Back in 2018 and 2019, I had heard about the VR Zone in Shinjuku, and more specifically about the Godzilla VR game that they hosted there at the time. I had had some experience with VR games at other locations, and found them rather gimmicky, but as an avid Godzilla fan, I really wanted to check out Godzilla VR (ゴジラVR). I even saved their website, and regularly checked it to make sure the place was still open and (I thought) in no danger of closing before I might get a chance to attend. I remember at the time I was paranoid about the attraction just closing shop, though I don’t remember precisely why; I think I had missed some other event I had meant to attend and was determined not to miss out on Godzilla VR as well. Thus and so every few weeks I would check the website; maybe once a month I would be thinking of going and having a look; every time I felt too tired or too busy or you can check off the excuse here.

Well, you can imagine my chagrin when I finally decided to go in early 2019, only to discover that the place had closed down in March. I was absolutely shocked, since I had regularly checked the website, and I always saw that Godzilla VR was still listed as one of the attractions. I missed, however, that the entire venue was closing on the main page. Given that I had always made it a point to attend any Godzilla related event I could manage, from the two USJ Godzilla the Real films, the NamjaTown Godzilla AR game, and various Godzilla exhibitions and the like, given how much weight I put on attending such events, I just felt incredibly frustrated and disappointed in myself for not having jumped on the experience right away when it was available. Man, did I ever beat myself up at the time.

Mazaria VR Amusement Park

For that reason, I was thrilled when I discovered that a new VR place had opened up not long afterwards in Ikebukuro in Sunshine City, taking the place of J-World Tokyo above NamjaTown, and had inherited many of VR Zone’s attractions—including Godzilla VR! The new VR amusement park was called Mazaria, and you better believe I jumped on the chance to experience virtual reality Godzilla as soon as I could in November 2019.

Here it is--Mazaria, the VR amusement park

Here it is–Mazaria, the VR amusement park

The main reason I didn’t write up my experiences sooner was because I lost my notes. I had written down a summary of everything that happened in the Godzilla VR game in a rough draft email… and then I promptly lost everything I wrote. I never recovered that text, but I remember the most salient parts of the game. I took pictures of the venue, of the screens explaining the game (which included English instructions), and there are several short videos on YouTube that helped jog my memory a bit—including a review from Monstrosities Tokusatsu Blog. He wasn’t very detailed in his review (I don’t mean that as a criticism—if anything, I tend to be too detailed), and he was a bit more forgiving than me. Of all the Godzilla experiences I have had in Japan, this one… this one was maybe the most disappointing, except MAYBE for the Joypolis Tokyo Godzilla Museum AR event I checked out in 2021.

As with just about any Godzilla event, I wanted to get the full experience at Mazaria—I got the pass so that I could enjoy all of the events as many times as I wanted without having to pay each time. (I would later find out that some events cost extra, such as the very fun Pac-Man VR, but I digress.) Godzilla VR was one of the first attractions I experienced at the amusement park. I was by myself, and so I ended up joining several strangers in our fight against Godzilla.

The poster for Godzilla VR looks dang cool

The poster for Godzilla VR looks dang cool

We started with an introductory video that went over the situation—you’re a member of the military fighting against Godzilla in an attack helicopter, and a special blood coagulant missile has been developed for you to fire into the kaiju king’s mouth. Players are instructed to soften up the giant monster with regular everyday missiles first (presumably just ticking him off enough to open his big ugly mouth), and then shooting in the blood-freezing poison blaster bomb. The whole set-up is actually very similar to Godzilla the Real 4D from Universal Studios Japan, in which attendees ride a VTOL with a similar mission to blast something down Godzilla’s gob—just that fight wasn’t a game.

My impression of the Godzilla VR game was really good at the outset. I liked the helicopter seats and headgear (four players can fight Godzilla at a time), and the preparation video was fun and exciting. The best part, the first time I played the game, was the staff—a young lady was dressed in military get-up and was completely into her part, speaking in a clipped, professional military style, stomping around, saluting, the whole nine yards. Her performance added SO MUCH to the experience, making it truly fun—and I was reminded of her dedication when I witnessed similar performances at Godzilla the Ride. The Godzilla Escape Room (called “Escape from Shin Godzilla”) also had a truly dedicated actor in the form of a commanding officer named Serizawa.

Here is how the game worked: You strap in, and you chase Godzilla through the streets of the city as he smashes through buildings, swings his tail overhead, and zaps with his laser breath. Some of the money shots from this sequence can be viewed online. I had written a breakdown of every beat of what happened in the city, but unfortunately that text is gone now. Suffice it to say, this entire sequence is not interactive except that you can look around. As the gunner of the attack helicopter, you don’t actually get to control where the helicopter is going at all, and while flying through the concrete jungle, you aren’t allowed to shoot Godzilla either (though you can bang away on the triggers, which I did—it took me a while to realize I really couldn’t do anything but watch).

