It’s been so long since the second season of Spice & Wolf aired, all the way back in 2009. There’s been a couple of visual novels on Nintendo DS, but nothing major has come up for the series despite a resurgence thanks to the sequel series and the continuation with the Spring Log subtitle. Until Spice & Wolf VR, which finally gives a taste of what a Season 3 anime might be like.
Being a crowdfunded game with a small budget, this VR title (which can also simply be experienced with nothing but a PC) forgoes grand countryside scenery for a musty but rustic abandoned water mill that makes for a great place to hide from a sudden shower that befalls our duo. What Spice & Wolf VR lacks in scope, it instead makes up for in the density of the interactions between Lawrence and Holo, which arguably is the biggest reason why fans have stuck around for this long anyways.
Even if what Lawrence can do is limited, as he is the PoV character, his dialogue with Holo is still expertly written, and alongside Jun Fukuyama’s voice acting, expresses both his mock playfulness when interacting one-on-one with Holo, and his merchant side very well. In terms of visual interaction however, Holo steals the show, skipping around, gesturing, lying down, and even sitting beside Lawrence with a candor that befits her young appearance. Gem Drops have done a remarkable job on Holo’s model and animations, with a combination of both motion capture and natural-looking ear and tail animations working together to really truly animate Holo. It felt something like watching a stage play play out in front of my eyes, which was befitting considering Spice & Wolf’s medieval European low fantasy world.
That said, Holo did feel slightly more childish and “cute”, for lack of a better word, than usual. Perhaps this is because of the first-person perspective that doesn’t allow for much interaction from Lawrence, or perhaps because of the nature of the topics of discussion (such as food and currency) that formed the meat of the conversation, but Holo felt a little less ‘wise’ and more ‘wolf’, which admittedly is amusing in a different manner. Still, I wish I got to see a few more quips shot back at Lawrence.
Moving on to the ‘game’ aspect of Spice & Wolf VR, I’d like to admit that there’s not much to it, especially if you’re playing the regular version without any of the usual VR headsets that are supported. In the regular Story mode, you watch through three short episodes of interactions between the duo, and you’re able to look around the room and adjust the angle of view. There’s also an ‘Interact’ mode where you can do things like pet Holo in VR, though in the PC version, you’re limited to just looking at nearby objects and having Holo comment on them. There is a checklist of things you can do to interact with Holo (and I imagine there’s more if you have VR), but otherwise, you mostly spend the time just staring at Holo.
Sadly, it’s this aspect that pulls down the experience – there simply isn’t much to Spice & Wolf VR. It’s something that fans will definitely enjoy and likely replay just for the Story, but even this clocked in at around half an hour total. I’d only recommend this game if you’re a big fan of just watching Lawrence and Holo talk and act around each other.
Food for Thought:
- Props to the translator who subtitled the game in English! Like the light novels and anime, the subtitles pick up Holo’s old ways of speaking and sophisticated vocabulary – even if it doesn’t fit as well with Ami Koshimizu’s singsong approach to Holo’s wily dialogue.
- Can I just gush about Lawrence and Holo? This game might not have much meat to it, but it made me fall in love with the two all over again. I’m so glad it’s already announced for a sequel. If this series goes on, and each one is the length of an OVA episode, we’ll reach the cour length of an anime season… sooner or later. Spending six times as much money on each episode. Oh.
Spice & Wolf VR is available for PC via Steam, being compatible with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and is also on PlayStation VR and Nintendo Switch with Labo VR support. Oculus Quest support is also in the works. The game is priced at $24.99, but is currently 20% off on Steam at $19.99 until October 28, 2019.