For those who have an interest in the earlier days of virtual reality (VR), there are few missteps more memorable that the Virtual Boy, the failed Nintendo VR console released in 1995. However it seems that Nintendo did have an opportunity to avert that disaster, as British developer Jeremy ‘Jez’ San revealed.
Jeremy San, also known as Jez or J-San, was the founder of Argonaut, the developer that created the pioneering SuperFX chip that brought 3D to the Super Nintendo, along with StarFox, one of the first titles to make use of the technology. The company was also involved with created a prototype for a different VR console.
San explained to the Metro that he was involved with created a VR videogame system referred to as the ‘Super Visor’. Ultimately, however, the project was cancelled in favour of the Virtual Boy, which was the brainchild of Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi.
Though San was unable to produce any prototypes, or pictures of the ‘Super Visor’ in action, he had some impressive claims about its capabilities, saying that his VR system was far more powerful and capable than the Virtual Boy, as it was capable of not only full-colour graphics but also of head tracking, something which would have been deeply impressive with the technology of the time.
By contrast, the Virtual Boy was heavily criticised on its release in 1995 for its unpleasant red-on-black graphics, the poor ergonomics of the device and its sheer expense. Nintendo only produced 22 titles for the system before quietly withdrawing it from sale.
“We had full colour and head tracking at a time where no-one else did, but the Super Visor was cancelled in favour of a system with no head tracking and red graphics,” San said, “‘It was like the Vive headset that’s on sale today but made 20 years earlier. Of course, it wasn’t quite as good because the Vive has better screens now, but ours was made a long time ago. We almost finished the Super Visor and it was cancelled to do the Virtual Boy, which was a shame. ‘VR gaming could have happened 20 years ago if they had kept us on.”
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