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Virtual Boy Roundup
by Thomas Keller

Issue: June, 1996

With the majority of Blockbuster stores selling their inventory of Virtual Boys for $29.99 and Virtual Boy software for $9.99, GameWire thought it was time to give you a brief synopsis of the titles that are worth pursuing and the titles that are best avoided. Notably omitted are Nester's Funky Bowling and 3D Tetris because very few of these were available at any Blockbuster and will likely cost you the full retail price. So, here are the Virtual Boy Blockbuster titles:

Virtual League Baseball:

Boasts 18 Teams (Countries) from which to choose. This title makes you think that Major League pitching these days is good, with the norm being each team scoring more than 15 runs within the first three innings. Virtual Baseball is graphically decent, though the players (particularly the outfielders) are very small and it's nearly impossible to control or judge defensive situations. If Virtual Boy is going to be your system of choice, then by all means get the only baseball game available for it. If you have any other systems besides the Virtual Boy, odds are you have access to a better baseball title than this. Rating: 6.5/10.

Jack Bros.:

A unique overhead platform game, Jack Bros. allows the user to complete levels and drop down to lower levels until confronting the boss of that area. You complete each level by accumulating all of the keys on that level which opens a gate allowing you to progress to the next level. There are power-ups, time limits, and bonus points. You have three characters in which to choose from and passwords to allow you to save your progress. Jack Bros. is an interesting, if short, game that is quite a step in a different direction, making good use of the Virtual Boy's 3D capability. Your life gauge is determined by your time limit and each time an enemy makes contact with you some of your time is deducted. If the timer reaches zero, you must attempt the area again via a continue option. Jack Bros. should provide Virtual Boy owners enough bang for the buck. Rating: 7.9/10.

Red Alarm:

Red Alarm is reminiscent of early vector based games like Star Wars: the Arcade Game. Flying through a 3D environment of assorted tunnels and enemy base encampments, your mission is to complete each stage by defeating the end boss character. There are a multitude of enemies that you will encounter and many power-ups are present after you destroy certain enemy ships. The game allows you to choose from four views: Normal, Tight, Cockpit, and 3/4 Top Views. My only criticism of this title is that the lack of shading and numerous linear (vector type) character definitions can cause one to become confused. Other than that was one of the earliest titles available for the Virtual Boy and it remains one of its strongest. Rating 8.7/10.

Golf:

This is another title that I'd place on the Virtual Boy must-have list of games if you're going to buy the system. As a golf simulator, it's very detailed, including club selection, wind variation, stance selection, power selection, location of where you wish to hit the golf ball, and easy and intuitive controls. The course has 18 holes and makes good use of the red scale limitations of the Virtual Boy. You may choose from either Stroke Play (practice) or Tournament Play (the real deal). You can view and keep track of your personal bests (Best rounds, best holes, longest tee shot, etc...) and there is a 3D icon showing you how good or bad your lie is. Overall, a quality title that will surely keep you occupied. Rating 8.8/10.

Panic Bomber:

Panic Bomber has made its appearances on other platforms and now surfaces for the Virtual Boy. A Tetris/Columns type puzzle game, Panic Bomber relies on the theme of the now famous PC Engine-Turbo Grafx 16 character and game Bomberman. There isn't much new or innovative about this title, but it's an addictive puzzle game that features you against computer opponents that get increasingly difficult to defeat as the game moves on. If you're into this type of genre, Panic Bomber will not disappoint. Rating 8.1/10.

Galactic Pinball:

Probably among the games that are either loved or hated. The pinball is more like a hockey puck and there are 4 tables from which you can choose. Though these tables aren't particularly well detailed or intricate, they do feature bonus rounds and some minor innovations. My huge problem with this game is the responsiveness of the flippers, which maneuver like they've got lead weights attached to them. Not to say that you can't get used to it, but it's not like a real pinball game and sometimes your flipper will end up being entirely too slow to keep up with a fast-paced puck. The game can be fun, but it isn't for everyone. Rating 7.4/10.

Teleroboxer:

Also an earlier Virtual Boy release, Teleroboxer is vaguely reminiscent of an earlier Nintendo game entitled Punch Out. Essentially, it is a boxing game where you see your fists in front of you and your opponent behind the that. You may choose to block, duck, throw left/right hooks, uppercuts, etc. The only problem is that game isn't fun to play and isn't innovative in any direction. Even at bargain basement prices, I'd only recommend this one if you have to have a complete Virtual Boy collection, or if you find it for a buck at a garage sale. Rating 6.5/10

Mario Clash:

Mario has been Nintendo's flagship mascot since the early 80s, and it seems as if every Mario title provides decent entertainment to potential consumers. Enter Mario Clash, a different kind of platformer that makes full use of the Virtual Boy's 3D capability. You jump on top of turtle-like creatures (Koopas) who then retreat into their shell, thereby making themselves a weapon to throw at the other creatures. Each level consists of variously elevated platforms with pipes that help you travel to the other side of the platform. When the given enemies are defeated you subsequently progress to the next level. Mario Clash is an interesting platformer created with a different perspective that brings a refreshing twist to the age old genre. Rating 8.6/10

Waterworld:

Waterworld is an attempt at a 3D shooter from the perspective of Kevin Costner's boat (Trimaran) in the vast ocean against the enemies that were present in the movie (Smokers). Your object is to rescue the Atollers who happen to be floating around in the middle of the ocean and are under attack by the smokers. Waterworld is among the more misguided attempts at converting a movie into a game that I have ever seen. There are a total of four different enemies in the same boring scenario. The animation of the enemies is choppy at best and trying to prevent death at the later levels requires little skill and mostly luck. Another game I'd recommend only if you want a complete collection. Rating 6.1/10.

Wario Land:

Wario Land is another platformer in the Mario vein. There are many enemies and options, similar in aspect to some of the Bonk's Adventure titles, and for some reason is very reminiscent of those games. You can jump in some places from the background to the foreground and power up Wario to turn into Bull Wario, Eagle Wario, and others which offer you different strengths and weaknesses that are usually particular to the area that you are in. Your object is to collect hearts and other power-ups and your primary objective is to find the lone key that will allow you to progress to the next level. Wario Land is another title worthy of inspection for the Virtual Boy system and will keep you occupied. Rating 8.3/10.

Mario's Tennis:

Here's that Mario dude again. This 3D tennis game allows you to play in either doubles or singles and you can either play a single match or a tournament ladder. Mario can play against the likes of Donkey Kong Jr. and Yoshi. A light hearted sports title, this has to be one of the easiest 3D tennis games to play. The size of the ball is exaggerated and the speed isn't fast and furious. It's an easy game to pick up and play, but is hardly for the hard core sports enthusiast. Still, it's worth the effort to pick up if you're not looking for a true sports simulation, rather an amusing and fun tennis game. Rating 8/10.

Vertical Force:

Vertical Force is an admirable attempt at porting over the Hudson Soft title of the same name and would be a terrific game...if it worked. Unfortunately, this type of game doesn't work with the Virtual Boy hardware as it is nearly impossible to distinguish between the foreground and background levels that you can maneuver between. Furthermore, the enemies appear on both of these levels and it can become particularly difficult to figure out exactly where they are. This type of pseudo 3D shooter is nearly impossible to replicate on a monochrome system with varying shades of red. The effort to reproduce this is acknowledged, but it just doesn't work on the hardware. Rating 7.1/10.