Virtual reality fans rejoice! There’s a new VR arcade in town. Reincarnating the VR Zone in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho, which closed in March this year, Bandai Namco has opened a new VR facility in nearby Ikebukuro.
Officially launched on July 12, the facility is called マザリア (“Mazaria”), a play on the Japanese word mazaru, which means “to mix” or “to blend”. What exactly is it mixing or blending, you ask? Well, the centre’s tagline is “the gateway to anime and gaming worlds”, so it’s safe to assume the blending is of anime and games, as well as of “the worlds of imagination and reality”, according to the official website.
The new VR arcade features many of the same games that were offered in VR Zone Shinjuku, with a few fresh additions. Still, I never got the chance to visit the one in Shinjuku, so everything was novel to me.
Here’s the lowdown on the sparkling new centre, which I visited this weekend!
What to play at Mazaria
Mazaria Ikebukuro is broken up into four zones: Festival, Adventure, Panic and SF (Science Fiction). Within each zone are games and activities that fit within the theme. Most are VR but there are a couple that are not. Before every VR activity, you have to agree to a disclaimer before they let you scan your QR code/ticket, and then watch an instructive video (subtitled in four languages – Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese, Korean). The staff sometimes get in character so the whole experience is a lot of fun.
Here’s a description of every activity that can be found in each zone. I’ve included the English taglines verbatim from the official website because they are just plain gold.
This area features the more light-hearted and family-oriented games, including some classic arcades games.
マリオカートアーケードグランプリVR | Mario Kart Arcade GP VR
Tagline: “This time you are in the driver’s seat.”
Anyone who has ever owned a Nintendo console would have probably played Mario Kart at some point in their life. The VR take on the classic go-cart racing game features the popular traps and tricks, including Piranha Plants and Thwomps.
Seemingly popular with all ages, this activity had a wait time of 30 minutes or more the entire time I was there. But that was partially due to the fact that only one set (four VR karts) was in operation that night. There are actually four sets in the area – I presume they operate them all when they anticipate large crowds.
Play time: 8 min
太鼓の達人 VRだドン！| Taiko no Tatsujin: VR Festival!
Tagline: “Let’s drum using our whole body!!”
This is one of my favourite arcade games ever, so I knew I had to try this VR version. Although I think nothing beats the satisfaction of smashing a physical drum, I still had a blast!
When you are lining up, the staff will ask you to pick a song to play to, out of a list of five songs. I picked “Angel Dream”. There are three different areas, each with a capacity of four players, one at each corner. You hold a VR “drumstick” in each hand, and once you put on the headset, you are transported to an animated festival world with the cute Taiko character speaking to you.
Similar to the arcade game, you hit the taiko face when it gets highlighted – except they come flying towards you, at all height levels. Needless to say, your arms do get a pretty good workout! I was totally absorbed in it, and when the song finished and I lifted the headset, the staff said smiling “You were really into it. I like Angel Dream too.” “It was so much fun,” I replied. I looked around and realised I was the only person left in my section. XD
Play time: 10 min
巨大風船爆発ルームパニックキューブ | Giant Balloon Burst Room Panic Cube
Tagline: “Everyone is going crazy!”
Not exactly VR, but an escape room type game, where you have to solve puzzles in order to find a way out of a prison before a giant expanding balloon squashes you. A real giant balloon. You can intermittently hear loud popping sounds throughout the zone when the balloon bursts. I didn’t get a chance to play this because they wouldn’t allow solo players. 🙁
Play time: 12 min
パックマン ゴーラウンド | PAC-MAN Go-Round
Tagline: “Take a ride with PAC-MAN.”
A non-VR activity for the kiddies, where you get to smile for the camera as you sit on a PAC-MAN-themed merry-go-round. This one was empty most of the time.
Play time: 5 min
アスレチックVRパックマンチャレンジ | Athletic VR PAC-MAN challenge
Tagline: “Guaranteed to get your heart pumping.”
