by Nathan Cochrane

Plans are well underway to bring the next century's premier attraction, Virtual Reality theme parks, to Australian shores. A few months ago, senior Sega sources foreshadowed their plans to construct advanced VR parks in every major capital city in Australia.

The concept merges a TimeZone type of arcade with a traditional amusement park. Players enter large 'rides', usually composed of hydraulic seats or carriers, and strap on futuristic looking Head Mounted Displays (HMDs).

Modern HMD's are a lot lighter and more stream-lined than the earlier Virtuality devices most people are familiar with, but operate on essentially the same principles. Intensive research has reduced the weight of the visors down to a tiny 650g, and design modifications have further reduced player discomfort and neck strain, typically associated with earlier versions.

The Joypolis in Yokohama is the result of Dr. Chrono's experiments with the space-time continuum. He has established Joypolis as a covert research centre, geared toward the destruction of time. After years of research the B.U.R.P. (Basic Universal Reflector Prism), used to modulate time and space to the doctor's nefarious ends, is finally ready.

There are seven main rides available, each with a different slant on the VR technology. The graphics engine most commonly used is the 3D CG board MkII, familiar to players of Daytona. This differs from the Model I boards found in Virtua Fighter and Virtua Racing by providing fully texture-mapped objects and a fast 300,000 polygons a second rendering speed. The result is exceptionally high-resolution graphics that approach photorealistic standards delivering an unsurpassed feeling of 'being there'.

The premier attraction at the park is the VR-1 Space Mission. Take on the role of a Federal soldier as you desperately attempt to evade the clutches of ruthless terrorists who have blockaded your ship, the Cyprus. Fleeing the crippled craft you must battle your way through the encircling hordes and down to the safety of the Federal installation on the planet Bascco below.

Up to thirty-two people can participate in any one game, divided into four cars of eight people each. Each participant has a controller at their disposal mounted to the cart.

Virtua Formula is a game that draws its roots from Virtua Racing. Up to eight people can play at once, each linked via transmitters that permit rapid two way communication. A closed-circuit TV system projects players' faces onto a huge monitor for added crowd involvement.

AS-1 is a combination computer graphics movie and joyride set in Tokyo 2154AD. The leader of an urban terrorist gang called the 'Red Dragons', Brute Bombalez, has escaped the maximum security prison Megalopolis. The AS-1 crew, of which you are a member, must capture him before he can wreak his vengeance on innocent citizens.

Rail Chase - Recue of a Princess combines the traditional roller coaster ride with hi-tech imagery. The central element in the ride is the coaster turntable, which forces passengers both forward and back in addition to violently wrenching them around in circles, from side to side and up and down.

Ghost Hunters provides a similar experience to Rail Chase as players board 'turbo buster' cars fitted with 'blaster beams' for destroying the ghosts which are projected onto a large concave screen. Players who manage to finish the game and knock out the end of level boss are awarded with an original newspaper reporting the battle, complete with a photo of themselves in the act.

Mad Bazooka takes the old 'dodgems' and gives it a twist. Players board carts and travel around an arena shooting balls at each other. In order to re-arm, players must run over a loose ball which is then sucked into the cart and readied for firing.

The Astronomikon is essentially a horoscope that asks questions of you and then reports on your future health and well-being as dictated by the stars.

Prices for the attractions typically run to around 600yen (about $5) for a four minute ride, making it comparable to most amusement park rides or games like Daytona. A number of other vendors will be on site including fast food chains like McDonalds, restaurants, gift shops as well as coin- op arcades with all the latest games and a variety of assorted kiddie rides and carnival games.

This article is Copyright (C) 1994 by Nathan Cochrane for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.