Retro Wrap-Up: Virtual Boy Edition

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

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Virtual Boy | Retro Wrap-Up

While many people–myself included–have criticized the 3D display as the 3DS’ weakest hardware feature, the system is still a success. It has a vast library of games and enough other features to keep people interested in using it. However, I’m sure there is a contingent of folks out there who are unaware that this isn’t Nintendo’s first attempt at making a system for 3D games.

In 1995, Nintendo released new hardware that was supposed to make 3D gaming a reality, and for a short time, it did. Known as the Virtual Boy, this system was a stand-alone headset which the player would look into to see the game’s video display. This setup has a lot more in common with today’s virtual reality tech, like Occulus Rift, than the “glasses-free” 3DS. Although, being spawned from the Game Boy era, the display itself was a monochrome red and black; Nintendo hadn’t quite yet graduated to full-color graphics. Mario’s Tennis, 3D Tetris and Virtual Boy Wario Land were some of the games you could play in 3-dimensions.

Despite this seemingly-revolutionary gaming technology, the Virtual Boy is most known for being Nintendo’s biggest flop. Consumers all over the world just didn’t seem to care. A high price tag and reports of users getting headaches sabotaged an already-mediocre marketing campaign. A mere five months after launch, the Virtual Boy was cancelled in Japan. The system lasted almost seven months in North America, but never made it to Europe.

Today, fans look back on the Virtual Boy as an interesting piece of Nintendo history and a nostalgic curiosity. It has a certain “cult-classic” reputation among retro gamers. The system’s small library of just 22 games–19 in Japan, 14 in North America–gives beginning collectors a easy system to fully complete.

This week, the Virtual Boy celebrated its 20th anniversary, so we celebrate it. The oprainfall Retro Commercial Research Team–in other words, me–has dug up some TV moments for this early foray into virtual reality and 3D gaming.

Here are the highlights from the past week.

REVIEWS

ORIGINAL CONTENT

NEWS

Also, you can check out Operation Recap on our YouTube channel for an alternate take on this week’s news.

And, as always, if you have any ideas or suggestions for retro commercials, let us know either through Facebook, Twitter, or just leave a good old-fashioned comment below.

About Eric Chetkauskas

Eric has been playing video games for longer than he can remember. His interests skew toward retro games with an emphasis on Japanese RPGs like Chrono Trigger and the Dragon Quest series.




  • Joshua J. Slone

    The Virtual Boy was totally half-baked, but as someone who has long been into 3D which has only become really practical in recent years, I kind of appreciate them giving it a try so soon.

    I got my Virtual Boy in early 1997, by which point it was marked down to $30 new, Mario’s Tennis included.