Virtual Boy Reviews V-Z

V-Tetris
Grade: F
Publisher: Bulletproof Software (1995)
Reviewed: 2009/3/29

screenshotTetris is one of the greatest video games of all time, but shoe-horning it into a Virtual Boy cartridge was ill-conceived. Tetris, by its very nature, is a mesmerizing puzzle game that people tend to play for days on end in a zombie-like trance. It's hardly a good fit for a system that inflicts permanent eye damage when played for more than 15 minutes straight! I'm not sure what kind of eye damage it causes, but I suspect it's the one where your eyes become crossed and stay that way. Didn't your mother warn you about that?

The blocks in V-Tetris are really small, so the games tend to run even longer than normal Tetris games (what's forever times two?). The system's 3D capabilities have nothing to offer a game like Tetris. Of the three variations, the first two are just "classic" 2D modes you'd be better off playing on a normal console or computer. The third variation introduces the concept of "shifting the playfield" left or right, cycling the blocks around the back of the board (where they can be seen through a "fence" pattern).

This little twist only serves to make the games ever longer! It certainly doesn't justify this cartridge. You can select from a wide range of difficulties, but there are too many choices, so you'll struggle to find an ideal skill level. The soundtrack is pretty bad, and one of the tunes was so ear-splitting I had to turn the volume down! Tetris is so wrong for the Virtual Boy, and I don't think this was a very good version to begin with. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Vertical Force
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (1995)
Reviewed: 2003/7/17


screenshotEvery system needs a good shooter, and Vertical Force tries to fill that niche for the Virtual Boy. The Video Game Critic loves shooters more than anything else in the whole wide world, but I just couldn't get into this one, no matter how hard I tried. Despite some cool ideas, Vertical Force's gameplay is woefully uneven. This vertically-scrolling shooter is played on two planes (the foreground and background) and in some ways, it's like playing two shooters at the same time!

The game makes fine use of the Virtual Boy's 3D capabilities, but it's simply not that much fun. You can move between planes using the A button, which is not only necessary to reach all enemies, and also to dodge enemy fire and avoid crashing into structures. Instead of lives, you have one damage meter that decreases whenever you run into something, which makes the game a lot easier.

Another unique element is the "drones" you can collect. These well-armed remote devices can attack independently, and often do most of your work for you! They zip around the screen and between the two planes, destroying enemies like heat-seeking missiles. Three types of drones can be swapped in and out on the fly, which sounds cool but gets confusing in the heat of battle.

Vertical Force's layered graphics do the job but aren't particularly impressive. The game isn't very easy on the eyes, with many large, overlapping, red platforms in the later stages. Some bosses are innovative (like the elevator boss in the screenshot), but they tend to repeat. A few sound effects, like the laser fire, are so high pitched that I wanted to turn the volume down.

Another annoyance is how the game doesn't bother displaying your score when it's over. What's the point of even keeping score if you can't see it?? Shooter fans might enjoy the novelty value of Vertical Force, but once that wears off, you're stuck with a very mediocre game. . © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Virtual Bowling (Japan)
Grade: C+
Publisher: Athena (1995)
Reviewed: 2018/9/1

screenshotFor a 3D title Virtual Bowling comes off a little flat, offering straightforward bowling action with little fanfare. As with any respectable bowling game you begin by entering your name into the scoreboard. The first-person bowling controls require some practice.

First you line yourself up and aim using the two d-pads. Then you need to time a semi-confusing, semi-circle curve meter. I can never remember which side will curve the ball what way. Finally, there's a power meter which is like a traditional golf meter. After a few frames of practice I was able to throw my share of strikes and spares.

The camera follows the ball down the lane but stops a few feet away from the pins. I kind of wish it would keep going because the pin animation is underwhelming. The pins look flat and the physics is unconvincing. Trying to knock the head pin into a corner pin never works, even when you hit it just right. And you can forget about ever converting a split.

The visual highlight is the reverse replay angle, shown when you score a strike or spare. Seeing yourself standing at the top of the lane is kind of like having an out-of-body experience. What makes Virtual Bowling work is its breakneck pace. You can roll ten frames in three minutes for crying out loud! I timed it. This makes you want to play again and again to top your best score.

The game also offers a tournament mode that pits you against trash-talking CPU opponents. I'm not sure a game like Virtual Bowling needed to be on the Virtual Boy, but the Virtual Boy needed a quick and enjoyable game like this one. . © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Virtual Fishing (Japan)
Grade: D
Publisher: THQ (1995)
Reviewed: 2014/6/24

screenshotIf you've ever fantasized about fishing at night using infrared binoculars, this game is for you. Virtual Fishing is a peculiar game that could have been better designed. I can't understand the Japanese text but I did eventually figure out how to navigate the menus (at least as far as I know). The game is broken up into a series of competitions.

Upon selecting a location you're told how much fish you need to catch (example: 220cm). The contests are limited to eight minutes, and that's one thing Virtual Fishing does right. Eight minutes gives you enough time to pull in a few juicy fish without causing your eyes to hemorrhage. You view a strip of water with scenic backdrops like forests, mountains, and waterfalls. The 3D is hardly integral to the game, but the water surface looks great with its shifting currents that move in different directions.

Your controls are extremely limited. When casting you can aim slightly left or right, but you can't control the distance. While waiting for a bite, you stare at a small window showing your rod in the upper left corner. Couldn't they have placed that in the center instead?! All you can do is reel or pull your line in. When your rod bends, tap the right shoulder button to set the hook. The timing is weird and tends to vary between locations. If you miss, you're forced to recast.

