In 1995, two things represented the future: flying cars and virtual reality. One of those became readily available to the public thanks to Nintendo. I, of course, was the first in line to buy it. I prided myself in being a toy aisle futurist, always looking for that next big thing. Shout ’N Shoots? You’re talking to the kid that introduced them to the northern Westchester County area. I even recall that year my friend offering to sell me his Gameboy. 2D gaming? I scoffed at the notion. I, like Mario, was ready to tread in new dimensions, able to see, taste, touch and smell the pixelated worlds that had always been kept separate from me by that confining glass screen. Kirby, Toadstool, Samus, all once worlds apart, would now co-inhabit the same plane of existence as myself! It was all too good to be true.
It turned out it was all too good to be true. As I placed my face into the uncomfortable head mount, waiting for the device to boot up, I pictured the smooth painterly worlds I had seen Jeff Fahey explore in The Lawnmower Man. Instead I was greeted by an ugly red monochromatic screen. I was then thrust into the most boring game of tennis I’ve ever played, and I played two years of a beginners junior league at Club Fit. Now, the image wasn’t quite the 3D revolution the box touted it to be, it was more like 2 3/5D. It kind of worked if you squinted hard enough, but after my third set against Wario, I was ready to spew my Dunkaroos all over the ill-engineered “technological marvel.”
The controller was clunky and M-shaped. It seemed almost like Nintendo was beta-testing the N64 controller and had decided to throw in a shitty VR head piece as a last minute addition. The games outside of Tennis were limited to pinball and a few sidescrollers, because nothing pushes the depths of the third dimension like moving from left to right or up and down across the screen. The frosting on the cake was the imposed “breaks” Virtual Boy forced you to take every fifteen to thirty minutes due to weak processing and the above mentioned motion sickness.
After years of seeing the bright virtual 3D future portrayed in films like Blank Check, Toys and even Disclosure, my soul was crushed by a mammoth anvil of disappointment that Nintendo had dropped on my heart. For solace that day, I popped in my VHS copy of Back To The Future II. “Cheer up,” I said to myself. “There’s always flying cars.”
Remember Virtual Boy ?
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