I’ve had a few cracks at writing this entry, at trying to explain how owning the Virtual Boy has made me feel, and my opinion of the hardware itself. I’m finding it difficult to quantify the whole experience. You see, the Sega Master System is similar in many ways to the Atari 2600, which is in turn similar to the Super Nintendo. They’re all instantly recognisable as gaming consoles, with their base units and controllers.
The Virtual Boy has more in common with the Vectrex, an alien contraption that defies common explanation (but is strangely satisfying because of this fact). At first glance most people would have no idea what the Virtual Boy was, with a small percentage of the population likely given over to irrational terror at the very sight of it, stumbling their way out of the room choking on fear fueled tears and gibbering Lovecraftian lines.
For those of us with the fortitude to stick around and learn more, the Virtual Boy reveals itself to be an absolute wonder of the retro gaming world.
Resembling a circa 80s virtual reality headset with a controller snaking out the base of the unit, the Nintendo Virtual Boy renders all its games in a shade of red and uses optical effects to produce a sense of 3D in the games. While I only have one Virtual Boy title – Mario Tennis – for the time being, it was enough to get a sense of what the console is capable of.
And I can honestly say, from a gamers perspective, the Virtual Boy has been a hell of a lot of fun so far. Seriously, the tennis game is solid, there’s some nice use of 3D as the ball bounces ‘through’ the screen and text seems to approach from ‘outside’ the boundaries of display. I’m not one for tennis games on any platform, but Mario Tennis is fun, addictive and really captures you as you try to outwit the AI opponent. I didn’t suffer any of the rumored headaches from wearing the Virtual Boy, but I have developed an unhealthy desire to see what other games are like for the console. I also didn’t put much stock in the complaints that it’s awkward to use. Yes, you’ll have to find the right surface to sit the tripod on or – as I did – lie down with the Virtual Boy on top of you, but if you’re dedicated enough to purchase a Virtual Boy then you’re easily dedicated enough to find a way to play it.
Again like the Vectrex, the Virtual Boy is great to own because it is unique. It is something people will ask about when they see it, and delight in when they use it. It’s a talking point and has fantastic shelf appeal. I couldn’t be happier with mine and have already begun the search for more titles to try out even though I’m fairly sure I’d be content if all I had was Mario Tennis.
The Virtual Boy is as much a gamers piece as a collectors, and well worth shelling out the cash for. (And yes, being that they’re fairly unique and had a low production run you won’t be finding them cheap unfortunately)