Famous for miniaturizing the Wii into a handheld and making Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers out of a GameCube controller, Shank Mods has turned the Virtual Boy into a handheld.
After a year and several custom-made parts, Shank Mods managed to fit the Virtual Boy into a custom case complete with light-up buttons and a gorgeous IPS display. Because it’s the real deal and not an emulator, it plays actual Virtual Boy cartridges. It’s nothing short of a miracle.
Custom everything — Instead of simply emulating the console, which would have been a feat in itself, Shank Mods repurposed the internals of a busted Virtual Boy. But it wasn’t a plug-and-play mod by any means. The final project ended up requiring 11 circuit boards, nine of which were custom-made, and six of which were designed by himself. The case was made using multi-material 3D printing, which prints individual objects with different colors. Every circuit board was designed to precisely fit into each slot.
One of those custom boards, the Virtual Tap, allows the Virtual Boy to output a VGA signal that can be connected to the IPS screen. That same board also solves the issue of the Virtual Boy’s stereoscopic 3D by outputting the video signal in 2D. Creating a 3D effect similar to the 3DS would have been a nightmare to implement, with the YouTuber saying that it was “far beyond [his] capabilities.” Even with a 2D screen, this handheld is far superior to Nintendo’s original hardware, which is its biggest failure to date with less than a million units sold.
Failure from the start — The Virtual Boy, or VR32 as it was known internally, was led by none other than the legendary Game Boy and Game & Watch creator, Gunpei Yokoi. However, the console was rushed to market after Nintendo slashed the project’s budget. Instead of a device that would turn the video game world on its head and usher in 3D, the Virtual Boy launched to lukewarm reception in 1995. Adjusted for inflation today, the Virtual Boy’s $179 MSRP would come out to the price of a Nintendo Switch. Not only was there a lack of games, but the red monochrome display made people nauseous and it wasn’t very immersive. In total, 22 games were released for the virtual reality console, with 14 of those making it to the U.S. market.
The Virtual Boy handheld innovates on the original with a more compact and sleeker design, but, sadly, its DIY construction is out of reach for most people. To experience the Virtual Boy library, it may be worth looking on eBay. With a growing collectors market, a Virtual Boy on eBay goes for slightly over $200, according to the game price tracking website Price Charting. Games aren’t cheap either, but with not many games or consoles sold, scarcity is driving up the price as always.