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A 3-D game, for a 3-D world.
—Tagline for the console.
Nintendo's Virtual Boy is a rather infamous case of mismanagement, comparable to Sega's 32X. It was the brainchild of Gunpei Yokoi (more famous as the software designer of the first three Metroid games and main designer of the Game Boy), intended to be a true 3D simulation. While it sort of lives up to that claim, it had a number of problems:
- It used a monochromatic red-and-black graphics scheme that was considered very ugly.
- Though obviously designed to be a handheld system, it couldn't really be held in the hand: it needed support from a flat surface to use correctly.
- Not only was it awkward to use, it was responsible for considerable eyestrain (the manual suggested taking breaks every 15 minutes, and games came with mandatory pause features).
- Its library of games was small, and largely missed the whole point of the system (that is, to employ first-person view and be, well, a simulation). This said, the library was a surprisingly strong set for a platform so glaringly user-unfriendly and which was destined to be discontinued quickly.
The system was released on July 21, 1995 in Japan and in America on August 14. The system was canned after just five months in Japan (December 22, 1995), and although America got it until March 22, 1996 there were actually a few Killer Apps planned for the next few months which never saw release.
The Virtual Boy is widely considered one of the worst game systems of all time. Nintendo considers it an Old Shame and has gone to some effort to retcon it out of history, although Super Smash Bros. Brawl has a full list of its first- and second-party games. Shigeru Miyamoto also stated in an Ask Iwata interview that the Virtual Boy's failure killed excitement for 3D at the company, making it hard to initially develop support for the Nintendo 3DS. He does feel that the system would've succeeded if it was marketed as a toy instead of a full-out gaming system, though.
Yokoi, forced to release the system while it was still in beta, was subsequently Mis Blamed and Kicked Upstairs.
But there are still quite a few fans, as exemplified by the comprehensive Planet Virtual Boy...including homebrew games dating back to at least 1999.
- 32-bit RISC Processor @ 20 MHz (18 MIPS).
- 1 MB DRAM.
- 512 KB PSRAM (Pseudo-SRAM).
- 1 KB cache.
- Dual monochrome red-and-black LED displays.
- 1x224 resolution per screen. The LEDs actually strobe through 384 columns really fast, but it's also stressful for the eyes, hence headaches.
- 3D Tetris (US only), basically an Obvious Beta of Tetrisphere. A Japanese version, Polygo Block, was planned but not released.
- Galactic Pinball, a collection of four space-themed pinball boards that predates Metroid Prime Pinball as Samus' first appearance in the genre.
- Golf (T&E Virtual Golf in Japan), a golf game featuring 47 virtual opponents.
- Insmouse No Yakata, a surprisingly creepy and criminally overlooked first-person shooter/SurvivalHorror game based on the Cthulhu Mythos. The only FPS released, and then only in Japan (although an American localization was planned as Mansion of Insmouse).
- Jack Bros. (with the subtitle No Meirô De Hiihoo! in Japan), the first Shin Megami Tensei game to be released in North America.
- Mario Clash, a revamped version of Mario Bros. Revisited as a microgame in the first Wario Ware.
- Mario's Tennis, Mario's first outing as a tennis player (he had only been a referee in Tennis for the NES and Game Boy).
- Nester's Funky Bowling (US only), the only video game to star former Nintendo Power mascot Nester. It's bowling. With Nester. And it's funky. If bowling was ever by any measure of the imagination "funky".
- Panic Bomber (Tobidase! Panibon in Japan), a Match Three Game spinoff of Bomberman also released for several other platforms.
- Red Alarm (Red Alarm Virtual 3D Shooting Game in Japan), which looked like Battlezone 1980 and played like a hybrid of Star Fox and Descent.
- SD Gundam Dimension War (Japan only), one of two games released on the Virtual Boy's last day in Japan.
- Space Invaders Virtual Collection (Japan only).
- Space Squash (Japan only)
- Teleroboxer, best described as Punch Out WITH ROBOTS!
- V-Tetris (Japan only), a really bad idea due to being Tetris (i.e., addictive) on a system with an "LED-strobing-gives-you-headaches" element.
- Vertical Force, a Vertical Scrolling Shooter by Hudson Soft, playing like Star Soldier on two layers.
- Virtual Bowling (Japan only), the second of two games released on the Virtual Boy's last day in Japan and the rarest of all 22 that got released.
- Virtual Boy Wario Land (with the subtitle Awazon No Hihou in Japan), more than likely the system's Killer App.
- Virtual Fishing (Japan only). An American version was planned but never released.
- Virtual Lab (Japan only), a puzzle game which was clearly unfinished upon release (for starters, it uses a password-based system with nowhere to input said passwords).
- Virtual League Baseball (Virtual Pro Yakyuu '95 in Japan)
- Waterworld (US only). 'Nuff said.
Unreleased games include:
- 3D Tank, a Battlezone-esque title that didn't get any farther than a one-level demo.
- Bound High!, an extremely well-done 3-D game that took full advantage of its platform and one of a few games that may have saved the Virtual Boy. It's also the only prototype that's been dumped.
- Donkey Kong Country 2, in development for only a few weeks before being scrapped and eventually released on the SNES.
- Dragon Hopper, a Legend of Zelda-ish action/adventure game that may have saved the Virtual Boy.
- Shin Nihon Pro Wrestling Gekitou Densetsu, rumored to have been released in Japan in extremely limited quantities during December 1995.
- Zero Racers, a planned F-Zero sequel and another game that may have saved the Virtual Boy.