Nintendo Virtual Boy Review
The Virtual Boy system uses a pair of 1×224 linear arrays (one per eye) and rapidly scans the array across the eye's field of view using flat oscillating mirrors. These mirrors vibrate back and forth at a very high speed, thus the mechanical humming noise from inside the unit. Each Virtual Boy game cartridge has a yes/no option to automatically pause every 15–30 minutes so that the player may take a break.
The Virtual Boy is iconic for its monochromatic use of red LED pixels; they were used due to being the least expensive, the lowest drain on batteries, and for being the most striking color to see. During development, a color LCD was experimented with but was found to cause users to see double instead of creating the illusion of depth. In addition, LCDs at the time had low refresh rates, and were often blurry. They also consumed more power than LEDs.
The Virtual Boy, which uses an oscillating mirror to transform a single line of pixels into a full field of pixels, requires high-performance LEDs in order to function properly. Because each pixel is only in use for a tiny fraction of a second (384 pixels wide, 50.2 Hz scan rate = approximately 52 µs per scanline), high peak brightness is needed to make the virtual display bright and comfortable for the user to view. The two-screen system demanded a fast refresh rate, unlike the original Game Boy which had blurry motion, so using an LCD was not an option.
The Virtual Boy, being a system with heavy emphasis on three-dimensional movement, needed a controller that could operate along a Z axis. The Virtual Boy's controller was an attempt to implement dual digital "D-pads" to control elements in the aforementioned 3D environment.
The controller itself is shaped like an "M" (similar to a Gamecube controller). One holds onto either side of the controller and the part that dips down in the middle contains the battery pack. There are six buttons on the controller (A, B, Start, Select, L and R), the two D-pads, and the system's "on/off" switch. The two directional pads are located on either side of the controller at the top. The "A" and "B" buttons are located below the pad on the right side and the "Start" and "Select" buttons are located in the same spot on the left side. What would normally be called "shoulder buttons" ("L" and "R") are located behind the area where the pads are, on the back of the controller, functioning more as triggers.
Despite how the two D-pads were supposed to control elements in the 3D environment, both D-pads are interchangeable in most games; both do the same thing.For others with a more 3D environment, like Red Alarm, 3D Tetris, or Teleroboxer, each pad controls a different feature. For Red Alarm, one directional pad controls pitch and direction of the protagonist's ship, while the other controls up, down, and strafe movement. For Teleroboxer, each control pad, in conjunction with the trigger/shoulder buttons, controls the position of the corresponding fist of the character. For 3D Tetris, The D-pads flip and move the blocks. The symmetry of the controller also allows games like Vertical Force to feature the option to reverse the controls for left-handed people (similar to the Atari Lynx). This kind of concession to left-handed people has been repeated with the Nintendo Wii console and to a lesser extent the Nintendo DS on some of its more touchscreen oriented games.
One of the unique features of the controller is the extendable power supply that slides onto the back. It houses the six AA batteries required to power the system. This can be substituted with a wall adapter, though a "slide on" attachment is required for the switchout. Once the slide on adapter is installed, a power adapter can be attached to provide constant power.
The system's EXT (extension) port, located on the underside of the system below the controller port, was never officially supported since no "official" multiplayer games were ever published, nor was an official link cable released. (Although Waterworld and Faceball were going to use the EXT port for multiplayer play, the multiplayer features in the former were removed and the latter was cancelled. The Virtual Boy console itself is also fairly rare to come by.) At Planet Virtual Boy, a Virtual Boy fan site, there is a tutorial on how to make a multiplayer cable for the Virtual Boy by modifying a couple of standard Nintendo Composite cables. Only a few games supported the link cable.
