YouTuber ‘Shank Mods’ has mastered the art of transforming consoles into portable notebooks by downsizing and miniaturizing their original electronics. They went so far as to override a function Nintendo Wii in an Altoids box, but their latest creation transforms the awkward Nintendo Virtual Boy in a smooth handheld which preserves its iconic (or notorious) black and red screen while offer other colors too.
Released in 1995 with catastrophic sales and poor reviews, the Nintendo Virtual Boy suffered budget cuts during its development, resulting in Nintendo’s biggest failure that everyone loves to throw themselves into. But for those who managed to catch one and a bunch of clearance games (like yours really), it offered a truly enjoyable, albeit somewhat cumbersome, 3D gaming experience before affordable virtual reality (ish) hardware was a thing. Despite Nintendo’s claims, however, the Virtual Boy wasn’t really a portable console, requiring a table and chair to play properly. Shank Mods therefore decided to solve this problem.
Instead of just throwing Virtual Boy game roms on a portable emulator and calling it a day, Shank Mods took the long way to create what they dubbed the “Real Boy,” starting with an original Virtual Boy motherboard from a damaged unit. Using a custom chip that turns the native hardware output of the VB into a true VGA video signal (the console had no screens, but flashing red LED strips that scanned back and forth to create images), the Real Boy features a generous 4.3 inch, 16: 9 LCD display with a resolution of 800×480 pixels which makes Virtual Boy games look better than ever.
As you’ve probably guessed, the Real Boy sacrifices the hallmark feature of the Virtual Boy, the 3D game, for a strictly 2D experience. It is certainly disappointing. But the custom hardware that connects the console’s motherboard to the LCD screen introduces a new feature that the original VB was sorely lacking: the ability to change the color of games. (A feature left out simply because red LEDs were the cheapest at the time.)
The completed Real Boy handheld features custom circuit boards inside to keep wiring manageable, a 3D printed case reminiscent of Nintendo’s ill-fated console design, illuminated buttons, and a rechargeable battery. It even retains the location of the original cartridge, making it compatible with the entire Virtual Boy library, which is limited at best. As beautiful as the end results are, this is a version that mostly asks “why?” », But for modders like Shank Mods, it’s more a question of seeing if the idea is still possible than to produce a device that the players would really like to play.