The Virtual Boy was a short lived ‘portable’ system which was released by Nintendo in 1995. The device was previewed for years in magazines as the VR-32 but the final product was disappointing, selling around 750,000 units worldwide.
It was released in North America for $179 but the price dropped considerably after release, before being discontinued a year later in 1996. Interestingly, this was Nintendos only 32-bit system.
The Virtual Boy could not be projected onto a television. Instead, the user had to look into the goggles in order to experience the games 3D effects. All games were displaying in 3D using red and black, which was a little disappointing as all consoles and handhelds at the time were using colour graphics (remember, this was a 32-bit machine!). Apparently red was chosen as it was cheaper and drained the batteries less compared to other colours.
It’s difficult to understand nowadays why but Nintendo marketed the Virtual Boy as a portable device. In theory, you could take it with you somewhere as it was powered by batteries so didn’t need to be plugged in.
However, there were 2 big reasons why the system wasn’t portable. Firstly, to be able to play the Virtual Boy you had to sit it’s stand on a table or another flat surface, it just wasn’t possible to take it with you on your next road trip because of this as you had to stare into the goggles like you do with those coin-operated binoculars you get at tourist spots.
Another reason was the size of the Virtual Boy, the thing was massive! It just wasn’t practical to take it anywhere.
To play games you had to connect the Virtual Boy controller. In fact, to do anything you had to connect the Controller as the main power source came for the Virtual Boy came from the controller battery pack, why it wasn’t built into the Virtual Boy itself is beyond me. The battery pack used up 6 batteries though it could be powered by an AC adaptor as well.
Though the controller was very innovative in many respects. On the left hand side was a D-pad and the select and start buttons. On the right hand side was another D-pad and the A and B buttons. Underneath the controller were two trigger buttons. There was also an on-off switch to turn the system on and off.
4 games were available at launch: Galactic Pinball, Mario’s Tennis, Red Alarm, and Teleroboxer. Mario’s Tennis (below) was included with the Virtual Console bundle.
The Virtual Boy got terrible reviews upon it’s release. The hardware just wasn’t practical and the games were average at best. Sure, there were a few ok games but there were no killer apps.
The whole thing was clearly rushed, which is understandable as Nintendo wanted to focus all their attention on the Nintendo 64, which was released the following year.
The Virtual Boy used the 32-bit NEC V810 processor, which was clocked at 20 Mhz. Memory wise it had 1Mbyte of DRAM and 512Kbyte P-SRAM.
The games were displayed in black and 3 shades of red on a resolution of 384×224 pixels. It also boasted 16bit stereo sound with the Virtual Boy itself weighting 750 grams.
It also had a headphone jack and an extension port. The EXT port was supposed to allow Virtual Boy users to play each other using a multi player cable, though no games were ever designed that used it nor was any cable released (apparently some games had multi player elements designed for them but were later removed when Nintendo realised the console was failing).
Virtual Boy was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, the creator of the Gameboy and the Metroid system. Due to the failure of the Virtual Boy, Yokoi handed in his resignation, after working for Nintendo for over 30 years.
In total 22 games were released for the system. Japanese titles (if different) are denoted within brackets.
3D Tetris (Polygo Block) – Nintendo
Galactic Pinball – Nintendo
Golf (T&E Virtual Golf) – Nintendo
Jack Bros – Atlus
Mario Clash – Nintendo
Mario’s Tennis – Nintendo
Panic Bomber (Tobidase! Panibomb) – Nintendo
Red Alarm – Nintendo
Teleroboxer – Nintendo
Vertical Force – Nintendo
Virtual Boy Wario Land – Nintendo
Virtual League Baseball (Virtual Pro Yakyū ’95) – Kemco
Insmouse no Yakata – I’Max
SD Gundam Dimension War – Bandai
Space Invaders Virtual Collection – Taito
Space Squash – Coconuts Japan
V-Tetris – Bullet-Proof Software
Virtual Bowling – Athena
Virtual Fishing – Pack-In-Video
Virtual Lab – J-Wing
North America Only
Nester’s Funky Bowling – Nintendo
Waterworld – Ocean Software
Virtual Boy Promotional TV Commercial
Virtual Boy – Angry Video Game Nerd
Virtual Boy hardware
Pixel Dan’s Opening of the Nintendo Virtual Boy!