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Nintendo's Virtual Boy (¥Ð©`¥Á¥ã¥ë¥Ü©`¥¤, B¨¡charu B¨i?) (also known as the VR-32 during development) was the first portable game console capable of displaying "true 3D graphics." Most video games are forced to use monocular cues to achieve the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional screen, but the Virtual Boy was able to create a more accurate illusion of depth through an effect known as parallax. In a manner similar to using a head-mounted display, the user looks into an eyepiece made of neoprene on the front of the machine, and then an eyeglass-style projector allows viewing of the monochromatic (in this case, red) image. It was released on July 21, 1995 in Japan and August 14, 1995 in North America and at a price of around US for $180. It met with a lukewarm reception that was unaffected by continued price drops. Nintendo discontinued it the following year.
Portable game console
Fifth generation era
JP July 21, 1995
Nintendo's Virtual Boy (¥Ð©`¥Á¥ã¥ë¥Ü©`¥¤, B¨¡charu B¨i?) (also known as the VR32 for the codename
|128 megabit addressable ROM space (4-16 megabit ROM used in released games)|
128 megabit addressable RAM space (0-8 kilobyte Battery Backed RAM in released games)
128 megabit addressable expansion space (unused in any released games)
Expansion interrupt available to the cartridge
Left and right audio signals pass through cartridge
The console was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, inventor of the Game & Watch and Game Boy handhelds, as well as the Metroid franchise. While compact and seemingly portable, Virtual Boy was not intended to replace the Game Boy in Nintendo's product line, as use of the system requires a steady surface, and completely blocks the player's peripheral vision. According to David Sheff's book Game Over, Yokoi never actually had intended for the console to be released in its present form. However, Nintendo had grown impatient with the amount of time that he had taken with the project. It wanted to focus on the Nintendo 64, and quickly rushed the Virtual Boy to market.
Hype surrounding the device included public musings by Nintendo that the device might resemble a gun set vertical, projecting a 3D image in the air. The actual device was considered a disappointment compared to this description:
...the Virtual Boy produced very impressive 3-D effects, although the monochromatic graphic style proved to limit the appeal of the visuals.
¨C Nintendo of America
Video game analysts believed Virtual Boy was a flop in the marketplace, for several reasons:
The commercial demise of the Virtual Boy was regarded by many as the catalyst that led to Yokoi being driven from Nintendo. According to Game Over, the company laid the blame for the machine's faults directly on the creator. The system was listed as number five in PC World's "The Ugliest Products in Tech History" list.
Due to the short lifespan of the system, only 22 games were released. Of them 19 games were released in the Japanese market, while only 14 were released in North America.