Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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A Japanese cult classic has found its way to virtual reality, 20 years later

A Japanese cult classic has found its way to virtual reality, 20 years later

If someone shook me awake in the dead of night and whispered, “the Japanese cult classic that you’ve never been able to play, Kowloon’s Gate, is getting a VR follow-up,” I wouldn’t believe them. But luckily, we live in a world where miracles can happen.

Kowloon’s Gate VR is officially a thing that’s happening, thanks to a successful round of crowdfunding through Campfire (Japan’s answer to Kickstarter), where it garnered more than 300 percent of its initial goal (nine million yen, instead of a mere three million yen). And if you’ve never heard of Kowloon’s Gate before, that’s understandable. It was never released or localized for any audience beyond Japan when it was released nearly 20 years ago in 1997.

kowloon's gate

In the Playstation VR-exclusive follow-up, the mysterious supernatural-version of Kowloon Walled City from the original game arises again. Except with PSVR, the player now has the ability to walk around Kowloon’s Gate’s cramped environments and can witness the city change depending on the time. They can even encounter familiar characters from the first game, or enter areas that were previously unaccessible.

The actual Kowloon Walled City is a romanticized focal point for cyberpunk

The original Kowloon’s Gate rooted its setting in a familiar place: in Hong Kong’s long-destroyed Kowloon Walled City. Demolished in the early 1990s, Kowloon Walled City was a lawless land. An ungoverned city with no rules or law, where drugs, crime, and prostitution ran rampant. Its cramped buildings and dense populations are a familiar sight for any cyberpunk fan, where writers, filmmakers, and artists have romanticized the once bustling and troubled micro-city into an inspiration for their own works, like Blade Runner or even Ghost in the Shell.

Despite appearing in other games like Shenmue II, Kowloon Walled City perhaps found no better representation than within the eerie adventure game Kowloon’s Gate. In the cult classic, the mysterious city found itself re-emerging post-demolition from an alternate universe, causing an improper balance between the Yin and the Yang of the world. And, of course, it’s the player’s duty to separate the two worlds once again, and restore order to everything. 

If you’re fluent in Japanese (or don’t mind Google Translate), you can read developers JETMAN’s detailed pitch for Kowloon’s Gate VR here. Kowloon’s Gate VR will be released in May 2017 to commemorate the original game’s 20th anniversary.

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