Seriously, who born in the last 30 years doesn’t know the premise of PAC-MAN? In this game*, you become the title character, using your entire body to navigate through the maze and collect power pellets while avoiding the ghosts. It’s held in a large dark room, so you really do have to move your body. Hence the “athletic” part of the activity.
*Not included in passport, costs extra 500 yen
Play time: 8 min
The VR experiences in this section are fairly self-explanatory from their names. With the exception of a couple of games, most simply simulate certain outdoor experiences.
急滑降体感機スキーロデオ | Steep Downhill Ski Simulator Ski Rodeo
Tagline: “Will you be able to manage skiing off impossible cliffs?”
You can only move left and right, and can’t control your speed. I was super bad at this one and crashed more times than I could count. I think I even fell off the cliff at one point. If this was real life I would definitely be dead.
Play time: 6 mins
釣りVR GIJIESTA | Fishing VR Gijiesta
Tagline: “Go lure fishing in the wild with the VR activity!”
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what “gijiesta” means. I played it, but I have no idea. Anyway, this game was as boring as real fishing, with the pro that at least no fish got hurt. It’s fairly realistic in that you throw your fishing rod to cast the line, and then have to reel it in, picking up the fish with your net when it gets close, but then that’s it. You return the fish to the water and do it again. I caught and released about five fish, and that was that. I think it would have been more motivating if there was a high scoreboard and you could see where you ranked or something. Otherwise it all seemed rather pointless to me, as fishing is not especially hard or dangerous to experience in real life.
Play time: 8 mins
冒険川下りVRラピッドリバー | VR Adventure Rapid River
Tagline: “Right, right! No wait! Left, go left!!”
I’ve been rafting down rapids before in real life, and of course nothing beats the real thing. But this was still pretty fun, as it involves teamwork to steer the raft. And you don’t get wet. At the end of the trail you get to see the”phantom ruins”, together with how many times you crashed in the process.
One of the Mazaria staff, a young dude, played with me and it was so cute because he kept calling me “お姉さん” (big sis) while we were navigating. “お姉さん、左か右？” (Sis, left or right?) when we reached a fork in the river, and then “お姉さん、よろしく” (Sis, I’m leaving it to you) when I needed to paddle to steer, and then “お姉さん、ごめんなさい！” (Sis, I’m sorry!) when we crashed. LOL. In the end we reached the ruins with 13 crashes, and he seemed like he had a lot of fun too. I’m glad I could give him an excuse to play that night.
Play time: 10 mins
極限度胸試しハネチャリ | Test the limits of your courage! Hanechari (Winged Bicycle)
Tagline: “You’re going to crash! Keep going!”
This one probably required the most skill and was therefore one of my favourites. Plus the mystical scenery which accompanied the bicycle ride in the air was so pretty.
You are basically sitting on a bike machine with a VR headset, and have to navigate through cliffs and rocky caves to reach the castle within the time limit. You can control the speed and angle of your bike by pressing forward or pulling back on the handlebars, but in order to get momentum you also have to pedal. It was really difficult to get the hang of at first, and I crashed a number of times. One of the staff gave me tips on navigating through the headset, so I was able to reach the castle just as time ran out.
Play time: 9 mins
VR-ATシミュレーター装甲騎兵ボトムズバトリング野郎 | VR-AT Simulator Armored Troops Votoms Battling Dudes
Tagline: “One crushing blow cuts right through my armor!”
This one describes itself as “the world’s first VR-AT simulator” but I’m not really sure what that means. Armored Troops simulator? I’m assuming AT must be a franchise of some sort. Anyway, it reminded me of one of those battle games people used to play at LAN parties, like Halo. Except it was only me and one other dude (the computer?) that were trying to blow each other up. Kept ending up as a draw as neither of us was successful. You can control both the movement of your suit and firing of weapons.
Play time: 7 mins
ドラゴンクエストVR | Dragon Quest VR
*Not included in the passport, extra 3,200 yen
Tagline: “Step into the world of Dragon Quest. You swing the sword! You cast the spells!”
