Friday, October 14, 2011

About a Virtual Boy

I have another retro game bargain to report, this one is probably the best yet (though I make that claim a lot).

As per my regular modus operandi, this piece was discovered in the junk section of Omocha Souko, which has seen an absolute avalanche of bargain gems as of late.

While wandering the aisles my eyes alighted upon a box for the Virtual Boy. At first I assumed it was either empty or maybe had some broken Virtual Boy parts in it at best. I say this because all the consoles in the junk section are sold at a flat fee of 300 yen (4$) each and it would be inconceivable for a CIB Virtual Boy to be going for that cheap. That is what I paid for my Sega 1000 II, which was covered in dirt and I had to buy the controllers seperately.

I have been interested in getting a Virtual Boy for a while though so seeing the box piqued my interest. Amiga4Ever over at Guru Meditation wrote a really good post about this console a couple months ago. He refers to it as an `absolute wonder of the retro gaming world`, an assessment with which I completely agree.

I won`t repeat the whole history of the console here, save to recap some of the highlights. It is a console that uses a headset to create the illusion of 3D graphics, which makes it a completely different creature from your standard console. It was released in 1995 and was the first Nintendo console to completely tank, selling only 800,000 units worldwide in its breif lifetime.

Its unique, unusual design and the fact that so few were produced has made it one of the most interesting and hard to find consoles for retro collectors like myself to find.

So I just peaked into the box to quickly make sure it had something worth buying in it. Through the crack I could see the distinctive red plastic of the Virtual Boy`s headset, which was good enough for me. I paid the 300 yen and took it home.

On opening it up at home I was shocked. The thing was in perfect condition and was complete! It had the headset and controller:
The manual and all the inserts, including the flyer for Virtual Boy accessories:
And of course the box itself, which was a bit worn but still looked good:
Wanting something to test it with I actually went back the same day (Omocha Souko is, I should point out, just a few minutes from my home by bicycle which is why I can visit so often) and bought the only two games I could find, Tobidase Bomberman and T & E Virtual Golf (which, ironically, each cost more than the Virtual Boy itself):
I had a bit of trouble hooking it up at first. On reading the manual I was a bit disappointed to discover that the thing runs off of batteries, which always annoys me. But when I tried to open the battery case on the back of the controller I became massively confused as it looked completely different from the picture in the manual.

After a few minutes of fiddling I made a brilliant discovery. The battery attachment on my Virtual Boy had been replaced with an AC adaptor tap!
This thing - which is awesome - allows you to use a Famicom or Super Famicom AC adaptor to power the Virtual Boy, which is a million times better than having to constantly put batteries into it! It was almost like they had tailor made this thing specifically for me!

Plugging it in I was delighted to find that it works perfectly! I gave it an inaugural run through on Tobidase Bomberman:
I have to say that this is an odd choice for a game to have ported to the Virtual Boy as it is basically a Dr. Mario/ Tetris type game that doesn`t make much use of the 3D feature that sets the Virtual Boy apart. Anyway, the cut scenes demonstrated the 3D graphics quite well and I love that game anyway, so I`m not complaining.

The dog took an interest in it too:
Lacking in opposable thumbs he wasn`t able to handle the controller, but he concurred that the 3D graphics were quite neat to look at.

Anyway, I am massively happy with this find. They had one at Mandarake a couple months ago for 8,000 yen, which was actually a pretty good deal for it. To find one for 300 yen has totally blown my fragile mind. Seriously. How did this happen? 300 yen for a complete, working Virtual Boy? That is less than what most items on the menu at Starbucks cost.

Related Posts
-Mega Bargain of the Day: Sega SG-1000 II
-Mega Bargain of the Day: KousenjuuSP Electro Safari
-Mega Bargain of the Day: Family Basic, Family Trainer and Climber Stick


  1. My god, you are the luckiest damn guy on earth! Bravo! :)

    I can't wait to hear what you think of the system's other games. I've heard the Wario Land game is good, and I've always been interested in the Mario Bros. and Mario Tennis (I think) games myself. Oh, and Tetris.

    Really, someday I'm going to bite the bullet and buy one of these myself -- although I'll sure pay more than $4 for it! :P

  2. Thanks, Bryan! I am indeed lucky!

    I`m really anxious to try out some of the system`s other games as the two I have aren`t really among the best. A few months ago they had a good selection at Omocha Souko including Mario and Wario Land which I didn`t buy at the time since I didn`t have the console. Now I`m kicking myself for having missed the chance as they are quite hard to find here.

    I highly recommend the console, BTW, even if it costs more than 4$! I was tempted to buy one for about 100$ a few months back, but now I`m glad I waited!

  3. The Virtual Boy is a bit of a strange bird, a fact immediately apparent as soon as it springs from its box, brightly colored cardboard, which may compensate for what is to come. We have several classic consoles which are Unbowed.

  4. I actually had a Virtual Boy when it first came out. I guess I was 7 or 8 years old. My grandparents bought it for me for whatever reason. I only had Mario Tennis and Mario Clash, though.

    I remember the 3D being really cool. Especially on Mario Tennis. I also remember thinking that the gamepad was really weird. Two D-Pads? WTF. Especially because the games I had didn't use the other one.

    But to be honest, I didn't care for it very much. It always gave me a headache and after I finished it, my eyes always had to adjust to the brightness of the real world and just generally uncomfortable to use. It was also a battery hog, taking six Double-As.

