Nintendo has made some bold, weird choices with its hardware designs. But none were so bold and weird as 1995’s Virtual Boy, a “woefully premature commercial curio,” as one Ars writer put it, that “quickly passed unlamented into history,” as remarked another. The awkward red-on-black tabletop headset system wasn’t so much ahead of its time as beamed in from an alternate reality. In this reality, it didn’t sell much and was largely forgotten.

Nintendo has seemed eager to let the Virtual Boy fade from the collective memory, but clever coders have labored to keep the system accessible outside vintage hardware collections. The latest, and perhaps most accessible, is Red Viper, which plays Virtual Boy games on a (lightly hacked) Nintendo 3DS, the other Nintendo system on which 3D features were underappreciated. It is full-speed, it supports homebrew games, you can change the drawing color to something other than red, and it is free. It’s built on top of the work of earlier 3DS emulator r3dragon, which itself drew heavily from the Reality Boy project for Windows.

Red Viper makes use of the 3DS’s top screen for game display and turns the lower screen into a system options panel. It maps the Virtual Boy’s own face buttons onto the touchscreen. In the Twitter thread announcing Red Viper’s general release, coder Floogle notes that the emulator is only roughly translating the Virtual Boy’s 50 Hz refresh to the 3DS’ 60 Hz by pushing a frame every 20 ms. There is, Floogle supposes, some hardware headroom for improvement.

For his part, Floogle thinks Jack Bros., Wario Land, Teleroboxer, Red Alarm, Mario Clash, and Galactic Pinball are particularly worth checking out. That’s about 27 percent of the total 22 games officially released for the Virtual Boy, which is not a bad hit rate in a certain light. There is a whole lot more homebrewed Virtual Boy material out there.

Good Vibes Gaming overview of Red Viper and the Virtual Boy itself.

While your author lacks a 3DS, let alone experience with a Virtual Boy, reception to Red Viper suggests it’s a good way to experience some intriguing games, especially Nintendo’s own first-party work. The Good Vibes Gaming YouTube channel dubs it “Perfect on 3DS” and a great way to experience “real gems.” Meyadin on YouTube uploaded footage of Wario Land running on Red Viper, and while you don’t get the semi-immersive 3D element, you can sense the look and feel of it, which is only likely to improve after this wider release.

Ars reporter Benj Edwards has previously written a detailed history of the Virtual Boy and its impact. Edwards also happens to have co-written a book about the obscure console, due out in May from MIT Press.

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