Say what you will about the Virtual Boy, but this is a superb game system. It had the games, a unique concept, solid controller, under appreciated audio capabilities, and could produce an amazing array of graphics for only being two colors. Looking back, it wasn’t necessarily Nintendo, the slow game output, or high price that killed off this unique piece of gaming history. It was the media.
If there was ever a scenario that shows how truly terrible the gaming media can be, it was the Virtual Boy. In a January 1995 editorial in EGM, editor Ed Semrad shredded the system before its launch in any country after a brief trade show play test. It didn’t launch until November of that year.
Semrad’s notes are occasionally odd.
“Nintendo is going to keep costs down by giving us two red LCD’s on a black background. One would have thought they learned from their no-color Game Boy.”
If anything, it shows that color wasn’t apparently important to most people. Granted, times had changed, the Lynx, Game Gear, and Turbo Express all had sharp color screens for the time. Still, the no-color Game Boy outsold them all. What was Nintendo supposed to learn?
When speaking of the early game selection, Semrad had few positives to note.
“The games were unfinished and less than half done so they could improve. Still, not a great selection of carts to show off the 3-D potential of the system.”
Well of course not if they’re half done. That’s amazingly unfinished to make any accurate judgments on.
His final complaints were the claims of the console being portable, and while completely true that this system never should have had the world “portable” anywhere near it in the traditional sense, it could technically be taken with you. Nintendo also had plans for various contraptions to avoid using the tripod at all times.
This is all just an editorial though, right? Look further in the issue and check out the Quartermann rumor column.
“Virtual Bomb, eer, Virtual Boy, that new techno-cheap two colored unit that doubles as a headset left Quartermann looking for his Intellivision.”
Not only is this debate already included in the opening editorial; there’s nothing here that’s a rumor. He goes on to say “the word on the street in Tokyo is that the Virtual Boy will blow up real good when it comes to the market.” That’s not a rumor either; it’s heresy.
The magazine continues later in a feature article on the reveal of the unit at Nintendo’s Shoshinkai Show. Even here, they decide to deliver a few cheap shots.