Conceived by Metroid and Game Boy creator Gumpei Yokoi, the Nintendo Virtual Boy was one of Nintendo's only console flops; the unit was released nearly dead on arrival. Only 22 games were released over a six month period in Japan and the USA (the rest of the world did not get a crack at the unit) before Nintendo pulled the plug on the whole endeavour. Looking somewhat like an overgrown Viewmaster, the Virtual Boy perched atop a small stand and the player looked into the unit's viewing windows to play the games. While the VB is in use visual sights from the "real world" are blocked out by a black foam guard around the viewing windows; during play the only thing a player can see is the game itself. Incidentially, the Virtual Boy is the last Nintendo system to include a pack-in game - Mario's Tennis - and even then this was only in the USA; the Japanese units did not come with a game. Once the system died an untimely death Yokoi left Nintendo in disgrace.

The Specs

  • Processor: NEC v810 32-bit RISC processor / 20 MHz (18 MIPS), 1MB DRAM and 512KB SRAM with a 1KB cache
  • Display: RTI dual mirror-scan, high resolution LED displays generating a resolution of 384 x 224 pixels for each eye with a 50.2 Hz horizontal scan rate and 4 colors (black and three shades of red) with 32 levels of brightness
  • Sound: 16-bit stereo build-in stereo-speaker (includes headphone jack)
  • Weight: ~5 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 8.5" x 10" x 4.3"

Virtual Boy Game Catalog

1 denotes games only released in Japan
2 denotes games only released in the USA

And now, some miscellaneous factoids and tidbits about the Virtual Boy...

  • Project Codename: VR 32
  • Initial Cost (August 1995): $180 for the system and $40 per game.
  • Clearance Cost (January 1996): $20 for the system and $10 per game.
  • Average eBay Cost (October 2003): $50 for the system plus 1-3 games and $15 per game.
  • First Game Released: (tie) Mario's Tennis, Galactic Pinball, Teleroboxer, and Red Alarm were all released on the same day as the Virtual Boy itself.
  • Last Game Released: 3D Tetris in March 1996
  • Canceled Games: Bound High, Dragon Hopper, Mario Land, Goldeneye 007, and Zero Racers were all highly anticipated games that were canned when the support for the Virtual Boy was dropped. Nintendo second-party wizard Rare worked on ports of Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Killer Instinct for only two weeks before abandoning plans to support the system in October 1995.
  • Canceled Accessories: Nintendo and various third-parties had plans for a head-mounted Virtual Boy contraption that allowed players to strap the units over the face for on-the-go playing (on-the-go where? It's impossible to see the "real world" while playing the Virtual Boy). Other scrapped accessories included carrying cases, rechargable battery packs, and, like all Nintendo consoles, the Virtual Boy includes an extension port (which, like almost all Nintendo consoles, was never utilized). This port would have supported the link cable required for two-player gaming (no VB games support such a thing). Development studio and VB co-designer Reflection Technologies claimed in early 1995 to have developed an adaptor that would bring full color to the Virtual Boy, but a wide-scale mass produced release of the item turned out to be cost prohibitive.
  • Game Development Companies That Supported Virtual Boy: Nintendo (of course), Hudson Soft, T&E Soft, Kemco, Ocean, Taito, Athena, Atlus, Bulletproof Software, J-Wing, Intelligent Systems, Coconuts, I'max, Pack-In-Video, Performance, Reflection Technologies, and Bandai. Note the lack of heavyhitters such as Capcom, Konami, and Square.
  • Minimum Player Age: Age 7 according to Nintendo's lawyers, but age 5 according to Nintendo R&D. The VB manual warned that younger players could experience permanent eye damage(!). Games include an auto-pause every twenty minute to allow players to rest their eyes.
  • Introductory Promotional Push: Nintendo struck a deal with Blockbuster Video to rent a VB unit and 2 games for $9.99 for five days. Nintendo Power subscribers were sent a coupon to rent a third game for free along with the 3D August 1995 issue that spent over twenty pages hyping the system. When the unit was returned players were given a coupon for $10 off the purchase of a Virtual Boy. One drawback: people with dirty faces who rented the VB before you did. Many used VB units suffered from a horrible smell due to built up sweat and cigarette smoke. Nintendo also partnered with NBC to hold a contest that aimed to give away over $200,000 in Virtual Boy units, games, and accessories (read: AC adaptors) as well as trips to the sets of shows such as Seinfeld, Frasier, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
  • How Does The Virtual Boy Produce 3D Images? The unit makes use of two RTI mirror-scanning LED arrays to create a stereoscopic 3D environment. Each eye sees the image from a slightly different angle, resulting the multi-layered visual experience that is Virtual Boy. The whole thing is powered by either six AA batteries (providing seven hours of play time) or an AC adaptor (sold seperately). The batteries/adaptor hook into the VB controller which, in turn, plugs into the unit itself.


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