Lawrence) are returning.
The anime is slated for release on HTC VIVE, Oculus Rift, and other platforms in early 2019. It will also be viewable on PC without a VR headset.
20 bucks to live inside a virtual reality with Holo? What's next? The entire Canada for three fiddy? You don't see deals this crazy on Black Friday.
Let me start by saying this is wholesome and giggly beyond belief. I got an achievement by making Holo reward me with a headpat. I was rewarded for being rewarded. I have never experienced such kindness and warmth before. If enjoyment is an indicator of quality, then this thing is flawless.
Basically, what we have at hand are bunch of pre-scripted VR stories that consist of minimal story events and dialogue, Holo being Holo and dominating the screen with
her personality and fluffiness. You talk about the future, shared dreams and it's just perfect in every way.
Other than this, there is a special chapter that is based on VR interaction with Holo. You can point objects, rub her ears, pat her head, play with that tail, feed her some goddamn bread, and make her angry / give other type of reactions, see your own heart turn into butter, and regret you ever had feelings for real women. Part of me never left that mill. Also, gameplay/5.
The voice acting is amazing because it's loyal to the anime. The VR environment really is more like a movie than a game, and that's of course all for the better. Holo's design was a positive surprise, it surely is not an easy task to make a model of her please Spice and Wolf audience, but the outcome is seriously impressive. Maybe one day we can see Holo's tail running with full TressFX //hair engine, but as far as this niche which surface we have only so far touched goes, amazing VR game. Highly recommended for anyone who worships the wolf.
This is very short for the asking price of nearly 30 CAD but I think Spicy Tails deserves the money to fund their future endeavors and that this work may have opened a few new doors in the anime industry, with the degree of immersion and interactivity it contains. For those wondering I purchased this through Steam and viewed it on HTC Vive.
The story is incredibly simple and split into three chapters. Holo and Craft take shelter in an abandoned mill during a storm and spend a night camping there, Craft makes up a fairy tail about a man who finds a spirit woman and
makes Holo envious of the fictional woman. A hungry Holo then dotes on turning the mill into a bakery before having her ambitions crushed by Craft’s trading expertise. Finally the two express gratitude for each other as companions for a moment before leaving when the rain lets up. Holo will wave goodbye to you, confusing Craft who doesn’t know you’re there. That’s it. It’s easy enough for a child to follow and nothing comes of it, but it’s all the experience really needs.
For almost the entirety of this viewing experience you are seeing things through Craft’s point of view while he sits on a bench and Holo moves around him. He only stands up when entering or leaving the mill at the beginning and ending respectively. His model looks strange but it isn’t important since you only see it for about 30 seconds. You are bound to this bench in the spot where Craft sits for the entire time. You can choose to have the subtitles track your headset or grab them and move them to a spot that you’re comfortable with which is a nice feature. The sound is 3 dimensional, as expected of VR. There is a song that plays in the credits but I didn’t really like it (maybe it will grow on me, who knows.) There are also coins scattered in different places throughout the room and they all have to be found for 100 percent completion. If you don’t go for them in your first viewing, then this is where the only rewatch value lies.
Holo is the focus of this whole thing so I’ll talk about her for a bit. Her motions and expressions are all very life like and they did a good job making her feel real. She’ll sit next to Craft, get close to him and slap him with her tail a few times. In the part where she pretends to be running a bakery, her outfit also changes. After completing the main story you unlock an interactive mode where you can play with Holo. This is NOT in the North American playstation version according to what I have heard, so avoid the PSVR version at all costs as a whole quarter of content is censored.
It’s super cute but your options are exhausted quickly. You can pet her head, stroke her tail (when she grants you permission to do so) ogle her or do the opposite and completely ignore her (which will make her try to get your attention), shock her by touching her chest, feed her bread, and get her to sit down next to you and pat your head as a reward for being good to her. Sometimes she’ll lie down in front of you. She will also make comments on different objects in the room if you point them out to her. It took about 10 minutes to complete all of this, and a checklist is placed in the room so you’ll know when you’re done, and that’s the end of the Spice and Wolf VR experience.
Overall it’s good. Not much, but I absolutely adored it, and I definitely value quality over quantity. Please understand the high price if you want to try it for yourself, as making VR anime is a very expensive undertaking. I definitely hope to see more stuff like this in the future.
Also, remember this is VR Anime. Do not go into it expecting a game.
To clarify my stance with the series, I'm a fan of both the anime, and manga adaptation and the original Light Novel, and they are one of my long time favorites. I don't really know why is this in the database, since it's sort of a game, like a VN, so I'd expect it'll either be removed or it will become the gateway drug for adding other interactive visual media.
But whatever, let's begin with the review.
○ Story and characters ○
This... game is broken into 2 parts. One is the story mode, with 3 chapters and a total play time of around 15-20 minutes and the
other is an interactive mode I'll get into later. The story mode is really simple, Holo and Lawrence take shelter in an abandoned watermill from a storm and while waiting for it to end, they... discuss things. Which is sadly not their usual back and forth which made the previous entries so enjoyable. Holo acts much more immature to the digree I could barely recognize her and Lawrence is also much blander due to the gameplay. There really aren't any more to say without going into the details of the story. Not like there is anyting to spoil.
○ Art/Visuals and sound ○
The game is built on the Unity engine, and while it was never a powerhouse, by today, it's absolutely outdated. Which wasn't too big a problem assuming the staff makes a good design choice. But they didn't. The environment or background can get a passing grade. It's clean and easy on the eyes. But the character designs are atrocious. They made the crime like so many other staff and tried to replecate the 2D aesthetics in 3D which results in some really uncanny visuals. Holo's movements and her body from the neck down is alright, but that face will haunt me to the grave. Her head (and his as welll when he is shown) is disproportionately oversized and her face isn't detailed and really stiff, like a burn victrim. They should've either gone all out Advent Children style and make a more realistic design or stay with 2D, though it wouldn't fit to the VR.
Regarding the sould there is nothing to complain about. It does what it's meant to, nothing more, nothing less.
○ Gameplay ○
You look at things. That's all. In the story mode, you see the events through Lawrence's eyes, who's sitting an a bench motionless and talks, while you can just look around. In the interactive mode, you can... look at things. That's all. You look at things and after a couple of seconds Holo reacts. There are is a checklist on the bench, listing the reactions you have to get from Holo, meaning, you have to look at 5 "interactive" items twice, to finish all objectives and done.
○ Verdict ○
It's a massive disappointment. It costs 21€ (currently 19 with a discount) on Steam and lacks in every department compared to anything in the franchise. For something with the same length, with some luck you can buy the Picture Book release of the OVA DVD set between the 2 seasons.