|Processor||NEC V810 (P/N uPD70732) |
32-bit RISC Processor @ dual core 20 MHz (18 MIPS) 1 KB instruction cache
|Memory||128 KB dual-port VRAM |
128 KB of DRAM
64 KB WRAM (PSRAM)
|Reflection Technologies Inc. (RTI) Scanning LED Array (SLA) P4 |
1 × 224 pixel resolution (when scanned; 384 x 224)
2-bit monochromatic (black + 3 shades of red)
50.2 Hz Horizontal Scan Rate
|Power||6 AA Batteries or DC10V 350mA AC Adapter/Tap |
(third-party Performance Adaptor DC 9V 500mA)
|Controller||6 buttons and 2 D-pads |
uses NES controller protocol
|Serial Port||8 pin cable|
|VUE-001 Virtual Boy Unit |
VUE-006 Game Pak
VUE-007 Battery Pack
VUE-011 AC Adapter Tap ("Use With Super NES AC Adapter No. SNS-002 Only")
VUE-012 Eyeshade Holder
VUE-014 Red & Black Stereo Headphones
|Dimensions||8.5"H × 10"W × 4.3"D|
The console was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, inventor of the Game & Watch and Game Boy handhelds, as well as the Metroid franchise. While compact and seemingly portable, Virtual Boy was not intended to replace the Game Boy in Nintendo's product line, as use of the system requires a steady surface and completely blocks the player's peripheral vision. According to David Sheff's book Game Over, Yokoi never actually intended for the console to be released in its present form. However, Nintendo pushed the Virtual Boy to market so that it could focus development resources on the Nintendo 64.
Hype surrounding the device included public musings by Nintendo that the device might resemble a gun set vertical, projecting a 3D image in the air. The actual device was considered a disappointment compared to this description by Nintendo of America:
"Powered by a 32-bit processor, the Virtual Boy produced very impressive 3-D effects, although the monochromatic graphic style proved to limit the appeal of the visuals."
The commercial demise of the Virtual Boy was considered to be the catalyst that led to Yokoi being driven from Nintendo, yet it was maintained that Yokoi kept a close relationship with Nintendo despite Yokoi having later created a rival handheld system for Bandai. According to Game Over, the company laid the blame for the machine's faults directly on the creator.The Virtual Boy was discontinued in late 1995 in Japan and in early 1996 in North America.
In 2007, the system was listed as number five in PC World's "The Ugliest Products in Tech History" list.TIME Magazine's website listed the Virtual Boy as one of the worst inventions of all time.
Because Nintendo only shipped 800,000 Virtual Boy units worldwide, it is considered a valuable collector's item.
List of Virtual Boy gamesThe Virtual Boy was the first video game console marketed as having VR graphics. It was created and developed by Gunpei Yokoi—the creator of the original Game Boy and the Metroid video game franchise.The Virtual Boy was released by Nintendo on July 21, 1995 in Japan and on August 14, 1995 in North America with the launch titles Mario's Tennis, Red Alarm, Teleroboxer, and Galactic Pinball.The last official title to be released for the Virtual Boy was 3D Tetris, released on March 12, 1996. In total, 22 Virtual Boy games were released; only 14 made it to North America. Several additional titles were announced to be released for the Virtual Boy as well, but they were canceled after Nintendo discontinued the system.The top games released for the Virtual Boy, according to Nintendo Power, included Virtual Boy Wario Land, Galactic Pinball, Mario's Tennis, Nester's Funky Bowling, and Red Alarm.
The Virtual Boy was an attempt to simulate virtual reality. The user looks into an eyepiece on the front of the console, where a projector displays red and black monochromatic images into the user's eyes—a technique similar to that used in IMAX movies.The Virtual Boy was considered a hardware flop, selling 770,000 units before being discontinued a year after its release. Reasons for the flop include the implementation of a red-and-black monochromatic display as opposed to a full color display, the inability to conveniently and comfortably play the device, a retail price of US$179.95 (by comparison, the Game Boy had an introductory retail price of $109.95),and the public's anticipation of fifth generation video game consoles, which included the Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, and the PlayStation. As a further consequence, Yokoi was asked to resign from Nintendo.
The following list contains all games released on the Virtual Boy, including all games released either in Japan or in North America only. The Virtual Boy was released in North America and in Japan. Both the English and Japanese titles, as well as both the North American and Japanese release dates, are given when applicable.