Project Hikari: Tales of the Wedding Rings lets you walk into a manga and become part of the story.
Japanese company Square Enix is looking to broaden the VR storytelling conversation by bringing 3 genres together into one incredible VR experience with Project Hikari: Tales of the Wedding Rings, which made its US debut at New York Comic Con.
This first “first chapter” of Project Hikari will get its public release early next year; it’s based on a Square Enix title of the same name, written by a duo under the name Maybe (Tasogare Otome x Amnesia and Kekkon Yubiwa Monogatari). Kaei Sou, Project Lead for Tales of the Wedding Rings, first realized the potential of VR when his team received an early Oculus Rift developent kit.
“We wanted to do something differently with this technology—we wanted to take VR into a different kind of direction,” Sou told VRScout in an interview. “We asked ourselves: how do we make content that is really unique, and something only our company can do?”
The team realized that manga could provide a creative new avenue of immersive story. Because Square Enix publishes manga in addition to video games, they already had IP ripe for the picking. But pinning down the style and interaction of a manga in a way that honored what brought fans to the medium in the first place took time and testing.
“Early prototypes of the project had people moving in and out of this manga black and white space, but it didn’t feel manga enough,” Sou said. “It just felt like any other VR experience where you have a 360 environment, and you’re inside of it and you really don’t know what to do.”
They wanted to create that sense of presence that’s unique to VR, while also giving fans the extended moments you get when you look at the panels of a manga. Their approach was to create a style that blends animation and comic—giving you the ability to move in and out of panels. Sometimes you can see a range of still panels, others you’re engulfed in the animation of one scene.
As a fan of both VR and manga, I went into this experience with excitement and a little apprehension. I worried that the linear narrative of the manga might interfere with the immersion of VR, or that voiceover narration would keep me from discovering aspects of the story myself.
That worry was completely eliminated almost immediately the moment I put the headset on and the experience began. The Square Enix team was very creative with how they used narration along with the animation within the panels to bring the experience to life. I loved this VR take on the manga, and found Tales of the Wedding Rings to be an incredible experience that honored both mediums.
I stopped Angel Flores, an attendee at Comic-Con and a first-time user of a console-based VR experience, as he left the Tales of the Wedding Rings VR booth, and asked him what he thought of the experience.
“When I’m reading manga, I use my imagination from panel to panel, but with VR, my imagination became a reality,” Flores said. “Being inside a manga comic was incredibly different and something I never thought I would be able to do.”
Matthew Hope, technical artist on the project, explained that he believes VR will allow for unique ways for us to engage with new and old storytelling genres alike.
“It’s a cross-section of a lot of different mediums because you have VR, manga (comics), and animation,” Hope said. “Just like how technology changed how we consumed comics, our approach to VR is going to change how we interact with content in a more intimate way.”
Project Hikari: Tales of the Wedding Rings will be available early next year on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.