Virtual Reality

Modern Relics: Nintendo's lost Virtual Boy

Modern Relics: Nintendo's lost...
The Virtual Boy, an early attempt by Nintendo to create a VR video game console
The Virtual Boy, an early attempt by Nintendo to create a VR video game console
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The Virtual Boy, an early attempt by Nintendo to create a VR video game console
The Virtual Boy, an early attempt by Nintendo to create a VR video game console
The Virtual Boy, an early attempt by Nintendo to create a VR video game console
The Virtual Boy, an early attempt by Nintendo to create a VR video game console

The relentless march of technological development means once cutting edge inventions are continually being relegated to the scrapheap, or at least the musty bottom drawer. From what might have been to what never stood a chance, our Modern Relics video series takes a look back at technology that has fallen by the wayside, found itself on the wrong side of a format war, or was simply superseded by new innovation.

Our first episode takes us back to 1995, when Coolio topped the charts, OJ Simpson was on trial and Nintendo launched an entirely new form of video game console, the Virtual Boy.

We'd love to hear about your experiences with the Virtual Boy. Sound off in the comments below and let us know if you remember this particular modern relic.

I sadly have zero experience with Virtual Boy. But I do remember mid 90s when I noticed virtual reality seem to boom. I started noticing arcades carrying games in virtual reality. Then it seemed to disappear so now I'm glad to see the boom in it again. With the amazing technology we have today I look forward to the future in it.
Tom Lee Mullins
I remember reading about it and seeing them. The virtual reality was simple yet effective. I read that it did not do very well. It was monochrome like the Game Boy early models. I have seen a couple at garage sales.
Rustin Lee Haase
I remember playing with a store demo of this product and wishing I had the money to buy one back then. Lots of red light. No other color. No internet link, potential for nausea while playing, limited scope for exploration. Regardless of all these limitations, I still wanted one. It was such a new concept that it was seductive. Imagine how well it would have sold if it was the Nintendo Virtual GIRL!!
This system Could have been big with a few changes... but the biggest problem was that there was no big draw games that people "NEEDED" to have and play. This is similar to the Sega Master System -vs- Nes. The Nes had Super Mario Bros. While Segas system was technically superior to the Nes... it didnt ship with any games that came even close to Mario, in challenge, replay-ability, and fun factor. Obviously, lacking in multicolor, was a big issue for the VB. But much like the elder B/W Gameboys... that did very well in comparison... one can see that color was not the complete determining factor here. And clearly, the thing was not great at being marketed as "Portable". It clearly looks clunky and is rarely seen without using a stand. (not sure if it can be used standless?) As for the headache and nausea issues... Ive heard that poor alignment of the displays / mirrors... could cause this. Of course... there is the idea that various peoples eyes are differently spaced apart. As such... without adjustments to slide the images apart.. and or maybe even needing software distance changes.... then these people may have completely different experiences. Some getting an exaggerated and distorted 3d effect... some getting very little 3d effect at all... and some getting headaches from the completely different perspectives that are not true to the way they normally processes 3d depth with their current eye spacing... in the real world. These problems seem to still exist in VR and 3d movies today. Ive often wondered if an adjustable type of periscope systems could be make to alter the eye distances, for people with eyes that are closer or further apart than what is typically being filmed for. Of course... if it proves that its more a case of completely different perspective angles... then a 2d solution might not be easy to fix. The only possible fix, being to alter the games separation distances / coordinates. And even that might not be enough to correct the problem... as if ones eyes are further apart... they actually see far more of an objects surfaces than most. Thus unless its a true 3d world, where you can actually change the 3d camera points... then you may not be able to replicate the proper 3d experiences without any side effects and distortions. Its interesting to note that many people experience the world completely differently as a result of vision (and processing) differences. Everything from seeing a more flat world... to even having far reduced color shade detect-ability, complete loss of some colors detected, and or greater distortion effects, that cause everyday nausea from fast motions / certain kinds of motions. I personally cant really enjoy FPS type of games... because they are so boringly flat to me. I have tested my color abilities.. and can see far more shades than most. And Im very spatially 3d aware. (which has made me a mildly decent artist) The few games I played in stereo 3d... going back to the SMS, as well as older PC specs... really created a huge impact on my enjoyment of the experiences. One of the PC versions included an older FPS... and it was amazing how different I felt about the game... for the first time.. .actually enjoying the FPS experience (despite the non-challenging slow and lacking gameplay mechanics. Give me Robotron any day of the week ...over an FPS). Finally, as cool as the concept may have been... I think the VB lacked the cpu + memory horsepower, to really drive the games effectively. Hence, probably limiting speed of scrolling games... as well as anything using vector line drawing / true 3d. A good example of this, would be to compare Red Alarm to the Original Star Wars Arcade machine. SW may have less functionality.. but it controls and moves smoother, with higher precision and much faster speeds. Its far more fun a game than Red Alarm, despite the reduced game engine abilities. So in closing... again, the VB could have made a far greater splash.. had it a far better roll out of fun playable games. This has ultimately been the biggest reason for most of the greatest console / upgrade failures all throughout Video gaming history. (second usually to mere cost)
Had one I hated that everything was red. Also you had to set at a table to play would have been nice to have a head strap.