This review was originally created in November 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Since virtual reality is such fertile ground for taking traditional interactive experiences to the next level, it was only a matter of time before we started to see releases of major dating or relationship simulators that take advantage of the platform. While it’s easy to judge such creations as deviant or perverted, they’re really just the newest addition to a well-known, if niche, trend.
Popular examples like adult “dolls,” love pillows (aka, dakimakura), and movies like Her (2013) prove there is definitely an interest in, or demand for, simulations of what it’s like to be in a typical human-to-human relationship. In these examples, one human, usually a man, is in some type of romantic relationship with an inanimate object or some type of simulacrum of, typically, a woman. Video games, of course, have long been fertile ground for these types of simulations, taking the form of anime- or manga-themed dating simulators and related titles that often lean towards more adult situations. While the Japanese culture is most often associated with both the consumption and development of such products and simulations, it really is a phenomenon that spans cultures.
Together VR Deluxe Edition bills itself as a way to experience everyday life with Hoshihara Mei in a private apartment. Mei is a lovely young virtual woman whose seemingly sole purpose to exist is to play games with you, interact with you in a playful manner, and generally be good natured, no matter how you treat her. That means you can prod or ogle her in any way you wish with no negative repercussions.
Again, it’s very easy to judge the intent of a game like this. While I have my own very strong opinions about the one-sided nature of this simulation and its cultural and intellectual failings in respect to current societal standards, it’s my job as a reviewer to judge the product’s execution, not its potential offenses. Hopefully, if you’ve read this far, you understand what this product is in that regard.
Rather than being a straight-up relationship simulator, Together VR Deluxe Edition is instead a collection of mini-games with bookends or in-game elements where you briefly interact with Mei. After dressing Mei in the outfit and accessories of your choice, you soon begin the first mini-game, which is darts. As with all of the other mini-games, you need to win a certain number of times in order to unlock the next mini-game.
The second mini-game is the most complex, a shooting gallery where you can engage in a hi-tech laser tag match. The third is a simple game of rock-paper-scissors, where the intent is first to feed Mei and then receive kisses from her. The final mini-game is searching for Mei’s red letter hidden somewhere in a bookcase. Of course, this is a good excuse for Mei to climb a ladder in a skirt.
Designed for Vive, Vive Pro, or Oculus Rift owners, Together VR Deluxe Edition is a room-scale experience that needs to be played standing or seated depending upon the mini-game. Both Vive controllers are used to control the action, each representing one of your hands in-game. Control is generally intuitive, if not always as precise as needed to perform some of the actions you’d like the first time, particularly with darts. When movement is allowed, you can either move within your own room or warp to where you need to go.
Audio-visuals are undeniably impressive. The apartment is well-modeled and detailed. Mei herself is beautifully designed, with generally solid animation, although with perhaps a bit too much emphasis on “jiggling” over more nuanced movements. Of course, that type of emphasis on titillation is to be expected for a product of this type. Only the occasional graphical clipping, including accidentally seeing inside the empty Mei model, mars an otherwise solid presentation.
For what it is, Together VR Deluxe Edition proves a polished product and only mildly risqué’. If this is the type of experience you’re after, you could do far worse. For everyone else, especially those not interested in the somewhat juvenile in-between “relationship” bits, the mini-games likely won’t have enough depth or precision to hold your interest for very long. And while the shooting gallery mini-game has a good amount of variety and proves the biggest stand-out here, there are countless other ways to have fun blasting things in virtual reality than slogging through all the other elements that make up this particular experience.
Score: 3 out of 5 stars.