(Confused? Catch up on the previous entries in this series by starting here.)
Much has been written about Nintendo’s greatest failure, and I don’t mean the Wii U. That embattled console has already sold nearly five times as many units as The System That Shall Not be Named, a.k.a. Virtual Boy. The quirky 3D platform that was neither a true console nor a handheld, but somewhere in between as a “tabletop” gaming device, has more or less been stripped from Nintendo’s archives, with nary a mention in last week’s NCL annual report that included lifetime sales for all other Nintendo platforms, dating back to Famicom.
The lack of love for the device many blame for the departure of legendary designer Gunpei Yokoi is not entirely justified. I was one of the roughly 770,000 who owned a VB, and I treasured it for several years. Unfortunately, college life was not kind to it and it ended up ruined, leaving me with a few unplayable cartridges and a lack of willingness / resources to buy one on eBay. You can learn much more about the system at the excellent Planet Virtual Boy; for now, let’s take a look at Nintendo’s forgotten franchises that launched its first attempt at stand-alone, native 3D gaming.
Introduced: 1995, Galactic Pinball (Virtual Boy)
Nintendo has made a handful of ventures into the pinball genre, with mixed results. I've already written about the creatively-titled Pinball for NES; you may also remember Kirby’s Pinball Land, Revenge of the ‘Gator, Metroid Prime Pinball and Mario Pinball Land. Galactic Pinball is probably one of the better titles out of that group, with the oddity of using a “puck” instead of a sphere to better work with the 3D visuals. Zen Studios has already done an excellent job filling the pinball void with its titles on 3DS and Wii U, so there’s not really any compulsion for Nintendo to venture back into an area where it’s had so little solid success.
Introduced: 1995, Red Alarm (Virtual Boy)
Red Alarm holds the distinction of being named “Best Virtual Boy Game of 1995” by EGM, which is tantamount to winning “Best Ouya Title of the Week” for July 28 - August 3, 2013. This is not to say it was a bad game; in fact, it showed a lot of promise for what really could have been an interesting Star Fox title on a better console. The wire-frame 3D graphics look terrible in 2D, though, sort of like the aborted product of a Super NES mating with a Vectrex. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing an attempt to bring a completely re-imagined Red Alarm to 3DS, albeit with full textures rather than what we have here.
Introduced: 1995, Teleroboxer (Virtual Boy)
I recently found my Teleroboxer game pak while sorting through an old box from the attic. I remember it as sort of a 3D rock’em-sock’em robots type game, which it turns out is a pretty accurate description. I dunno, maybe Nintendo could bring some of the fighters back in a 2D / 3D hybrid revival of Joy Mech Fight? But as I wrote previously, Nintendo seems content to stick with Super Smash Bros. for fighting and Punch-Out!! for boxing.
Nester’s Funky Bowling
Introduced: 1996, Nester’s Funky Bowling (Virtual Boy)
Good old Nester. Remember him? Only gamers of a certain age and with a strong Nintendo persuasion such as myself will recall the spiky-haired, red-headed scamp, the creation of Howard Phillips in the pages of Nintendo Power. How do you take a smart-alecky comic character with a cult following and turn him into a legitimate video game character? You insert him into a 3D bowling game, apparently. Along with his previously unknown twin sister, Hester, this sadly was Nester’s only officially-licensed video game appearance to date. It’s likely to be his last, as I imagine Nintendo is disinterested in reviving a character with no discernible relevance to most gamers younger than 30. Besides, Howard apparently decided Nester needed to grow up and live a normal, productive life.
I've found a couple more lost Nintendo franchises worth reviewing, so we’ll wrap things up next week with a look at Nintendo rarities from the GBA!