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(Continued from page 8) pulled the plug on the NVB. Yokoi
was crushed at first, but that was
In conjunction with the original nothing compared to what came next.
Metroid, Yokoi also produced Kid Despite Yokoi‘s past successes and
Icarus, which shares some similarities the productive future he would have
with the more successful game. Kid likely had at Nintendo, company ex-
Icarus is more linear than Metroid, but ecutives set out to do nothing short of
still encourages the players to commit denigrate him at the 1995 Shoshinkai
to a seek and explore style of play. trade show in Tokyo. Yokoi was left
While Kid Icarus fell into relative ob- alone essentially wearing a figurative
scurity compared to other Nintendo ―dunce cap‖ to show off the Virtual
franchises, it has recently shown some Boy. This treatment functioned as a
life and perhaps the series will one form of ridicule the higher ups used
day become as strong as Metroid is against Yokoi. In the end, Yokoi left
now. Nintendo on August 15, 1996 after
being treated like a pariah. He moved And so, we move to 1994. VR is a big
on to form Koto Laboratory where, dream for game designers. A VR
while in partnership with Bandai, he headset was talked about for the Sega
helped develop the Wonderswan. He Genesis, and a ―face hugger‖ was
Nintendo Virtual Boy never saw its release in 1999.
mocked up for the Atari Jaguar litera-
ture. With machines capable of so trolled them. The other was the red On October 4, 1997, Gunpei Yokoi was
much more than in the days of the 3D LED‘s. It was said red was chosen as in a car accident. He, along with as-
glasses for the Sega Master System, a dynamic color, but the fact was, sociate Etsuo Kisoo, had gotten into a
and thanks to games like ―Wolfenstein LED‘s, in other less harsh colors, were minor fender-bender. While the two
3D‖, there was new turf to conquer. too power intensive and expensive at men were assessing the damage, a
My research didn‘t turn up who‘s the time (ironically, a development of passing car sideswiped them. Kisoo
bright idea it was to make the Virtual cheaper colored LED‘s came out about suffered a broken rib but Yokoi unfor-
Boy, but on paper, it seemed like a the time the NVB was killed off). The tunately did not survive. He was 57
can‘t miss concept – 3D gaming, and red glare as opposed to, say, a calm- years old. He was a great man with a
fronted by the Nikola Tesla of Nin- ing blue took some getting used to, tragic end, no doubt.
tendo, Gunpei Yokoi. and needless to say, full color was out In some circles, you are only as good
And so, development started on the of the question. as your last release. Yokoi died be-
VR-32, as it was called at the time. Despite his successes, Yokoi was not fore his last design, the WonderSwan,
The obvious problem – what to use for appreciated as much as he should came on the market, so he is stuck
the display? Price was a concern, so have been at Nintendo because of the with a machine too big to be a port-
the obvious solution, two screens like design blunder know as the Virtual able. 22 games made for it total, 19
those used in pocket TV‘s, was out. Boy. It released on July 21, 1995 in in Japan and 14 in the US. And a
This also would have likely increased Japan and on August 14, 1995 in punch line for people who are un-
the size of the unit and definitely give North America. It never made it to aware or don‘t care to know the mas-
it a power draw that makes the GP2X Europe. The console failed miserably, sive influence he had on the play-
look conservative. Yokoi‘s solution selling about 3/4 of a million units and ground they now enjoy. If the NVB
was actually pretty slick – there were lasted for only about a year. The were developed now, it would un-
two rows of LED‘s, one for each eye. Virtual Boy was supposed to give the doubtedly have all the capabilities you
Using a similar principal to a television player a sense of 3D and while the could want and be a hit. But it was
set, an oscillating mirror would move visuals do have some depth thanks to the wrong time for such an idea, one
back and forth at very high speed, two eyepieces that show slightly dif- that even a mind as powerful as
and the LED‘s would change depend- ferent images, the bright red hue of Yokoi‘s could not overcome.
ing on the position. Result: the re- the screen often induces headaches
flection would ―draw‖ the image for and eyestrain. Additionally, the ma-
the eye‘s field of vision while minimiz- chine is just awkward to use. If it
ing parts and power. isn‘t placed at just the perfect height
This also created two problems. The the player has to hunch his or her
first was technology‘s major bugaboo, back in a way that can lead to muscle
moving parts. This made the unit cramps. And price was a problem.
relatively fragile. A good thwack Released for $180 in the US, it was
could send the mirrors out of align- prohibitively expensive. Plus, unlike
ment or break the motors that con- other game systems, you couldn‘t just show video of the game in action, so
marketing was a problem. In short,
this thing was doomed. A grand total
of twenty-two games were ever re-
leased for the machine. Way to go.
The Virtual Boy wasn‘t completely
Yokoi‘s fault. Nintendo rushed the
machine out because of the upcoming
Nintendo 64. But even so, I have
difficulty seeing even a ―complete‖
Virtual Boy being much better off.
This really was Yokoi‘s biggest, and
possibly only, blunder.
No doubt about it, the Virtual Boy was
a flop. After about a year, Nintendo Here’s the original Mario Tennis for NVB
9 | Video Game Trader Magazine | June 2008 |
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