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Little Witch Academia, a coming-of-age story about young girls at a magical school, originally came about during a Japanese government-funded project to train young animators. One Kickstarter-funded movie, two manga series, a PlayStation 4 video game, and a twenty-five episode TV show later, the franchise has reappeared in a new form, courtesy of developer UNIVRS. We played a demo of the Kickstarter-funded Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing at Anime Expo 2019, and while you may feel like Akko at first, you’ll be flying high in no time.

Witch Way

The booth had three demo stations set up, all using the Oculus Rift headset and controllers. After sitting down and putting the gear on, I began my journey. Right off the bat, I was given the option in the form of square boxes to play the tutorial level or to jump into a race. Since I’m new to broomstick riding, I opted for the tutorial.

From there, I was greeted with an introductory flyover of a forest, while an orchestral piece (possibly taken from the show) played. After the sequence, I found myself on the forest floor, and a voice called out (along with an accompanying text bubble). Who should appear but Akko, complete with fully voiced lines by her Japanese voice actress, wondering what I’m doing there in the forest. Was I lost? Who knows? As she came closer (well, in what was clearly placeholder animation, more like teleported closer), she noticed that I had a broom with me and decided that I was there to practice broom riding like her. Although she’s not great at riding either, she still offered to help me out like the good person she is, segueing into the controls tutorial.

Broom Boarding School

You have to make sure you’re in the proper sitting position before you play, so the game is quite clear, if not a little strict, regarding how you should situate yourself. At first, I sat leaning forward with my elbows on my knees like you do when you’re on the couch and then get serious about the game, but that wasn’t enough. Similar to how you would actually ride a broom in real life, you need to have your arms down really low, resting against your thighs, while your hands point the controllers forward. It really makes sense once you get it.

You also have to move your head around some, likely to help with calibration. Then, Akko sees something in the sky and asks you to check it out. However, when I looked at where she had directed me, nothing seemed to happen. And nothing continued to happen for a good couple minutes as I looked again, looked elsewhere, and tried to see what the heck she was talking about. Eventually, I somehow managed to trigger the next event because three witches on broomsticks suddenly flew overhead, Blue Angels style, across an opening in the trees. I was as surprised as Akko, but I was looking forward to joining them.

Little Witch Academia VR Broom Racing

It’s Time to Fly

Once you have everything down, you’re on your way, the goal being to fly through several rings suspended in the air at varying heights a la Star Fox. Similar to that franchise, you go forward automatically, but you can move around the space by pointing in the requisite direction. The level has you going through a forest and over a lake, and despite the environmental graphics being relatively simplistic at this early stage, they get the job done. I felt plenty immersed, being too focused on positioning myself to soar through the next ring.

After you hit the last ring, the tutorial, and apparently the demo itself, ends, since I didn’t see any way to get back to the menu screen. Having become familiar with flying, I would have liked to have tried my hand at racing. Unfortunately, it was the end of the day, and I was the last person allowed to play.

Still, from what I was able to experience, Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing looked and felt like a promising game. The Kickstarter project reached its goal and the plan to release the title on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and Steam in 2020. If developer UNIVRS can fully capture the spirit of the franchise in the gameplay itself, it really could be something quite magical.

About Chris Jackson - Editor & Writer

A lifelong Nintendo fan and lover of anime who hopes to publish a book one day

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