Daniel Robson braves unspeakable horror at the Resident Evil café
Remember that bit in Resident Evil where STARS agents Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine stopped in at a barbecue restaurant for a quick bite and to watch a dance show, only to find a Tyrant lurking menacingly at the back of the room? What do you mean no? It must have happened in the game – otherwise why would Capcom have produced Biohazard Cafe & Grill STARS in Tokyo’s shopping district of Shibuya?
In case you haven’t guessed, this recently opened Resi-themed restaurant inside the Parco department store is not exactly a deeply immersive experience that brings the world of everyone’s favourite zombie-infested survival-horror series to terrifying life. It’s more like a branch of Hooters.
I’ll preface all of this by explaining that the last time I went to a space themed on Biohazard (the Japanese name for Resident Evil) it was at a “shooting bar” called EA in Tokyo’s Kichijoji district, where along with drinking shots from shotgun cartridges and eating a Pie-o-hazard meat pie while listening to dramatic music from the games, you could make use of the bar’s 10-metre shooting range and fire a variety of realistic replica guns at zombie targets.
Biohazard Cafe & Grill STARS hasn’t been put together with quite as much care.
The first thing you’ll notice before you even step through the doors is the soundtrack. Hanson’s “MMMBop” followed by Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” – less haunted mansion, more a night at London’s G-A-Y. Already it seems hard to imagine Resi creator Shinji Mikami ever setting foot in this place.
Inside, it resembles an American diner, with wide booth seats and metal-finish wood tables. The walls are lined with STARS replica air guns by Tokyo Marui and a map of Racoon City, and at the end of the room a life-size Tyrant monster is encased in glass. It’s flanked by costumes from the Resident Evil 5 movie, plus statuettes and a typewriter inspired by the games. All the waitresses (and there are only waitresses, no waiters) are dressed as STARS agents. STARS agents in hot pants.
The “Grill” part in the restaurant’s name refers to its specialty, an all-you-can-eat buffet, with meat brought to your table on skewers and sliced onto your plate, Brazilian-style. At 3,700 yen (£30) for Leons and 3,300 yen for Claires, it’s not bad value but not great either; other options include Red & Green Herb Salad, STARS Original Noodles and Albert Wesker-flavour ice cream (eww). The drinks menu is made up of sickly-sweet Racoon-Style Cocktails with punny names like Blue Racoon.
Suddenly the lights dim, the doors are thrown open, and a parade of four waitresses file in to the strains of the Spice Girls’ “Spice Up Your Life” – and then proceed to start dancing (as STARS Angelique). “Thriller” this ain’t, and it comes as a mercy when the lights dim further still and the waitresses are forced to abandon their dancing to tackle a new threat: the Tyrant is trying to escape!
Actually the Tyrant statue itself doesn’t move a jot, but graphics superimposed on the glass behind which it rests make it appear that the beast is being held off by the waitresses, who have pulled guns from the wall and are “firing” at it in formation. As video bullet holes appear in the glass, we’re assured all is under control – and the waitresses resume their awful, awful dancing.
Filing out of the restaurant and examining the Resi merchandise – hip flask, STARS badge, T-shirts – at the counter, we’re asked in Japanese whether we had “enough fun”. It wouldn’t be polite to say no. Then again, these women are all trained mercenaries, right? They can probably take it…