After Final Fantasy Spin-Offs, Square Enix's Next VR Project Might Be Its Most Intriguing

Project Hikari gives VR owners a new way to experience manga.

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Outside of its two unusual Final Fantasy XV spin-offs, the fishing game Monster of the Deep and the canceled light gun-esque shooter VR Experience, Square Enix has only shown a tentative interest in VR, but the publisher's unique "Project Hikari" is one of the most intriguing applications of the technology yet. Unlike a traditional game, Project Hikari is much more passive in nature, adapting manga into an immersive cinematic experience that blends stills, animated scenes, and fully rendered environments.

At a press event prior to New York Comic-Con, we got to experience a VR demo of Tales of the Wedding Rings, one of the various manga series Square Enix publishes in Japan and is adapting for VR as part of Project Hikari. The demo was fairly brief and only featured a single chapter of the story, but it showed the potential this venture holds. As it unfolded, different sequences would be brought to life around me; some panels became their own scenes, and I could look around at the black-and-white scenery surrounding me while the characters were speaking as if I were standing among them.

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As a result, Project Hikari feels closer to an anime or film than a traditional manga. However, the Square Enix representative at the event assured that the final version will feature additional options for those who prefer to enjoy manga at a slower pace, including the ability to pause and revisit previous scenes. He also told us that new chapters for the VR series would be released episodically, similar to a new volume of manga, though he didn't suggest how much each episode would cost.

Whether or not Project Hikari will be worth a look ultimately depends on its price and what series Square Enix chooses to adapt, but it certainly has potential to be one of the most unique uses of VR yet. It also helps that Square Enix has access to a number of popular manga franchises it could use, including Fullmetal Alchemist; the representative at the event said that the project could offer an array of different manga and comic genres, from romantic comedies like Tales of the Wedding Rings to more action-oriented fare. Square Enix hasn't announced a release date for Project Hikari, but the VR experience is slated to release sometime in 2018.

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