A look at… Nintendo Virtual Boy

Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995)

The Virtual Boy might be the black sheep of the Nintendo console-family, but it is an impress hardware. And it’s easy to see why Nintendo wantet to make Virtual Boy. The early 90’s was the years of VR.

Gunpei Yokoi was the VR-man of Nintendo. He’s best known for making Game&Watch, Game Boy and the D-pad.

The Hardware

The hardware Yokoi made, was first known as VR-32, but change to Virtual Boy when it was released. It has pretty could specs, a 32-bit RISC processor (NEC V810) running at 20 MHz. And a resolution of 384 x 224, but it only use a read monochrome palette.

Acodring to Nintendo Power #75, the red LEDs was chosen because it was cheapest and best. If Nintendo had gone for colour LEDs, the Virtual Boy would have been a lot more expencive.

Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995) Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995)

The unit it self is quite big and heavy and it sits on a dualpod. I’ve read that people have got headaches while playing. I haven’t experienced that. So it’s no wonder that every game has a auto pause function.

The controller sits very good in my hands. It have a D-pad on both left and right side, a Start, Select, A and B button and a L and R on the backside. It also have the power button and the six AA-batteries is placed under the controller.

What realy surprised me, was the sound. It almost feels like the sound surrounds you while you play.

The Games

Only 22 games where released for the Virtual Boy in its short life. 19 games in Japan and 14 in USA. So it should be no problem to collect them all. While most of the games can be bought pretty cheap, Space Invader will easily cost you $600+.

Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995)I have 1/3 of the games. And do have som favourites. Mario’s Tennis is an OK game. While you can get super smashes and bonuses in later Mario Tennis-games, Mario’s Tennis game is all about tennis. The game was also a packin in USA.

Mario Clash is a 3D edition of the arcade game Mario Bros. It’s a fun an entertaining game. But my all time favourite i Virtual Boy Wario Land. It’s a very good platform game.

There is a link port on the console, but it was never used since no official link cable was released, and therefor no game supported it.

Why it wasn’t a hit

With less than 800 000 units sold, Virtual Boy was no commercial success. Virtual Boy was released in Japan on July 21, 1995 and in the US on August 14. Only a half year later, Virtual Boy was discontinues in Japan on December 22, and lastet until March 1996 in the US. Virtual Boy never saw the light in Europe.

I can only speculate, but I think the name confused the audience. In name, Virtual Boy is very close to Game Boy, and people might assume that it also was a portable console. Which it wasn’t.

Nintendo said that the Virtual Boy was the newest in Virtual Reality. Something it really wasn’t. It had 3D (which works well), but there was no form of tracking head movements.

Another factor was the price. For a lot of people, it was way to high. At the US launch, the Virtual Boy was $180.

And I think Nintendo didn’t communicate that well what the console really was.

Closing comment

I think it’s great to have a Virtual Boy in my collection and I love some of the games. But I guess that my expectations for the console is not the same that Nintendo once made the people thing it was back in ’95.

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