Nintendo rightfully has a reputation for innovative hardware design. The company’s willingness to take risks when introducing new consoles to the market is admirable. However, the results can vary wildly – from astonishing successes (Switch, Wii) to equally astounding failures (WiiU). Ultimately though, none of Nintendo’s ventures bombed as hard as the Virtual Boy. Discontinued after only a few months, selling less than a million copies, the Virtual Boy will likely go down in history as Nintendo’s greatest failure. In retrospect, it seems easy to point out the Virtual Boy’s glaring flaws which doomed the machine. There are the literally headache-inducing graphics that – once you remove the 3D effect – look distinctly underwhelming for a 32-bit console. Then there’s the clunky headset, heavy enough that it needed to rest on a table in front of the gamer.
It didn’t help that out of the 22 games produced for the platform, only a few made use of the Virtual Boy’s 3D capabilities. With such a small number of titles released for this console, it’s no surprise that there’s not a vast library of amazing Virtual Boy music. That’s a shame because as the one genuinely great Virtual Boy soundtrack – Red Alarm – shows, the Virtual Boy was capable of generating some outstanding chiptune music. With a custom-designed sound chip, the Virtual Boy even had the potential to become the last great chiptune platform. After all, with five wavetable synthesis channels and one noise channel, it surpassed other chiptune platforms from the mid-90s such as the WonderSwan and the Neo Geo Pocket.
Of course, in the end the Virtual Boy remained just a footnote in gaming history and the list of the best Virtual Boy game music is very short – but it offers an intriguing glimpse at a future that might have been.