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9/01/2014

Top 5 Virtual Boy games

The Virtual Boy stands as one of Nintendo's few outright failures, but it isn't hard to see why.  With its dark red LED graphics and two separate viewports to create a pseudo-3D effect, playing it for just a few minutes gave you a splitting headache.  Not to mention the hardware was flimsy and unreliable (resulting in countless broken stands and eyepieces) and it had a library of games that largely failed to take advantage of its "virtual reality" selling point, resulting in most people viewing it as an incremental upgrade over the Game Boy at best and a weak gimmick at worst.  As a result of this and a high price tag ($180), the Virtual Boy sold well under a million units worldwide and was discontinued only a few months after its debut, amassing a total of 22 titles during its short existence; of these, thirteen were released in North America and only three were never released in Japan.

So why do a top list of a system that was virtually unplayable when it was new, let alone by today's standards?  Well, because like any system, there are a few interesting titles that are worth a look, even if you have to emulate them owing to the terrible original hardware (an alternative which allows you use more modern/less headache-inducing options for 3D effects).  So let's look at my five favorites.

5. Mario Clash (Nintendo, 1995)

Mario Clash was intended to tide gamers over while they waited for the "real" Mario game on the system (Virtual Boy Mario Land).  Unfortunately, that game was cancelled and we were just left with this.  Mario Clash is more or less a remake of the original Mario Brothers arcade game, albeit with reworked gameplay that takes advantage of its 3D layout - generally by having you throw Koopa shells to hit enemies from across the stage in order to defeat them, as well as a bonus stage where you catch coins on a 3D layout.  Not bad for what it is, but disappointing for what it isn't.

4. Galactic Pinball (Nintendo, 1995)

While I'm generally not a fan of pinball video games, this one surprised me with its quality.  It utilizes its three-dimensional depth to provide a realistic pinball table perspective, and it has some clever space-themed levels and atmospheric stereo sound effects, as well as some minigames where you shoot down UFOs using a 3D-imposed cursor.  Good stuff that all utilizes the system's gimmick rather well.  If it were only on a better system, this game would have struck gold.




3. Panic Bomber (Hudson Soft, 1995)

A solid head-to-head puzzle game in the vein of games like Puyo Puyo, but like many other titles on the system, the nagging question is "why does this need to be in 3D"?  And the answer is... it doesn't, really.  This could have just as easily been an SNES or Game Boy game (in fact, it was) and would have been no worse off for it.  Well regardless, Panic Bomber a fun little title.  Just a pity they couldn't implement a two-player mode because the Virtual Boy was retired before a link cable was ever released...



2. Teleroboxer (Nintendo, 1995)

3D Punch-Out!  Well, maybe not quite; it has a futuristic theme and you're fighting robots from a first-person perspective, but the idea is definitely there (and several of the same developers worked on both games).  Regardless, it's a fun little title, having you expertly block, dodge and attack, and even unleash some powerful haymaker hits with well-timed button presses that deal out major damage to your foes.  There was even a hidden eighth opponent if you managed to defeat all seven of the normal ones without losing a round.  Pretty cool, and it actually takes advantage of the system's gimmick rather well with its ring lit by overhead lights and having robotic fists flying right into your face.

1. Virtual Boy Wario Land (Nintendo, 1995)

As if there were any other choice.  VB Wario Land is a well-crafted adventure where you fight enemies, traverse obstacles and explore creative stages by hopping between background and foreground layers, all with the goal of collecting all the treasures and defeating an evil genie.  Hell, you almost forget this game's giving you a nail-behind-the-eyes level of headache because you're having so much fun plowing through everything in your path.  As the Angry Video Game Nerd once said, "It's actually a good game.  Damn good.  But there's one problem: It's on Virtual Boy."