    But probably the main reason why I didn't like it was that, obviously, only one person could use it at a time. This meant that when my friends came over we had to take turns playing it and the other person couldn't see anything at all. I remember when I showed it to my friend, he was literally announcing the game. As a kid (or maybe anyone really) you don't really want to not be playing something when someone else is.

    A few years later, I actually sold it to my friend for not very much money at all. I was probably in middle school and not having any income to buy games for systems I actually wanted to play, I grew sick of it taking up space in my room and sold it to my friend. While I partially regret it since it's become a collector's item, and just a cool thing to have. I don't really miss it all that much.

    I think it's popularity now has to do with things like that it's really rare, and Nintendo's only flop, and it's something that most people never had and really has to be seen in person to be experienced. But as a kid who owned one and as someone who enjoys playing games rather than collecting them, It's not something I personally would seek out to play again... unless if it was something like this planets aligned lucky deal Sean got.

  5. Interesting story, Nate! I have to imagine you're right that folks like Sean and I seek out the VB because we never got to play it when it was "new," or that it's an oddity today, etc.

    Really, I just want to try it out. I've heard so much about it over the years, but never got to play it myself. What's the 3D like? Will it really give me a headache? That kind of thing :)

    We'll see if I actually ever get one. There are lots of systems I'd like to own -- a WonderSwan, a PC-FX, a Neo Geo CD -- but I'm not sure I'll actually ever pick one up...

  6. r4 - well put. A strange bird indeed:)

    Nate - ah, so you actually had one of these back in the day? Actually I can totally see why it would have been a disappointment. If I had bought this new for 180$ or whatever it originally cost I would have been quite unhappy with it too. The lack of two player is, as you say, a definite drawback. Not only is it lacking in two player but the other person can`t even watch you play the game.

    Basically I like it mainly as a fun, weird collectible thing rather than as a proper console in its own right.

    Bryan - if you can find one that is decently priced I say go for it. Just for the novelty value it is great fun! For me the one thing I want is one of those old school table top arcade games like Galaga or Frogger or something. Never know if I`ll ever find one but I can daydream...

  7. I really wanted a virtual boy for the longest time but since I'm in europe and it never got released here it was so hard to find without having to pay crazy money for shipping. I eventually got one recently that had reasonable shipping costs but it still came to about 100 euros. I don't regret it at all though, it's a great little machine.

    The most surprising thing about it is that just like the NGPC despite the small library the vast majority of games on it are really good. Have 5 games for it now, want to get a bit more and maybe the japanese version of jack bros. The 3D is actually really impressive and screenshots don't do it justice. It's a machine that the experience of using isn't emulatable.

    Anyway congrats on the bargain. You paid maybe 2% of what I paid which my retrogaming friends in ireland thought was a bargain!!

  8. Thanks, Retr0gamer!

    It really is a cool machine and you are absolutely right - screen shots can`t capture the experience. The 3D is quite cool.

    One thing that I like is that the library is small enough that it might be possible to collect all of it.

  9. Wow, what a fantastic find! I am once again filled jealousy at your luck! And a Bomberman game too! What's the other game like?

  10. It's one of the easier ones to get a complete collection for but there's a few nasty ones like the space invaders game, an SD gundam game and a japanese only bowling game that can go into the $1000 zone. With the luck you are having recently though you might find them cheaper! You can get a flash cart made for it but it's very expensive but if you are flush with cash it might be worth it even if it's just to play Bound High, which is the only unreleased game that's been found so far. I think I'm happy enough with the cheap common games.. You can still build up a good collection of games for cheap if you aren't worried about a complete collection.

  11. Geez, aren't you on fire! Next thing you'll be posting you'll have found some prototype of an unreleased game or something in the junk bin for the Japanese equivalent of a dollar!

    Speaking of the Virtual Boy, though, you should keep out for a copy of Insmouth no Yakatu (that might be incorrect... it's something like that). It's a first-person survival horror game, and since you have the system, might as well keep you eyes out, right?

    You'd also better get yourself a copy Of Virtual Boy Wario Land quick-like. ;)


  12. Simon - LOL, thanks! The other game isn`t bad actually, it makes better use of the 3D than Bomberman!

    Retr0gamer - thanks, I didn`t realize that there were a few expensive ones in there, but like you say I have been having some luck lately so I might still be able to make it without spending a fortune! If not I will satisfy myself with the better cheap ones.

    Skyrunner - yes, I have been on fire indeed! I will keep an eye out for that Insmout no Yakatu game, if I find it I`ll do a post about it! First person survival horror in the confines of that headset does sound a bit...well, scary.

  13. Incredible find, just incredible! :) You truly live in the lucky country :P

  14. Amazing bargain-hunting Sean!!! My eyes almost popped out my head when I saw the marked price!

    It's always great when these kind of bargains find the console making it to a good home, and I'm glad to see even Doogle's enjoying the 3D experience :)

  15. Thanks, MGM! It is the land of plenty sometimes!

    Sean - you can imagine how far my eyes popped out of my head when I realized what a bargain it was:) One man`s trash is another`s treasure as they say.

  16. ah Japan. The best bargain I found was a complete with two original pads working Neo Geo AES in Hard Off for 1000 yen total. I got my Virtual Boy off yahoo auctions for around 3000yen complete and working with 2 games. Do you have a PC Engine Super CD Rom setup? That was my other favorite pickup in Japan.

  17. the good thing about the VB is it looks really really good on a shelf.

  18. Anonymous - nice find with the NEO GEO. I actually did have a PC Engine Duo at one point but sold it (the card part didn`t work). Now I just have the standad PC Engine Core Grafx. I agree about the VB looking good on a shelf!