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Nintendo Virtual Boy

The Shoshinkai show in Japan in 1994 was the first time people learned of Nintendo's upcoming 32-bit portable console.  At first, it had been given the name VR32 (Virtual Reality 32).  Gunpei Yokoi, the man behind both the Game Boy and the Game & Watch handhelds, was the team leader for the project.  The VR32 was going to create a new type of gaming experience never seen before.  By the time the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (WCES) came, a few games had already been developed for the system and were demoed to the public.

The renamed Virtual Boy was released in Japan on July 21, 1995 and in the US on August 14 and Nintendo were expecting at least 3 million units to be sold.  This was never the case.  The console was a complete flop.  It hardly sold 50,000 in Japan, with Nintendo's estimate being 250,000, and didn't do any better in the US.  It was never released in Europe.

The way images are produced on the VB is by projecting two images, one black and one red, onto the two LCD screens, both of which run at 50.2 fps.  This makes the images appear to be three-dimensional and stand out against the black background.

There were a few disappointments with the Virtual Boy.  For starters, it only displayed images in red pixels.  It would have been so much nicer if the virtual reality experience was in full color.  It also gave players a headache if they played on it for over half an hour and was not recommended for children under 7 years old.  The VB unit sits on a stand with no height adjustment, so in many situations it's quite difficult to be comfortable while playing.

By August 1996, Nintendo announced the death of the Virtual Boy and ceased any future plans for game releases.

All in all though, I think the Virtual Boy was a daring and interesting idea.  Approximately 770,000 units were sold in total worldwide.  If anything, it was something different.  What a shame though that Gunpei Yokoi had to leave Nintendo in disgrace after being blamed for the Virtual Boy's tragic outcome.  Even with its flaws, I still love it!

14 games were released for the Virtual Boy in the US including Mario Clash, which was originally meant to be bundled with the unit, Galactic Pinball, Red Alarm, Wario Land and Teleroboxer.  It initially retailed for $179.95, but was dropped to $159.95 two months later.

Technical Specs:

CPU: 32-bit NEC V810 RISC (20MHz)
RAM: 1Mb DRAM 512kb P-SRAM
Colors: 4 colors/32 intensity levels
Resolution: 384x224 pixels
Screen: 2 RTI light-emitting LEDs
Sound: 16-bit stereo

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