I’ve never played Dragon Quest in my life, but I know it’s a SQUARE ENIX classic that has a solid fanbase. Still, 3,200 yen, the equivalent of the cost of one night passport, to play a 20 minute game seems a little steep to me. The game is promoted as an immersive experience into the world of Dragon Quest. Somebody play and tell me if you think it’s worth the price.
Play time: 20 mins
This area consists of four “thrilling” VR experiences, and is definitely a good place for horror buffs to start.
極限度胸試し高所恐怖SHOW | Extreme Courage Test Machine Fear of Heights: the SHOW
Tagline: “No no no! I can’t move even one step!”
Put your fear of heights to the test as you attempt to walk across a plank 200 metres above ground to rescue a kitten. This one required the most set up, which is probably why it consistently had one of the longer wait times. Not only do you have to wear a headset, but also change your shoes and wear sensored gloves. This is so the program knows when you’ve picked up the “cat”.
It’s not too difficult, but those afraid of heights might find it raises their heart rate. The plank creaks and is unbalanced at times.
Play time: 8 mins
恐竜サバイバル体験絶望ジャングル | Dinosaur Survival Run – Jungle of Despair
Tagline: “They’re eating them alive!”
Try and escape from a jungle full of dinosaurs, with nothing but a headlight. You’re basically running around a pitch-black jungle, and if you see a dinosaur, you switch off your headlight and run. I was mauled.
Play time: 13 mins
ホラー実体験室脱出病棟Ω(オメガ) | Immersive Horror Room: Hospital Escape Omega
Tagline: “Never enter alone”
They take their tagline seriously because solo visitors aren’t allowed to play. Maybe it’s just too scary. This is haunted mansion-type VR game set in a cursed abandoned hospital. For more mature audiences (Mazaria restricts this one to ages 13 and over), as some scenes are rather graphic and downright frightening. However, probably not as frightening as those haunted mansions in theme parks, because you don’t actually have to move in this one.
Play time: 12 mins
ゾンビサバイバルゲームハード・コール | Zombie Survival Game HARD CALL
Tagline: “Infection Rate: 1/4 One touch and you’re a zombie.”
Join a rescue party to try and get out of a zombie-infested town. Your classic zombie shoot-em-up. What makes it fun is the teamwork and the fact that you can communicate with other players in your “rescue party”. You can even see their characters in the car with you, and work together to fend off zombies coming from a certain direction. But the zombies don’t tend to stay down, so you may find your trigger finger getting tired pretty soon.
Play time: 9 mins
Four VR activities, this is where the anime and pop culture fans should head to first.
エヴァンゲリオンVR The魂の座：暴走 | Evangelion VR The Throne of Souls: Berserk
Tagline: “Don’t run away”
As a long-time Eva fan, this VR game was the one I was most looking forward to. I made a beeline for it the moment I stepped inside. It completely fulfilled all my expectations and blew me away! The experience is seriously like piloting an Eva, and even has NERV HQ characters like Misato (original seiyuu and all) popping up on the screen inside the entry plug and giving orders. The setting is the battle against the 10th angel, when the Eva (you) goes berserk. ‘Decisive Battle’ even plays in the background!
Play time: 13 mins
ガンダムVR ダイバ強襲 | Gundam VR Daiba Assault
Tagline: “The excitement is almost terrifying”
Unlike the Evangelion game, you don’t actually get to pilot a Gundam, just sit in the palm of the hand of one. What’s cool about it is that it’s set around the life-sized Gundam model in Tokyo’s Odaiba waterfront area, which actually exists. So you get to survey a virtual rendition of Odaiba from the height of a Gundam, complete with simulated shudders you would expect when sitting in the hand of a moving giant robot. Choose the left Gundam for a daytime rendition, the right one for a nighttime one.
Play time: 8 mins
ゴジラVR | Godzilla VR
Tagline: “The world is counting on this shot!”
Join a helicopter crew to take down Godzilla! Your mission is to fire a blood congealment missile into the mouth of Godzilla, but you can only do so when authorized. I played this with two other random gaijin, and the audio was completely in English. Which makes me think they have the VR games recorded in the four main languages, or in Japanese and English at least, and can choose which language to play based on the group.