After the chase through the city streets, the climax of the game takes place in a burning, blasted out section of the city in which you and (presumably) your fellow fighters close in on the rampaging Godzilla. Finally you are given the go to use your conventional missiles on Godzilla, though you still are unable to control where the helicopter is flying. The aiming is controlled by where you are looking with your head, just like with the Godzilla Attack: Sortie! G-Force AR game I played at NamjaTown back in 2016. At first I was still confused, thinking that I aimed with the twin joysticks. However, the only part of the joysticks that did anything was the trigger buttons. To make the fight more exciting, you see what seem to be your fellow helicopters getting blasted out of the air as you continue nailing Godzilla with missiles, and then, whether because Godzilla is angry or weakened or whatever, you swoop in for the kill and are given the okay to shoot him with a blood coagulant missile. The player is not given much time to get ready as the helicopter swings in front of Godzilla, who is readying his atomic breath, and you have just a few moments to fire…

A special blood coagulant missile

I fired, and best that I can recall several years later, there wasn’t much of a win screen. Basically you are informed that you won, without much fanfare—I can’t remember if we actually got to see Godzilla freeze over, but I don’t think we did. Anyway, the military staff lady came over to help me out of my restraints, and I was excited to get in on the act and salute her, which threw her off her performance. I felt bad, because I loved how she got into her part, and I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.

Anyway, much like the fellow over at Monstrosities: Tokusatsu Vlog, I had a sneaking suspicion that the sparse game elements were even LESS integrated into the experience than they seemed. When I was blasting Godzilla with missiles, there was no on-screen indication that his health was going down or that his rage had to reach a certain level before the blood coagulant missile could be shot. Also, while the game shows multiple other helicopters being shot down around the player, I had a strong suspicion that my fellow players were NOT being shot down at all, and all casualties were just NPCs, and that everyone got a chance to shoot that final shot. After all, the gameplay did not include any means to dodge Godzilla’s blasts, nor deflect them away from yourself, nor even a health meter of any sort on your helicopter—not that I can recall at least. The gameplay felt arbitrary. There wasn’t even a score. Mind you, ALL of these gameplay elements had been in Godzilla Attack at NamjaTown, which displayed the top scores for the day and provided clear win conditions and teamwork with the other players and ways to dodge the monster king’s attacks.

Given that I had paid for the pass and wouldn’t need to slap down extra for each game, I resolved to come back to play Godzilla VR one more time and deliberately lose while trying to suss out how the game actually worked. So I went and tried out a bunch of the other VR games in Mazaria. After trying many games of varying quality and interest (my favorites were probably the aforementioned Pac-Man VR game and the Taiko Tatsujin VR game), I came back towards the end of my day to experience round two.

Awesome Godzilla decorations

Awesome Godzilla decorations

This time the staff lady had changed, and the replacement was much less into her part. I believe I asked her to take a picture of me in the helicopter restraints, but while she said that pictures were allowed, she also said that staff were not allowed to take said pictures—a big bummer given that I went alone.

Anyway, so the second playthrough starts up, and this time I knew better than to jerk around the joysticks and try to fire in the purely cinematic opening section. When the battle sequence came around, I deliberately fired wild with most of my shots, failing to hit Godzilla more often than I actually landed any hits. And just as I suspected, my absolutely horrendous performance made no difference to the game; I wonder if it would have mattered whether I had hit the Big G with any rockets at all. I still had the opportunity to switch to the coagulant bomb, and I still had the chance to cram said special boom-boom down Godzilla’s gross throat.

But I deliberately failed to pull the trigger in time… and there was almost no difference in outcome. Instead of a boring win screen, I got a boring lose screen. The lady staff member awkwardly loosed me from my restraints, and I gave her a sheepish grin.

So far as I could tell, the only game element in the entire Godzilla VR experience, then, that would actually affect the outcome was pulling the trigger at the end. Incredibly disappointing.

On the plus side, though, there is a certain excitement to be had from standing in line, prepping with the multi-lingual instruction screens, and setting down in a faux helicopter operations seat. Even though interaction is kept to a bare minimum, the addition of the haptic feedback as the explosions and such rock your vehicle were dynamic and reasonably exciting. The CGI Shin Godzilla also looks really good, very close to the model used in the actual movie—there were only certain small moments when I could clearly make out the polygons. There is an experience to be had with Godzilla VR—just not much of a game.

