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Time Machine: Virtual Boy

Black and red beamed right into your head...

Very short-lived. That's one simple, rueful description of the Virtual Boy. Nintendo tend not to mess about: if something's not going to plan, they handle it, and if that means handling it in a hitman kind of way... well, so be it.

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The VB wanted to put us on the path towards realising the glorious virtual reality promises of its era - a dream fractured by a clutch of critical shortcomings. Imagine the aroma of a banquet seasoned with world peace and the Rapture being followed by the taste of chicken Hula Hoops. There was to be no hardware hattrick for Gunpei Yokoi, esteemed Game & Watch and Game Boy superbrain.

Chances are you've never been in the same country as a Virtual Boy, since its sales skydive in Japan and the US flattened any plans for a European release. Which is a genuine shame.

Even its first and only generation of games bristled with promise: Mario and Wario headlined, while out-there ventures like Red Alarm and Teleroboxer flaunted the 3D perspective in saucy and exciting ways. But there were problems, and too many to overlook.

The impractical, notreally- portable nature of the thing; those red LED visuals at the dawn of 32-bit consoles; the absence of proper multiplayer; a lack of dev support; the eyestrain and headaches that meant Nintendo had to discourage playing for too long. The ambition was there, the innovation was there, the sales pitch... not so much.

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3D is having another go nowadays, of course - films, TVs, the 3DS and Sony's optimistic new headset - so maybe the Virtual Boy was just ahead of its time. At the very least, this new uprising should clear the way for those unique VB games to drop into the hands of a wider audience without any of the hardware stigma attached.

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