While Fruit Ninja was neat in concept, the performance limitations of the Kinect made it amount to little more than glorified flailing; the latency and lack of precision made you feel more like a parody than a ninja proper. Thankfully, the precision tracking of the latest VR systems is ready to bring out the real ninja inside.
Ninja Trainer by developer Atomic VR is a Vive demo which finally delivers on the promise of Fruit Ninja. Inside the headset you wield a katana. The flailing about that’s typical of the Kinect won’t cut it; combined with a smart momentum-based slicing engine, the one-sided blade forces you to think carefully about the direction of each swing. As fruit flies up in front of you, you’ll need to be strategic about each strike if you’re to be quick enough to move from one piece of fruit to the next.
The low-latency and precision of the Vive’s tracking is really what makes Ninja Trainer possible. In the Kinect-based Fruit Ninja, players and their karate chops only exist in 2D. With Ninja Trainer on the Vive, everything is happening in 3D, and swings of the sword require control in every direction.
This step up from parody to serious slicing is shown perhaps most easily by the speed at which the fruit is thrown at the player. In Kinect Fruit Ninja, fruit is lobbed upward and seems to float in low-gravity, giving players time to react and compensate for the device’s latency. In Ninja Trainer on the Vive, fruit is throw at players with much greater speed, but those skilled in the art of fruit fillet will have no problem keeping up because the latency is so much better than what could be achieved with the Kinect. The precision is there too; if you hit the fruit with the side or back of your Katana instead of the sharp edge, you’ll merely bat it away without cutting it.
YouTube channel Node took Ninja Trainer for a spin and cranked the realism up a notch by using a sword prop to replicate the weight and inertia of a real katana (see the tail end of the video above).