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Virtual Fun

July 28, 2008 - Matt Phillips
I enjoy collecting, among other things, old video game systems. I especially like to find the more obscure failed systems of the past. My most recent acquisition was given to me by my nephew. I cannot thank him enough. The Nintendo Virtual Boy adds a great deal to my collection. It still works great despite missing the black eyepiece and stand, and I have two games (Mario Tennis and Red Alarm).

The Virtual Boy was released August 14, 1995 with a price point of $180. That price dramatically fell as the console failed miserably. It was developed by the legendary Gunpei Yokoi, the man behind the Game Boy. The urban legend behind the creator of the Virtual Boy committing suicide due to the failure of his most ambition creation is false. Gunpei Yokoi tragically died in a car accident on October 4, 1997. The system itself boasted true 3-D images projected in shades of red. Monochromatic color was used to keep the cost of the console down. The system was never intended to replace the Game Boy, but many consumers assumed it was a portable system. The graphics are generated by led lights and can be harsh on the eyes.

The games that I have played are interesting and fun. By no means do they hold a candle to the kinds of games we have today, but the uniqueness of the media makes an interesting experience. Red Alarm is a space shooter style game that is quite unimpressive as a game in and of itself. It reminds me heavily of the old vector based games like asteroids, only set in a 3-D environment. It kind of makes you feel like you are in the movie Tron. Mario tennis is just what you think, mario and his gang playing tennis in 3-D. It isn’t a flashy game, it isn’t packed with special moves, but it is fun. I would love to play more games for it, but only 14 games were released for it in the US. I would love to see what could have been given more game development. Sadly, to my knowledge no RPG’s were made for this system.

Though the Virtual Boy met with actual failure, it is an interesting chapter from the most inventive and innovative company in the video game industry. Failure is the risk of true visionaries. Nintendo took a risk after the video game crash of the 80’s and revived the industry with the NES, they took a risk with the N64 and set a new standard with Mario 64, they took a risk with the DS and its touch screen controls and continue to dominate portable systems, and they took a risk with the wii and its lack of power compared to its competition. The risk of failure is the price of greatness.


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