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Flashback Friday Spotlight: Virtual Boy

by on May 20, 2016
 

We are living in a time where countless virtual reality experiences are available for us to enjoy.  Whether you spend the hundreds of dollars on an Oculus Rift or go cheap and get a headset for your phone, we have access to immersive technology that literally puts us in the game.  While we are celebrating the new achievements in virtual reality, I want to bring us back to a time when virtual reality was a goal but was never quite achieved.  A system was sold that promised a virtual reality experience unlike anything we have ever seen.  For today’s Flashback Friday, I will dive into the promise and ultimate disappointment that is Nintendo’s Virtual Boy.

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I remember my birthday in 1996.  My mom took me to Toys R Us and promised to get me a couple of things.  When I walked in, I remembered seeing a clearance sign for the Virtual Boy.  There were stacks of virtual boys at a marked down price.  $49.99 for a Nintendo System????  I couldn’t believe it.  Games were marked down to $10-20.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Luckily, my mom was in a generous mood and got me a Virtual Boy that included Mario Tennis.  We also bought a few more games – Teleroboxer, Virtual League Baseball, Panic Bomber, and Wario Land.  I couldn’t be happier.  Then I actually played it….

The idea behind Virtual Boy would get anyone excited.  It had the capability to show 3D stereoscopic graphics and was promoted as virtual reality.  At a low price of $179.99, it was here to save us from the post-apocalyptic drudgery of regular consoles.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the commercial promoting it –

                    Nintendo Skynet

Pretty bold marketing ploy, especially when you look and try out the actual product.  Was it actual virtual reality?  Absolutely not.  The technology allowed for images to move from the foreground to the background, giving the games a 3D effect.  It was more of a viewer instead of virtual reality.  The action was in front of you, and there was nothing immersive about it.  And I hope your favorite colors are red and black, because that is what you are going to get in every game!!  The actual device and controller were odd.  It stood on a stand and you put your face to it.  The controller had 2 D-pads, and A and B button, and buttons where we would normally find triggers on today’s controllers.  The games ranged from mediocre to fun for short bursts.  You know you have a solid machine when you are told to take breaks during the game.  Prolonged use of the virtual boy gave me headaches and hurt my eyes on a consistent basis.

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Big thumbs up for health issues caused by a console!!

I hate to sound like an old man, but kids theses days are lucky!!!  They get actual virtual reality instead of Virtual Boys.  Look, it’s easy to bag on the Virtual Boy.  But despite it’s flaws and failure in the market, I can honestly say that I enjoyed it for many years.  In preparation for this article, I got it out and played through Wario.  It brought back great memories….and that blasted headache that always comes with playing a Virtual Boy.

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The article is over.  TAKE A BREAK

Have any of you owned a Virtual Boy?  Tell us your memories (good or bad) in the comments below!  If you have an idea for Flashback Friday, let us know in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter/Discord.  Until next week!!!

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