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Nintendo Virtual Boy review, different games and reasons for its failure
Nintendo is soon going to launch Nintendo 3DS, a 3D gaming console on 27th March. Now, this is not Nintendo's foray into this arena and this is actually its third device. The other two were a 3D glasses for Famicon and another a gaming console named Virtual Boy. With 3DS soon to be launched here I have done the review of Virtual Boy for you.
This is not the first time that Nintendo is launching a gaming device based on 3D technology. Much before 3DS Nintendo had launched a 3D headset for Famicon (known as NES in US). This set never came to India or the US and maybe it was for good only because they were nothing more than pair of shutter glasses. These were nothing more than the glasses being offered nowadays by the HDTV companies. The second launch was Virtual Boy which did land in India and was a 32bit console running on six AA batteries and became famous for creating headache in the users rather than any good experience. This console was launched in 1995 for a price of $180 and its production was stopped before the completion of India. So now when 3DS is going to be released on 27th March I thought it is a good time to give a complete review which Virtual Boy always deserved and never got.
Hardware of Nintendo Virtual Boy
Virtual Boy is something strange as a device is apparent when you take it out of the garishly colored box, cardboard which maybe is to compensate for what is going to be our experience with Virtual Boy. I have opened many gaming console boxes but nothing compares to this. The design of the Virtual Boy system is somewhat same to the virtual reality headsets that were a rage on the 90's but when you place it on its two-legged stand all your dreams of the fantasy device are shattered. If any notions of shame were remaining then these too will be fulfilled as soon as you stick your face into it.
The color of body of Virtual Boy is of red and black color with some interesting foreshadowing for to-be players and at the back is a foam-rubber shroud that will ensure that the players will see nothing other than the red-hues eyed ports. You have two separate screens for each eye in your Virtual Boy but the resolution is unlike any average display at 1 x 224.
You read it right and no, I have not made any typo, the resolution of height it 224 pixels and width just I pixel! With a 90 degree rotation they will be perfect for playing Wolfenstein 1D which came out a few months back but that is not obviously the way human eyes are supposed to see. To construct a full 2D image the oscillating mirrors scan back and forth just like an electron gun in a Cathode Ray Tube.
To make the matters much confusing, each pixel can handle only one color- red but can easily manage 32 shades. This is because these light sources are nothing else but LEDs and during that time the brightest and cheapest LEDs available were Red. Now I leave it up to you to decide what Nintendo decided to go for.
Now as we have 2 of these displays, each showing a little perspective, the images are combined by our brain and we get a 3D image with a resolution of 384 x 224 which though is less than VGA but is much better than 256 x 192 you get with DSi XL.
The display of Virtual Boy is powered by the same 20MHz 32-bit NEC processor which powered the successor of TurboGrafx-16- the PC-FX. The processor performed just on 320KB memory and the game data was on 16MB cartridges which are slotted beneath the unit. These simple resources were enough to create graphics better than the SNES title but not near enough to the graphics from N64 which was released just a year after its own release.
Controller of Nintendo Virtual Boy
The controller of Nintendo Virtual Boy is a six button dual D-pad device. It was designed as such to allow full 3d interaction but it did nothing else than mirror each other. The design of controller of Virtual Boy is perfect for lefties and is quite appropriate considering that the games to be played on this system were nothing else than 2D games with few different planes. On the left side are Select and Start button and on the right side are A and B button. On the back are L and R button.
This design is more like of a GameCube pad rather being for N64. This becomes especially correct when you consider the WaveBird like backpack but here the controller is much heavier, bigger and has a totally different use. The weight is due to the six AA battery locations in the controller rather than being in the strap. Well, this maybe so that people can directly attach it to their heads – but in any case even six batteries will last only for about 5-6 hours. Gamers can also buy a adapter (it is not included) but then it means another cord to the controller when the world is not totally going wireless!
Games of Nintendo Virtual Boy
I always try to bring you a comprehensive review and for that I tried to gather information as much information about these games as possible but sadly as Virtual Boy was not a success most of the Virtual Boy game titles have already been sent to the bargain bin with the system itself. Anyhow, I have been successful in bringing you review of four games which are mentioned below:-
Mario's Tennis on Virtual Boy- This is the first game building on which the epic gaming series of Mario Tennis was started. The reason I am calling it epic is because it just decimated the competition in the market from N64, GBC, GBA, and Game Cube. Mario Tennis also found its way to Virtual Boy making it one of the last games to find its place in the box. A familiar group of Mario characters get ready to play with Bowser's absence being notable among them. The game is quite fun to play but is limited due to plain graphics and due to the fact that hitting the ball is more a matter of luck rather than following the ball with your eyes inspite of the 3D effects. The game was designed to be player in two player mode but as very few sets sold out Nintendo never cared to release a link cable.
Galactic Pinball on Virtual Boy- The game greets you b saying," Welcome to Space World, let's go!". At that time with a 16MB cartridge this sound addition might be considered brave if not for the fact that the pinball makes no sound at all on bouncing which probably leaves enough space for a simple clip. If you think more deeply maybe Nintendo decided not to include any bounce sound due to the fact that in space no sound is created in the first place and this fact would go on to explain the reason of the strange physics on the bouncing ball.
Vertical Force on Nintendo Virtual Boy- This is a very simple and predicable vertical shooter game which can be player on two planes- up and down. You are the sailor of a ship which you must control why slicing through waves of enemies which will appear on the higher or the lower plane. You go up and down and up and down chasing the boss. Nothing that you would not already have player but still interesting when you are tired though it seems to be very difficult to progress much farther or score much high.
Virtual Boy Wario Land in Nintendo Virtual Boy- Virtual Boy would be the first Nintendo console to never have a proper Mario title and I there is a premier title for this console then this has to be it. Wario is a more aggressive version of your side-view Mario character with a shoulder attack to send the enemies flying through the air and the fish jumping out of water having chainsaws instead of noses. Mario has to wear a lot of hats during the gameplay, literally, the hats give special powers to Wario like a fire-breathing dragon on his head or stronger attacks. Obviously there is lot of 3D action here and sometimes the enemies attack deep within from the screen. Sometimes you need to send Wario there too to open doors and get keys.
Gaming for long periods with the cap on and a heavy controller in hand will obviously create some health problems and for this Nintendo has smartly provided a pause option which is recommended to give your occipital lobes and hands some rest. And also is necessary the right alignment of the mirrors for the eyes which otherwise would create a lot of stress on your eyes. Frankly, I did not find it that bad or headache inducing as it is rumored to be if used properly with proper breaks and placement.
So, was Nintendo Virtual Boy a success or a failure? It was a total failure. It was not able to compete with most of the gaming alternatives of 90's. It has quite weight and is not something you would call social gaming.
Anyhow, the main problem is inside the shroud, though the games are not that bad, the problem is seeing the images in black and red displays. It was 4 years after the release of SNES that this console was launched and by the time it came to the market gamers already had small pictures of N64. Now the two color displays did not stand any chances and nor the 3D hype was able show any real performance.
Nor were the games any exciting to give the console any chance. This needs to be added here that developers too did not get much time to design something interesting for the console but now there is no point to extend this debate. It is now one of the biggest failures in Nintendo's history but deserves a space in retro gaming collection.
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