Once the hook is set, you view the ensuing battle from an underwater side view, and it's not impressive. The fish will sometimes dart away from the camera, making it look smaller. You'll want to reel when the fish is not running or risk breaking the line. I love that clicking sound of the reel and also enjoy the pleasant music that plays throughout the game.

Eight minutes passed quickly and I never really mounted a serious challenge to my CPU competitors. My friend Scott fared much better, so it's possible I just suck at this game. Virtual Fishing is a marginal title, but like most fishing games, it has an addictive quality. So if you're desperate for a new Virtual Boy title, this import might be worth considering. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: SDZ biggest:29.8,total:327
1 player 

Virtual League Baseball
Grade: B
Publisher: Kemco (1995)
Reviewed: 2003/7/17


screenshotI've read several negative reviews of this game, but Virtual League Baseball has an old-school vibe that I find appealing. The game's behind-the-batter perspective gives you a perfect view of incoming pitches, and you easily position your batter or pitcher. I much prefer this game's simple pitching meter over the tedious "pitching cursors" employed by most modern baseball games.

Once the ball is hit, the screen shows the entire field with tiny fielders and one large, easy-to-follow ball. Despite the size of the players, the graphics aren't bad and the stadium looks terrific, with a bridge and mountains in the background that suggest San Francisco. That moon looks funny though - as if it's hanging directly over the center field fence! I also really dig the catchy music that loops over and over.

The controls are quite intuitive, letting you dive for grounders, bunt, and steal bases with no problem. You can even juggle your roster, pinch-hit, and pick off runners trying to steal. So what's wrong with this game? Well, it's never easy to position those tiny fielders, and they all move in unison. You move your second baseman over to catch a grounder, and now your first basemen is near the dugout! Even lazy fly balls can be an adventure. Runners move too fast, and there are far too many homeruns.

The teams aren't of the major league variety, but foreign countries. Typical of Japanese baseball games, when one team gets ahead by ten runs they automatically win "by domination". It's odd, but not necessarily a bad thing! The game offers a "versus computer" mode, an all-star game, and a "pennant race" mode that challenges you to beat all of the other teams (a password is provided). I enjoyed Virtual League Baseball, although a nine inning game can run pretty long for a Virtual Boy session. If the fielding were a little more forgiving, this would be a must-have game. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Wario Land
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (1995)
Reviewed: 2004/3/23


screenshotWario Land combines the timeless fun of Super Mario Bros. with amazing 3D visuals that only the Virtual Boy is capable of. You play the role of Wario, Mario's grumpy alter ego. Like a typical side-scroller, you hop on platforms, jump on creatures, and bump blocks to expose hidden items. Wario can also throw overturned adversaries and perform a "rush" attack. Power-ups allow him to double in size or bestow him with special powers.

It all seems very familiar at first, but soon you discover nifty 3D elements that not only look impressive, but play an integral role in the game. Special springs allow you to vault to platforms in the distant background, and thanks to the Virtual Boy's sharp graphics, controlling you Wario from afar is no problem at all. Adversaries can move back and forth between the foreground and background, and you'll need good timing to elude them. These enemies are an imaginative bunch, including charging knights and fish with chainsaw noses.

Wario Land is a quality game through and through. The sprites are huge, and the multi-layered backgrounds compensate for the lack of color. There are a few mini-games that let you bet coins, and a nice auto-save feature tells you exactly how far you've made it through the game. I know the Virtual Boy is only capable of stereo sound, but Wario Land's audio sounds like it's surrounding you - it's that good! Wario Land probably never got the attention it deserved, but it's an outstanding platform game that no Virtual Boy fan should miss out on. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Waterworld
Grade: C
Publisher: Ocean (1995)
Reviewed: 2006/9/27

screenshotTo my knowledge, there are only two people on the entire planet who will openly admit to being a fan of the infamous "Waterworld" movie: Myself and my friend Ken. We suspect there are other "closet" Waterworld fans out there as well. Ken was once accused of having a "man crush" on Kevin Costner (by me), but he has vehemently denied the allegations. Anyway, the timing for this review is pretty good, as I just picked up the DVD for six bucks and watched it the other night. I'm telling you - it's awesome!

Much like the movie itself, most critics summarily dismissed this game without even giving it a chance. Personally, I think this is a perfectly respectable shooter. Each round begins with a group of people waving their arms in the ocean, surrounded by a few metal structures. Evil "Smokers" riding jet skis converge from the outer edges and begin to kidnap the people. By simply steering your boat and firing with the shoulder buttons, you can send those Smoker bastards to a watery grave.

You view the action from behind your vessel, and the 3D effect is convincing. I love the rapid-fire shooting action, and the polygon explosions aren't bad either. The end-of-round score tally offers ample eye candy, including villain Dennis Hopper shaking his disembodied head at you in disapproval. While certainly shallow, Waterworld's gameplay somewhat reminded me of Defender.

The graphics are sharp, although they do become choppy in later stages. The beautiful but desolate musical score perfectly matches the original soundtrack of the film. Perhaps the game's most glaring flaw is its single difficulty level. It's not as challenging as one would like, so the games tend to run a bit long. That's not good for a system that advises you to "rest" your eyes every fifteen minutes! Overall I had a pretty good time playing this. Like the movie, Waterworld is no classic but if you're in the mood for some action it delivers the goods. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 45800
1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Planet Virtual Boy