It's time once again for Defunct Games' 33 Consoles of Christmas, your 33 part guide to the best and worst system designs of all time. Join Cyril Lachel and Chad Reinhardt as they judge 33 different game consoles based on what they think of the look. Forget about actual hardware and software, the only thing these guys care about is talking about their exterior design. Join us every day between November 23 and December 25 for a new console review!
Following the overwhelming success of the NES, Super NES and Game Boy, some thought Nintendo could do no wrong. Unfortunately this was before they got their first look at the Virtual Boy, Nintendo's bizarre non-portable portable that had you gazing into faux-virtual reality goggles and playing games in pseudo-3D. The idea was interesting, but at $180 most consumers weren't ready to follow Nintendo's grand vision. These days it's fun to look back at the unit and see its potential, but at the time it was nothing more than a laughing stock to the entire games media.
So here I sit, terribly conflicted and not sure what to say about the Virtual Boy. Part of the problem is that whenever I look at the system I can't help but be reminded of Nintendo's failure. While it was a unique idea, there's no denying that Nintendo completely dropped the ball on the Virtual Boy. $180 for this was ridiculous, and the fact that there are no more than two or three games worth owning isn't something Virtual Boy fans like to bring up. But just when I'm ready to name this system the ugliest piece of plastic my poor eyes have ever focused on I'm struck with another sensation, pure love. You see, so far we've reviewed a lot of systems that look alike. Sure the Genesis, Super NES and Sega Master System all have different styles, they are all just pieces of plastic with four sides and a cartridge slot. The Virtual Boy, on the other hand, is so much more than that. It looks like a top heavy alien, the type you might see in some low budget science fiction film where Earth is under attack and all of the humans are fleeing for their lives. Still, there's something about it that just makes me gag, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. Could it be that the Virtual Boy is so ugly that it's actually attractive? Using that logic I might even be inclined to give this system an A ... but I just can't do it since it's a portable game system that isn't portable. If you could take it with you (and maybe strap it on your head) this would definitely be in the same league as the Super Famicom. While I have no problems giving it a B, I have to make the caveat that it is probably the ugliest game console ever conceived. And for that I love it!
I guess this looks like a virtual reality system. Generally regarded as Nintendo's only real misstep, the Virtual Boy resides in a world all its own, however notorious that world may be. The robotic style reminds me of the test footage from MIT, but doesn't exactly inspire me to play tennis or throw turtle shells. The fact that the system was able to sprout legs and potentially destroy me while I sleep is cause for alarm, but since the visor reminds me of Johnny Five's eyes, I don't know that I would really be very frightened. I like the black-on-red color scheme, which compliments the colors the graphics employed. I'm not a fan of the controller, though; there's just something about having two D-pads that doesn't feel right. Whether you're a fan of the actual system or not, with all the wacky incarnations virtual reality units have adopted in movies and television shows written by people that have NO concept of video games, the Virtual Boy definitely could have turned out worse. At least there weren't any giant stupid gloves to wear, which, for some reason, is a recurring trend in movies about VR.