The Virtual Boy

aboleth_lich

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There doesn't seem to be a thread on this Nintendo Forum discussing The Virtual Boy (or at least I couldn't find it), so I'm starting one. (I wasn't sure where the best place to start this thread would be, so I'm filing it under Game Boy as it's a "portable" Nintendo console with "Boy" in its title.)

Released in 1995, The Virtual Boy was Nintendo's ambitious attempt at creating an immersive, 32-bit, 3D gaming platform. Unfortunately, it was an infamous commercial failure that was discontinued a year later--largely due to its numerous flaws: graphics limited to a strictly black-and-red pallet, a heavy headset that could not be attached to one's head and was not truly portable, and unimpressive games that failed to live up to the immersive, open world, first person perspective expectations of a true virtual reality console.




I consider the Virtual Boy to be a particularly notable case in Nintendo's long history (especially during the eighties and nineties) of having excellent core conceptual ideas that were simply too far ahead of their time, as in too far ahead of the then current technological capabilities (and perhaps even the cultural Zeitgeist as well in some cases) and were thus rather botched in their execution.

Other examples of this history include: the Nintendo Knitting Machine (which let users design sweaters and the like on their Famicon, and then have it be knitted by an attached printer!), the Power Glove, the microphone built into the original Famicon controller, R.O.B. the robotic buddy, the Roll & Rocker, the Power Pad, and so. (I would honestly even put the Game Boy in this category by virtue of comparing it to Sega's Game Gear, if it weren't such a massive success!)

It's exciting that we've now reached the point where we can properly execute the core conceptual idea of the Virtual Boy vis-a-vis the likes of the Oculus Rift. Virtual reality consoles that now have sufficient graphics with a richer pallet than merely black-and-red, a strap attaching the headset to the player's head, and so on.
 

aboleth_lich

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For a lighter, more humourous take on Nintendo's failed experiment in strapless, black-and-red "virtual reality," check out the Angry Video Game Nerd's classic Virtual Boy episode!



Among other things, James presents a solution to the strapless issue that would make Red Green himself proud! ;)



James also makes a valid point about the very nature of the games comprising the Virtual Boy's limited library: beyond the red-and-black issue, 3D graphics alone don't make for a virtual reality game--a virtual reality game should also be immersive, be open world, and use a first-person perspective! Granted, we again face the limits of the time's technology with respect to being immersive and open world.
 

Shimus

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I used to own and use one of these myself, and then I sold it off to friends who were interested due to limited game libraries and the fact that staring at red on black gives you a migraine after an hour.

But, the Video Game Nerd put it the right way - you had to duct tape it on. lol.
 

Days_of_NES

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This poor old dog has been knocked around for years, but I have always enjoyed the VB library, for the most part. For only having around 20 games in it's library, I feel that a very high concentration of 'em are good, FUN games - Mario Tennis, Teleroboxer, V-Force, Mario Clash, and two awesome masterworks: Warioland and Galactic Pinball.
 

joshposh

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I watched a YouTube classic gaming video on the virtual boy. It had a lot of potential but they cut corners and rushed it. Guess what happened? Poor sales and no third party support. Retailers couldn't move the product and the virtual boy went into obscurity.

But you know what? I think I want one for a conversation piece. If I had this thing in the living room that would get a lot of attention. "What the hell is that"?!!
 

Bloom

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YES!

I am so glad that you created a post about Nintendo's Virtual Boy. This was literally my first Nintendo console that I've ever played (even though we had Nintendo). I remember laying on the floor and putting my face into this monstrous gadget as a kid. I would play Mario tennis for hours at a time (because it's the coolest game ever, of course) and always get extreme headaches after awhile. Haha!

I never knew that it was discontinued so quickly. My dad randomly got the console and told my brother and I how to play and we would often fight over it. We still have it and often times play it here and there (works fine)! The one thing I always disliked was how easy it was to get headaches and how uncomfortable you had to be to play the game. You either had to sit down and bend over for a long period of time which causes backaches OR lay down on the ground which causes shoulder-aches! Nonetheless, it was definitely a great beginning console for Nintendo. Thank goodness the Game Boy was astoundingly different!
 

Shane

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I sold a Virtual Boy for $50-$70 on Ebay awhile back. Then I realized, that with fees and shipping, it almost cost me that much to ship it. So I made almost nothing.
 

yeppeo

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The Virtual Boy never came to Portugal as far as I'm aware, but maybe I was too young to remember. I agree it's really amazing that it was a thing in the 90's and it's a shame that the technology couldn't keep up with the ideas.
 

aboleth_lich

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The one thing I always disliked was how easy it was to get headaches and how uncomfortable you had to be to play the game. You either had to sit down and bend over for a long period of time which causes backaches OR lay down on the ground which causes shoulder-aches!
An absolute genius named Tighe Lory devised a simply brilliant solution to the Virtual Boy's comfort problem: he built into an arcade cabinet! Check out his YouTube video showing it off:


I'm not sure if this would eliminate the headache issue as well, which very well could be an issue with tricking your brain for extended periods of time--especially if you get headaches watching 3D movies for the exact same reason. I don't see how the cabinent could exasperate the headaches though; I can only see it perhaps ameliorating them to at least some degree.
 

yeppeo

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Holy, that cabinet seems amazing! What a great idea! :love:
I believe the headaches may be due to the game itself and I agree that it won't change it much, but at laest one can play comfortably!
 

spence88

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Man that creativity! I guess if you truly love the console, you'll do anything to make it better!

The Virtual Boy never came to Portugal as far as I'm aware, but maybe I was too young to remember. I agree it's really amazing that it was a thing in the 90's and it's a shame that the technology couldn't keep up with the ideas.
Yeah, haven't seen it here too. Well at least, not sold on a big scale, not on the market. There are people who would buy it, the enthusiasts probably, but only did so overseas.
 

Shane

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To comment further on the Virtual Boy, it was good on the software front, but pretty bad on the hardware front - I mean, it drained batteries like no other. And it hurt my neck to play it, at least with the stand which is the only way I played it.

But some of the games were pretty top-notch. They were better for their time than you would think.
 

Heigw

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I loved this thing! I only had it for a few months before my mom made me get rid of it because it was, "destroying your brain." But those short few months were amazing!!
 

yeppeo

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Yeah, haven't seen it here too. Well at least, not sold on a big scale, not on the market. There are people who would buy it, the enthusiasts probably, but only did so overseas.
Exactly. And the Internet wasn't what it is today, so it was much harder to order.
 

NormaD

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Game Boy
Yes, the comparison between Nintendo's Virtual Boy and the Game boy is like they are worlds apart. I love how technology helped us in that department. Virtual boy was always too hard to play.
 
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