Godzilla Food Items at Mazaria

With all that said, Godzilla VR was just the main attraction for Godzilla fans. As with many other Godzilla-related events, unique goods were also for sale—including several menu items. I wanted to try everything, and so… I did. I spent way too much money on every menu item on order.

The menu--who wants to eat Godzilla?

The menu–who wants to eat Godzilla?

First up was the Troops’ Freshly Brewed Coffee with Stainless Steel Mug Cup, selling for 1,950 yen. I am not a connoisseur of coffee, but I drank it anyway, straight, and it tasted like any average mug of coffee to me. That said, the Stainless Steel Mug Cup that came with became one of my favorite drinking receptacles at home, and while it’s suffered a bit from overuse since then as I was using it practically every day, it’s one of my favorite practical Godzilla memorabilia pieces. The mug is emblazoned with the logo for the GSAF, which I believe is the Godzilla Special Attack Force (the Godzilla VR version of the G-Force).

Godzilla coffee--in a collectible mug

Godzilla coffee–in a collectible mug

Retrieve it! Godzilla Sample is next, basically a black-colored chicken leg selling for 870 yen. According to the sell copy, it’s a fried chicken leg with bone included, smoked, and made to look like Godzilla’s own flesh, then wrapped in a paper emblazoned with the GSAF emblem—and we are assured that the chicken is actually not burnt! Overall, I liked it. Tasty, but not anything special. It reminded me of a similar product sold at the Godzilla Fes back in 2017; they had these honestly gross black karaage that tasted like food coloring. It, too, was meant to mimic Godzilla cells.

Godzilla ain't no chicken--but he tastes like it!

Godzilla ain’t no chicken–but he tastes like it!

Then… then came the vilest Godzilla-related food item I have ever encountered—the Godzilla Heat Beam Black Sesame Dandan Noodles for 1,200 yen. I should preface by saying that dandan nooldes is one of my favorite staple dishes at Chinese restaurants in Japan.

Getting some tail in your noodle slime soup

Getting some tail in your noodle slime soup

It’s my go-to dish, and the one which I (used to anyway) order all the time to judge the quality of any given Chinese restaurant. However, even just looking at that image on the advertisements nearly turned my stomach. The Godzilla Heat Beam Sesame Dandan Noodles includes purple noodles, sculpted eggplant, and Chinese spicy oil made from black sesame base, all to create an image of Godzilla blasting his heat beams from his tail. Unfortunately, especially from the way they cut that eggplant (a vegetable that already has a reputation for its visual similarity to a particular piece of male anatomy), it looks just so gross… especially with the gummy, slimy black ooze-soup it’s served in. I ate some of the noodles, but even though I don’t mind eating eggplant, I couldn’t bring myself to take a bite of it. None of it tasted good, and the whole presentation just… yeah. Just yick.

Finally, to end on a positive note, I also bought the Godzilla VR t-shirt while I was there, which has pixel-art imagery of the climactic battle from the attraction featured on the front. This pixel-art was adapted from an animation that I recorded, which played as an advertisement outside the Mazaria floorspace. That t-shirt is one of my favorite Godzilla-related t-shirts, though I rarely wear it because I don’t want it to fall apart. I just think it looks really cool and unique.

Now I could go on and on about the other attractions as well which were featured at Mazaria, as I tried SO MANY of them (given the small crowds on the day I went). Many of the games were mostly gimmicks, and even the more well-reviewed on the Mazaria and VR Zone sites could be shallow. I saw so much praise for the Mario Kart VR game, and it IS fun… but players only got one go around the track and it was done! You couldn’t even learn the turns before it was over. There was certainly entertainment to be had in some of the attractions—the Evangelion game required strategy to win (I got my butt handed to me), as did a scary dinosaur experience, though neither of those struck me as especially good. A zombie fight game had a bit more traction, though the most amusing aspect of that one was that many of the female players I saw were just constantly screaming. I really wanted to try Dragon Quest VR, but on the day I went it wasn’t operating. Other games allowed for an effective sense of vertigo and height, or a chance to play golf or fish. I played nearly everything, but left wishing that more of the games had more game and less novelty—even just a score or a few secrets or something would have gone a long way. Gamers expect more sophistication than just a minute-long jerky scenery show, and VR can’t really compete with an honest-to-metal-beams-and-sockets rollercoaster. Plus, I felt dizzy for the rest of the day as I went back home on the train.

Still, despite the significant amount of money I spent, and despite the significant disappointment of Godzilla VR itself (for me), I still am glad I could have the opportunity to go—especially after I had thought my chances were gone forever. Even silly and not-entirely-satisfying experiences can have meaning and value, and this one absolutely did for me. Thank you for reading.

See how excited I was... before I played the game?

See how excited I was… before I played the game?