Play time: 10 mins
大量破壊VRシューティングギャラガフィーバー | VR Swarm Shooting Galaga Fever
Tagline: “Have a BLAST!”
This is the VR take on the retro fixed shooter arcade game Galaga. You get placed into a space elevator, and have to shoot at the alien forces, which look exactly like the retro spaceships of the 80s. I did pretty bad in this, as I found aiming the gun to be difficult.
Play time: 12 mins
A Mazaria passport costs 4,500 yen* for an adult, which includes entry and covers all VR activities and games except the two Field VR activities (Athletic PAC-MAN – extra 500 yen, Dragon Quest – extra 3,200 yen). You can save 1,000 yen if you go after 5pm and get a night passport for 3,500 yen*.
If you are only interested in one or two VR games, you can pay 800 yen* for entry and 1,000 yen for each game (except for Athletic PAC-MAN and Dragon Quest, which cost 2,000 yen and 3,200 yen respectively). Simple math shows that if you plan to play more than 4 games, it’s more value for money to just buy the passport. “Skip” tickets, where you can specify the time you want to play, are available for 1,000 yen per activity.
*To celebrate its opening, ticket prices are discounted by 300 yen until November 4 2019.
You can also purchase combined ticket sets with Namjatown, a indoor theme park by Namco located downstairs, for 5,500 yen.
Tickets can be purchased online (you will need to sign up though) or at the door.
Strategy / Wait time
Wait times vary depending on the activity. On a Saturday night, which is when I went, popular games had an average wait time of around 15 – 30 minutes. Not theme park-level waiting, but still a waste of precious time when you have a night passport and only have 4 – 5 hours to do as many activities as possible.
I managed to cover 13 activities in around 4 hours. Not bad, considering there are 17 activities included in the Mazaria passport, that’s over 76%. Three I weren’t able to do because they were for two players or more, and one was the merry-go-round which was inappropriate for me. So I can happily say the night passport was very much worth the money.
In terms of strategy, besides Evangelion, which I really wanted to do and so waited over 30 minutes for, I simply went to activities which had a 15 minute wait time or less. I found that depending on the time, activities would become empty just randomly. So I would just do something else first and then come back later, and find there were only a few people lining up. Numbers seemed to dwindle around dinnertime (7pm-ish), so you can also try going for more popular games during then.
If you go on a weekday, outside of school holidays, you have an even better chance of hitting up all the activities.
In addition to screens installed throughout the facility, the official website is also very handy for checking the wait time for each attraction. This means you can be strategic about which activity to attack next even while waiting in line.
Other things to do at Mazaria
In the centre of the facility is a giant PAC-MAN four-player arcade game, except the “screen” is one massive wall. Anyone can play, and you verse the other players by seeing who can eat the most pellets.
Mazaria also has a cafe and merchandise store onsite. Cafe & Bar SPECIAL FLAG sells your typical fast food and some Dragon Quest-themed dishes. But as with all theme parks and leisure facilities, expect it to be overpriced. And since you are allowed to exit and reenter using the same ticket, it’s probably better to go out and grab something to eat if you really are hungry. As for the souvenir goods, they are also mostly Dragon Quest, with some PAC-MAN and Taiko no Tatsujin items.
If you bought a Namjatown pass, you can head down to the leisure facility via a flight of stairs inside Mazaria. They are located right below the giant PAC-MAN screen.
Getting to Mazaria
Mazaria is easy walking distance from Higashi-Ikebukuro Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line or Higashi-Ikebukuro-yonchome Station on the Toden Arakawa tram line. Alternatively, you can walk from any of the Ikebukuro Stations (JR, Seibu, Tobu, Metro) in under 10 minutes. Take exit no. 35.
東京都豊島区東池袋３丁目１ サンシャインシティ ワールドインポートマートビル3階
Sunshine City World Import Mart Building 3F, 3-1-3 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Open everyday 10:00am – 10:00pm. Last entry is at 9:00pm, an hour before closing. They stop people from lining up for activities by around 9:30pm.