In Latest WarioWare, Nintendo Swaps Out Virtual Boy For Wii U

9-Volt has gotten with the times and upgraded his paperweight. (Screenshot: Nintendo, WarioWare Gold)

It’s nice to see that Nintendo has the ability to laugh at itself a little.

9-Volt is a recurring character in the WaroWare series who loves Nintendo and classic games. “Hey! My name is 9-Volt! I’m the grade-schooler gone old school,” he says while introducing himself in 2003's WarioWare, Inc.

He even keeps a Virtual Boy next to the TV in his bedroom a decade later in 2013’s Game & Wario for Wii U. He’s back in next month’s WarioWare Gold for 3DS as well, but he’s changed his decor for the occasion. As a new Japanese trailer for the game shows he’s a little older and the Virtual Boy that used to adorn his room has been replaced ... with a Wii U.

As a lover of retro Nintendo hardware, 9-Volt having a Virtual Boy sitting around in the background for Game & Wario’s “Gamer” minigame made a lot of sense. The 3D game machine was released in 1995, and Nintendo abandoned it within the year.

There were only 22 games released for it, and lifetime sales were well below the 3 million Nintendo projected for the first three months in Japan alone. Of course WarioWare’s gaming wunderkind would show off the the failed and thus rare gaming console as a sign of just how diehard a fan he is.

Five years later, Nintendo is basically saying that’s what the Wii U has become for a new generation of players.

9-Volt’s Virtual Boy was a defining characteristic of his bedroom. (Screenshot: Nintendo, Game & Wario)

In retrospect, it’s easy to laugh off the Virtual Boy as nothing more than a joke. Caught up in the irrational exuberance which afflicted many in the 90s, Nintendo bet hard on 3D gaming and fell flat on its face. This shorthand of the console’s legacy as a laughingstock often fails to take into account just how excited some were leading up to the Virtual Boy’s debut. Nintendo pushed it hard at its 1995 E3 booth.

The Virtual Boy’s chief architect, Nintendo legend Gunpei Yokoi, even held a “virtual classroom” at the event, demoing the device for students from a local school. The reality was much different though. The American engineers who worked on it thought it would help usher in a new revolution in computer displays. It was not to be.

9-Volt’s bedroom even made an appearance in Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. (Screenshot: Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. Wii U)

The Wii U was in a similar position. Following on the back of the Wii’s success, Nintendo doubled-down on the brand, adding HD graphics and, more importantly, a second screen. There was nothing left in the well, however, and Nintendo was forced to cut the console’s life cycle short.

Unlike the Virtual Boy, the Wii U had plenty of great games that weren’t available anywhere else and very much worth playing. With the success of the Switch though, many of those have been ported. Once Smash Bros. becomes available this holiday, it’ll be hard to think of more than a tiny number of games you’d need to keep a Wii U around for.

Except for 9-Volt, that is. In 2018, the most hardcore thing a Nintendo fan can do is keep their plugged in even when they’ve already played everything on it. As much as it’s a funny self-deprecating joke on the part of the hardware maker, there’s also something undeniably sweet about what it means in the larger context of the company’s cycle failure and success. It’s also a reminder that no matter how critically panned a new game or piece of hardware is, there’s always someone out there who will no doubt find a way to cherish it.


Comments

    I really enjoyed my Wii U, but ever since the Switch came out, my view on it has been much harsher. Not sure why. Never felt this way about any past console upgrade.

      I still like some of the stuff the wii u can do which the switch can't, and the gamepad ergonomics are faaar superior to the joycons.

      But it's pretty clear the wii u was a stepping stone. It was unpopular, but still important.

        Oh, I don't disagree with you. It was a great console, at least for me. I loved it. Bittersweet when I finished my last game on it.

        Get the Switch a few months later. My attitude to it changed a fair bit. Most other consoles, I have quite fond memories of overall, and I still do for the Wii U. I just feel myself looking down on it somewhat.

        Much like the Virtual Boy in a way. Playing it, it really feels like a missing link between SNES and 64.

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