The poor ol’ Virtual Boy… The most misunderstood of all of Nintendo’s children. Although quite groundbreaking when it burst onto the American scene in August of ‘ 95, very few people actually gave Gunpei Yokoi‘s little machine a chance. Virtual Boy, it’s too bad that you weren’t more accepted, old friend. You coulda been a contendah…
Yeah, that’s right, I dig the Virtual Boy. And unlike the majority of Virtual Boy bashers (or so it seems), I actually own one, so you can rest assured that my opinion of the Virtual Boy isn’t based on ignorant conjecture. It never ceases to amaze me how easily people can dismiss this 3-D wonder without having taken the time to spend any real time with it. I simply refuse to believe that an open-minded, unbiased gamer could sit down and play great Virtual Boy games like Red Alarm, Mario’s Tennis, or the magnificent Virtual Boy Wario Land without walking away very pleased by at least one of them. And don’t give me that tired “but dude, it’s only got two colors!” argument that all of the naysayers like to spout. The original GameBoy wasn’t exactly bursting with plentiful colors, and it did just fine. (To be completely honest, I find the red & black environment quite inviting and oddly soothing.) The fact of that matter is, the Virtual Boy provides a real sense of 3-D that has yet to be equaled by any other video game console/portable to-date. It’s really too bad that the gaming community didn’t support the system, so that it’s full potential could have been realized.
To be fair though, the Virtual Boy’s demise can’t be solely blamed on a lack of support from the gaming community. Even though Nintendo should have known that the modern gaming community relies on massive amounts of media hype in order to know what games and systems they’re supposed to like, they didn’t really put too much effort into marketing the system. Other than a little coverage in Nintendo Power and a mall tour which offered demos and a contest for Virtual Boy merchandise (which I actually won when the tour came to my area), the Virtual Boy coverage was pretty sparse. A “word of mouth” campaign didn’t really have time to propel the system into stardom, because seemingly, as soon as the initial numbers came in and Nintendo saw that the Virtual Boy wasn’t going to be the hottest thing since sliced bread, they killed it. (I’m quite shocked that they’ve supported the Nintendo 64 as long as they have.) It also didn’t help that 3rd party developers were releasing uninspired and absolutely miserable tripe like Waterworld. The release of bad software during a system’s first year or so is always a disastrous thing, and while the quality Virtual Boy titles definitely overshadow the duds, nobody paid much attention to them.
If you have never experienced a Virtual Boy, I can easily recommend picking one up, along with a copy of Virtual Boy Wario Land and Red Alarm. Unlike with other games and systems, word of mouth, emulation, or screenshots simply cannot inform you as to what the Virtual Boy experience is like. It’s just something that you have to experience first-hand for yourself.
To sum it all up, even though it’s not the greatest thing to have ever been made, it’s definitely one of the more under-appreciated and unfairly ignored systems in gaming history.