The first thing I asked myself having watched a trailer for Sairento VR was how can this not induce a ton of motion sickness? Truth is there were a few occasions when I came close to losing my lunch, but if there’s one game that can train your brain to adjust to extreme movement in VR, this is it. Once I got over that queasiness, what I found was a frantic game that’s actually quite fun in small doses, but has some inherent flaws.
Out for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Sairento VR allows players to step into the shoes of a cyber ninja as she uncovers a conspiracy that threatens a futuristic Tokyo. Players have the option at the start to either play the full game or a build that is designed for VR Arcades. The story does set things up nicely, but really it’s just an excuse to dart around futuristic levels and slice up enemies.
Things do fall apart quite quickly when playing the full version, as you’re required to play some missions a few times to unlock the next part of the story, thus disrupting the pacing somewhat. It’s also not 100% clear that the story actually ended after those 10 campaign missions. It sort of just stops.
My best guess is that there may have been more missions planned, but the developers instead decided to incorporate the semi-randomised mission mode. Enemies are at least varied, making the single player offerings fun, but for me there wasn’t a coherent enough structure holding everything together. For those looking for more, Sairento VR does have a multiplayer component, which can be played in both co-op and versus modes, but the player base wasn’t there at the time of review to test this.
As for the action itself, if your stomach can handle the constant jumping around and slashing, it’s actually really fun. Movement is a variant on the teleportation method that other VR games have popularised, only you also have trajectory that changes colour. If it’s green, your character will leap through the air to get there instead. Since you have double jumps and no fall damage from the get go, it’s relatively easy to bounce around the levels.
Taking out twin katanas and slicing enemies never gets old and you can pull incredible feats that include wall running by jumping into a wall, or sliding when you land by crouching. With the Vive controllers, the slashing is receptive, even to the point where you can deflect attacks and bullets. Nothing is cooler in this game than deflecting a bullet back into the enemy that shot at you.
For those looking for more of a John Woo film experience (minus the doves), you can opt to wield guns and, again, for the most-part, this works incredibly well. Shaking the controller to reload might not be particularly realistic but does make things simpler, while a button dedicated to slowing down time makes aiming in mid-air somewhat simpler. With a relatively large array of guns on offer, it’s a blast shooting enemies.
Where Sairento VR doesn’t really work is with the equipment of the Ninja. In your loadout, you have the opportunity to also equip Kunai, Glaives, Shuriken, and a bow. The bow is easy to fire, but takes far too long for the effort needed, while the Kunai, Glaive, and Shuriken are just that little bit too inaccurate to use effectively.
There’s also an upgrade system with perks obtained from dropped enemies in both Campaign and Mission modes, with each one specific to a certain weapon or armour type. They’re relatively basic for the most-part, but some rarer ones give decent abilities. Sairento VR also includes a perk system with increasing levels granting abilities such a Blade Wave for the katanas. However in my run through the entire campaign, I didn’t actually realise this was a feature, meaning I completed the game without ever upgrading.
With a game such as this from a relatively unknown developer, corners needed to be cut and where this has happened tends to be in the level design. There were plenty of recycled rooms used in the construction of each of the levels, with similarities clear to see between the mission mode levels and the individual campaign levels at times. Occasionally there are more nuanced objectives such as disarming bombs or shooting nodes to turn off the laser security, but it’s mostly destroying wave upon wave of enemies.
On top of this, I did frequently clip out of the geometry of the levels thanks to some rather excessive jumping around like a maniac. Since there’s no easy way to jump back in, this required plenty of restarts. There were also occasions where I’d set up the proportions of my character to slide when I crouched, only for my character to slide even when standing.
I wasn’t expecting to have a good time playing Sairento VR because of all the movement, but once I’d gotten used to it I really enjoyed the over the top action. Even though it was just because of the ease of slaughtering enemies mindlessly, doing so in VR really helped with its appeal. It’s by no means perfect, with some structural and technical issues getting in the way of the fun, but from a small studio making a relatively ambitious VR title, they could have done a whole lot worse.
Version Tested: HTC Vive