Nintendo 64 by Virtual Boy: Episode I

A nonsensical project for Nintendo’s least missed 90’s gaming machine.

Would you play Nintendo 64 games on the Virtual Boy if you could?

As a big fan of Nintendo, especially late 90’s Nintendo, I’ve involved myself off and on in a handful of projects from contributing to Nintendo 64 graphics emulation to RGB modding various consoles and have finally decided to take on what may be the most absurd project I’ve dreamed up yet: playing Nintendo 64 games “on” a Virtual Boy.

My plan? Well, it’s maybe more of a daydream at this point, but to give you a sense of what I’m looking at doing: my thought is that with a rather heavily modified graphics plugin for a Nintendo 64 emulator, and a fairly modified Virtual Boy, I could stream a rather unique feed straight from said emulator (running on my PC) to the Virtual Boy. Yes, I know this isn’t “playing the game on the Virtual Boy” however, it is most likely the closest simulation of a Nintendo 64 game running on Virtual Boy that is attainable. It may also open the door for the Virtual Boy to be used essentially as a display for other PC software, although that will be an entirely different effort.

To get started with this, I’ve begun work on a modified version of Angrylion RDP Plus, a pixel perfect, low-level Nintendo 64 video emulation plugin. You can see here a preliminary test of encoding for output to a Virtual Boy featuring The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time:

Essentially all that illustrates is what it would look like hypothetically, as that video does not feature my work on changing the rendering resolution, generating the 3D effect, etc and I feel even the colors displayed needs more work. Looking a bit more forward, I have some ideas around perhaps highlighting edges in-game to really make it clear where ledges and such are, as there is a fair loss in detail and the last thing you want is to be surprised by a platform ending or some such.

So where am I at currently with this project? Asides from some preliminary work with the software for this, right now I’m just waiting on some packages (see: one Virtual Boy for parts, one Virtual Boy in decent shape) while I do some investigative work into how the hardware-end of this will actually work. Pretty much the first thing I did was begin looking into whether or not anyone had already modded a video input onto a Virtual Boy (unsurprisingly I’ve found nothing on such a mod) so I looked into just the opposite: modding a video output onto a Virtual Boy.

You can see Furrtek’s mod in action here with Mario’s Tennis!

Thankfully, I found such a thing not only has been conceptualized, but has been done! A certain modder that goes by Furrtek has completed this mod, and seemingly more than once. His mod allows the Virtual Boy to render out to a TV. At a first glance, you might wonder why this is even helpful, but you’d maybe be surprised just how much data needed for making a video out mod can be useful in making a video in mod! In any case, I reached out to Furrtek and found out he has a heap of documentation available about how he performed this mod, going right down to the signals involved with the displays, which has been fantastic for getting me going with this project.

At least for now, that’s my initial update. You can look forward to future posts about this as I move through the development process! Let me know what you think! Am I insane? Or are you excited by the possibility of playing your favorite 64 games on the Virtual Boy?

Hey! Each Saturday I’m posting a new article in this series! Episode II is out now, so you can check that out here to follow along with my progress! See you there!

Hey, I’m Aubrey! I write about gaming, comics, programming, and LGBTQ+ issues.

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