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Virtual love on display at annual Tokyo Game Show

Chiba (Japan) (AFP) - Game geeks with a heart for digital romance have something to celebrate as sensual, soft-spoken cyber women are blurring the line between reality and fantasy at the Tokyo Game Show.

Virtual reality took centre stage at the annual exhibition Thursday, with Sony Interactive Entertainment showcasing PlayStationVR (PSVR), a much-anticipated head-mounted display debuting next month.

Dozens of software titles for the device are in the pipeline, allowing players to fly like an eagle, drive sports cars in high-speed races, and explore castles.

Gamers can also indulge in fantasy by flirting with virtual females thanks to increasingly realistic VR technology.

Among such offerings is "Summer Lesson", which puts the user in the company of a soft-spoken, yet chatty, beauty.

"One thing that we cared the most about for 'Summer Lesson' was to create a sense that a character is truly there," said Jun Tamaoki, a developer behind the software by Japanese toy and game giant Bandai Namco, told AFP.

However, Tamaoki shrugged off concerns that such an experience could discourage players from going out to meet real women.

"I think this could improve the communications skills" of even the shiest game players, Tamaoki said.

"Summer Lesson" is playable on the PSVR but does not feature male characters to interact with.

The PSVR hits store shelves on October 13 in key markets including North America and Japan, just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Tokyo-based entertainment and electronics conglomerate Sony's latest offering will carry a price tag of $399, significantly cheaper than rival gadgets of similar quality.

- No Nintendo -

One of the world's largest international video game exhibitions, the Tokyo Game Show has drawn more than 600 exhibitors offering over 1,500 game titles, ranging from global brands to indie game publishers, for a four-day run through Sunday.

The event, celebrating its 20th year, is designed mostly for Japanese game developers and players. Organisers expect some 230,000 fans, including "cosplay" enthusiasts sashaying through beaming displays of combat games and fantasy world characters.

Virtual music concerts featuring digital characters, most notably Japanese cyber diva Hatsune Miku, were also among the highlights at the show, thanks to improving interactive capability and digital imaging.

But the impact of the trade show is diluted by the absence of stalwarts Nintendo -- which has ridden the wave of mobile gaming phenomenon Pokemon Go -- and Microsoft.

Nintendo has stayed away from the event because it charges fees for fans to come. Microsoft, whose XBox series of consoles has struggled to make a significant splash in Japan, has only participated in selected years.

Officials at Kyoto-based Nintendo say it has technological research programmes for virtual reality, but they have also voiced concerns about the technology's effects, including impact on health from long hours of playing.

Participants at the game show seemed unfazed, saying they were sold on the technology after trying out some titles.

"Unlike normal games, I strongly felt being more inside the display," said Hiroyuki Morikawa, assistant professor of integrated information technology at Aoyama Gakuin University.