Looking at Nintendo’s many years of success, it’s hard to imagine the company ever releasing an inarguably awful piece of hardware. From the NES to the Game Boy to the DS, Nintendo has a strong track record – even its least successful console, GameCube, is home to some of the greatest games ever made. But in 1995, Nintendo unleashed one of the most baffling pieces of technology the world’s ever seen:
Above: Hope you really like red and black
The Virtual Boy, a monochromatic rig that actually displayed games in 3D. Just pull up a chair, stick your head in and wait for your eyes to melt into your lap. Yes, the graphics were 3D, but the brain-searing, red-on-black graphics and confusing, dual D-Pad controller were too physically demanding for even the staunchest of gamers. It was also impossible to advertise – how do you convey, via magazines and TV spots, a 3D system? So obviously the Virtual Boy tanked, the games were cleared out and we all moved on.
Above: No really, imagine staring at this for more than 10 minutes
Above: So it’s a system that young children should avoid? I sure hope the 3DS doesn’t have to put up with this
As with any console, however, there are always diamonds in the rough. Virtual Boy is no exception, containing a handful of clever games that have been utterly lost to time. But with the 3DS on its way, Nintendo has a chance to clean up and re-release some of these old, dead games on a system that actually delivers a desirable 3D experience. Could some of the most ridiculed games of all time… suddenly be worthwhile?
One of the system’s best games, Mario Clash was a (garishly red) update of the original (not Super) Mario Bros arcade game. Instead of running through themed worlds, chasing Bowser or eating mushrooms, you clear out single-screen levels as they fill up with various sewer-dwelling critters. For example, you jump on the turtles, then toss their shells at other enemies until the screen is empty. Then on to the next.
Above: And naturally they become progressively harder
The 3D effect works great: you enter pipes to travel deeper into the background, and from there can toss shells “into” or “at” the screen. This not only makes you go “whoa that shell is flying right at me!”, it also adds a literal new layer of gameplay to an arcade classic. But uh, very few played it, and this surprisingly fun little game has lived in obscurity ever since.
Above: Now imagine it reborn on 3DS!
Above: The visuals would undoubtedly look better than the VB original, but you get the idea
It’s such a decent idea that I fully expect Nintendo to announce a new Mario Clash (or straight up remake) sometime soon. Possibly even during the Jan 19 event that I’ll be happily attending. There’s currently no Mario game slated for the 3DS, so why not dig into the past and revive a perfectly good idea? Nintendo already featured it in a WarioWare game, so it just needs to take that next step…