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Gunpei Yokoi's most innovative creation By Brian Hodges


The Virtual Boy was released in August of 1995. A total of 22 games where released for the system (only 14 reached the US). Nintendo stopped releasing games for it in March of 1996.


The Virtual Boy is a portable video game system that is capable of displaying 3D graphics. It looks like a red virtual reality visor. The headset sits on a bipod and you look into it to play. The controller connects to the headset and the power supply (either batteries or an AC adapter) plugs into the controller. The game cartridges slide into the bottom and are twice the size of a Game Boy gamepak. There is a slider and a dial on top that you use to adjust the visuals. There is a foam eyeshade around the eye pieces to keep out light. The system is only capable of displaying graphics in red and black.

Portability – 6/10

Nintendo marketed the Virtual Boy as a portable system, intended to replace the six year old Game Boy. It can be powered by either six AA batteries or an AC adapter, the batteries will usually last for about four hours. While the unit is self-contained, it isn’t nearly as portable as the Game Boy. You need a table or something to play on and it is impossible to play while riding in a car without getting car sick.

Durability – 5/10

This is one of the sticking points of the Virtual Boy. The headset itself is very well constructed, I have dropped it several times without it breaking or being knocked out of alignment. The controller is also durable. The stand is another matter entirely, it has to be the most fragile thing ever made by Nintendo. My stand broke soon after I bought my VB, it is now held together with duct tape and a plumbing clamp. Nearly everyone I know with a Virtual Boy has broken his stand, replacement stands where the first VB item that Nintendo’s store sold out of (they stopped making replacement parts years ago). The clamp that attaches to the headset and the piece of plastic that holds the legs are the most common parts of the stand to break.

Graphics – 8/10

The Virtual Boy is capable of excellent 3D effects. The VB has a relatively high resolution, allowing for very detailed graphics. I personally like the red and black display, but a lot of people don’t. Another drawback is that the graphics in most of the games look sort of flat, like cardboard cutouts.

Sound – 4/10

More effort should have been put into the Virtual Boy’s audio. Either the hardware is bad or the developers didn’t utilize it properly. The audio of all of the VB games I have played sounds like it belongs on the NES. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always bad, but you think they would at least be as good as the SNES which was released four years prior to the VB.

Controller – 10/10

This deserves a score much higher than 10! The VB controller is the best controller I have ever used. Some real thought went into this one. The controller has six buttons and two control pads. It has grips that are grooved like a steering wheel to fit your fingers perfectly. The R and L buttons are positioned on the back of the controller, instead of the top. This is much more natural than the placement on the SNES and N64 controllers. The battery pack or AC adapter tap plugs into the controller’s back. When playing with batteries, the controller can feel a little heavy, but not more so than a N64 controller with a rumble pack.

Innovation – 10/10

The Virtual Boy is unique, there is nothing else like it. Even though it didn’t live up to the original vision of providing full color virtual reality, this system turned out pretty well. The 3D in some games is simply amazing and the controller is awesome. It’s also the little things, like the place on top of the VB where you can store the cover for the gamepak you are currently playing and the ability to remove and wash the eyeshade when it gets dirty. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of thought and planning went into this system.

Library – 7/10

The Virtual Boy has the smallest library of any console ever released. There were 11 games released in both the US and Japan (the graphics and sounds of one of these was modified before the US release), 8 that were only released in Japan, and 3 that were only released in the US.

Must Own Games:

Mario’s Tennis, Wario Land, Red Alarm

Must Avoid Games:

Waterworld, Insmouse no Yakata

Support – 1/10

Nintendo really dropped the ball here. Besides the small library of games, the only official accessory released was the AC Adapter. There was an unofficial carrying case released by Performance, but that was it. A link cable was designed for the system, but was never released. Nintendo stopped releasing new games for the system less than a year after it launched.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid? – Buy

You should definitely buy a Virtual Boy if you get a chance. You can easily find one on ebay for under $40. Make sure to buy the AC adapter too, it pays for itself if you play your VB for more than 12 hours. I would recommend going with Mario’s Tennis, Wario Land, and Red Alarm to start your game library.

Overall Score 8/10

This is a really great system, it’s a shame that Nintendo didn’t try to do more with it. The high price tag and red & black colors scared off a lot of potential buyers. Hopefully Nintendo learned from the mistakes they made with the VB and will try to release a successor in the future.

8 / 10

Rated: Jun 26, 2003 • 00:00