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Is the Virtual Boy Really As Bad As People Say? By MegaSilverX1

Recently I got a Virtual Boy with the games: Mario’s Tennis, Red Alarm, Virtual League Baseball, and Virtual Boy Wario Land for the holiday and you know what? It isn’t as bad as people say it is. In fact it’s better than what I thought it was going to be. I remember the first time I learned about the Virtual Boy. It was in issue 68 of Nintendo Power that showed off the system at the Shoshinkai show in Tokyo, Japan in November of 1994. Reading the article it states:

“The system was show in a prototype form, meaning that what you see in the photos here might well change by the time the system is released, probably in May.”

Comparing the console design from back then to when it was released all that was changed was the word “Nintendo” above the Virtual Boy logo on the front of the system, they removed it. Also the controller had colored buttons, but they were changed to grey and red.

I guess we should start off with the consoles worst aspect, its design. The design of the Virtual Boy is poor, both externally and to a certain extent, internally. Starting off with the outside, the VB has a very awkward set up. The console was planned to have a head strap, but due to approval problems from Nintendo’s health and safety division that never came to be (although you can find people who make head straps now) so they wen t with a stand which ended up being uncomfortable to play, but could be adjusted. Internally the system is designed very uniquely. It has two LED displays, one for each eye with two mirrors that rapidly oscillate to produce the 3D effect. Now the internal problem comes from the spots where the LED connects with the motherboard. There is a metal strip that sends information to the LEDs to tell what to display, but rather than clipping it or soldering it to the circuit board, Nintendo went with glue which overtime wears out and loses connection. This would result in one side showing a mess of lines and pixels, ruining the 3D effect. This problem can be fixed fairly easily with the right tools and a bit of heat. The Virtual Boy’s core is fragile too due to the two mirrors, so it would be bad if you were to drop it. Then again, dropping almost any large electronic device typically results in it breaking.

The complaint about how the Virtual Boy gives you headaches, migraines, and causes eye strain can be solved by two things: using the automatic pause feature that is available to turn on at the start of each game that pauses the game every 15-20 minutes to give your eyes a break. The other way is to play the games in the dark so when you remove your eyes from the system you won’t be blinded by bright lights.

Since each eye sees two images, the 3D is actually done rather well, on par with the 3DS if not better; although the 3D quality varies between games. Also for a console that only has 22 games total, most of them are very enjoyable to play. One that I was surprised to find out was great was Red Alarm, a Starfox (or Starwing for European gamers) type space shooter. The games look very sharp when you view them in person. Watching people play the games on Youtube doesn’t show off how great the games look.
Many games were planned for the Virtual Boy, one of them being Donkey Kong Country 2 which would’ve probably looked like a slightly better version of Donkey Kong Land II on the Game Boy. Other unreleased games VB Mario Land, Goldeneye, and Zero Racers (a sequel to F-Zero), along with many others.

You may be wondering why on earth Nintendo went with red and black rather than full color for the VB. Well back in the mid 90’s LEDs weren’t cheap to produce and they were very power consuming so Nintendo found the cheapest and lest energy consuming and that was the red LEDs. Also they tested other LED colors available and the reds were the brightest too.

Graphically the Virtual Boy has a 32-bit processor which allowed graphics to larger, more detailed, and better animated that its predecessor, the Game Boy while still being restricted to only 4 shades of one color. Cartridges are slightly larger than the Game Boy’s too.

Like I mentioned earlier, the games looked very crisp and sharp. Once the game screen was adjusted to you eye’s needs you can see everything clearly like it’s in HD. The Virtual Boy also has an excellent sound system that has 16-bit stereo.

The controller is very nice to hold. It feels nice in your hands and if you love the Gamecube controller you will love this one as well. The controller has a total of 8 buttons: 2 D-Pads which provided movement in 3D environments before the control stick, START, SELECT, A, B, and 2 L & R action buttons on the back which feel nice for Red Alarm when you shoot things. Something interesting to note about the design of the controller is that the power isn’t from the console, but from the controller which takes either 6 AA batteries or an AC adapter. The battery life I’ve heard is longer than the Game Gear’s. Also the controller’s symmetrical design I’d imagine would be handy for people who are left handed.

In its 7-8 months on the market the Virtual Boy only sold 770,000 units so these things aren’t super cheap, especially if you want all the parts. However I would highly recommend you at least trying one out for yourself since I found it to be far better than what I was expecting and what critics said about it. Besides the system’s design the Virtual Boy really isn’t that bad. The games are great for the most part and the graphics and sound are stellar as well. I hope to see Virtual Boy games on the Nintendo eShop in the future, bit I won’t keep my fingers crossed.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10
7-Good: 7s are very fun that has solid appeal. It has obvious issues that stick out, but can still be enjoyable by anyone.

8 / 10

Rated: Nov 21, 2012 • 00:00