Red Alarm (VB) Review

The Virtual Boy wasn’t quite the huge leap into virtual reality that everyone hoped for. In fact, it was such a failure that VR, as a concept, became the domain of paleontologists rather than game designers. One of the most impressive fossils unearthed by these bone-hunters is Red Alarm, the only game that used the hardware in a way that wasn’t completely superficial.

If Nintendo suddenly decided to admit that they had some involvement in this failed piece of hardware, and released a Virtual Boy Collection for the Wii (which would be awesome), this would be the only game that would suffer from the transition. At all. In fact it would probably be damn-near unplayable without the benefit of a luxurious 3rd dimension.

Gameplay is difficult to describe, unless you live in a Universe where Star Fox exists, in which case you can just say it plays like Star Fox. Actually, Rez would be more accurate, assuming it also exists in this hypothetical Star Fox World. You have control over your ship’s speed, and the VB’s second directional pad lets you quickly dive in any 2-D direction, making your ship pretty agile, which I suppose is necessary, since it’s flying indoors. Like Rez, gameplay mostly revolves around locking on to enemies, but unlike Rez, you have complete freedom of movement, allowing for such unconventional strategies as flying directly into a wall, and continuing to do so until you die.

This brings up a major criticism people seem to have with the game; many people complain about the difficulty in differentiating between a wall and a flyable open-space. This is understandable, I suppose, but it never became an issue for me, probably due to my experience growing up in a 3-dimensional neighborhood. Here’s my tip for those without that advantage; walls are the things you can’t fly an airplane through. Still, if Nintendo did make a VB Collection (which they never ever* will), the option to play the game with some textures would be nice.

I can’t say I’ve beaten the game, but the first three or four levels are quite good and, despite the limitations of vector graphics, the environments are nice and varied. If you’re flying through a cave, it’s obvious that it’s a cave, and if you’re shooting an angry wall-face, it’s obvious that it’s just Andross stuck to a wall. The reason I’ve never beaten Red Alarm is because the Virtual Boy, regardless of what game I’m playing, tends to make me feel rather strange and unpleasant after about fifteen or twenty minutes. It’s not nausea or headaches or anything like that, but it makes me feel like it’s the day after taking a bunch of acid, which is a disturbing enough sensation when it’s the day after taking a bunch of acid, but even more so when it’s not.

As justification for a buying a ridiculous, impractical, and slightly hideous piece of failed hardware, Red Alarm falls somewhat short, but if you already own a VB, it would be pretty dumb not to have this game. The machine really only has four or five games that are worth a damn** and of those, this is the only one that wouldn’t have been better off on one of Nintendo’s other systems. The fact that, despite what I just said, the hardware is the only thing holding Red Alarm back, is a testament to just how shitty the VB really was.

* for accuracy, add several more “ever”s
**Red Alarm, Galactic Pinball, Wario Land, Teleroboxer and maaaybe Mario Clash

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on September 13, 2008.

3 Responses to “Red Alarm (VB) Review”

  1. This game made me puke multiple times. Either that or the questionably but still considerably aged chicken in somebody’s refrigerator that I forced myself to eat because protein is protein and that guy was just letting it sit there. Then he forced me out of his house because he didn’t know who I was. I managed to talk him out of his VCR.

  2. I just got through with an extended play session, checking out all the levels with a code. Thing gets pretty hard, but the levels take a dive in creativity after a certain point. If it weren’t for the boss fights it’d be a pretty damn fun game, but man, how many hit points does they need?

    Feel weird now though. I’m not entirely convinced that I’m not sleepwalking.

  3. Why do I remember reading something about the VB and the lasers they used for the vector graphics had effects on the eyes that made people feel ill?

    In happier news, think about this: The next time they try a virtual reality console it’s gonna be FUCKIN SWEET. Right? Maybe not. :|

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