Behold the unknowable mind-shattering terror of Virtual Boy's greatest import game
Once again, Japan hogs all the cool stuff for itself.
With a mere 22 games released for the system in its brief and unhappy lifetime in America and Japan, the Virtual Boy's library doesn't offer many opportunities for discovering exciting import titles. Compared to hit consoles like PlayStation and Game Boy, which saw hundreds or even thousands of region-specific games unleashed upon a narrow section of the world, with Virtual Boy what you see is pretty much what you get. As you've already begun to see, the console's U.S.-only and Japan-only titles tended to leave a lot to be desired—they were mostly fine, but hardly extraordinary.
Ah, but here's the glorious exception: Innsmouth no Yakata, a game unlike almost any other ever created. Even the concept is unique. It's a fast-paced first-person corridor survival shooter with a strict time limit that lends it a frantic, arcade-like quality. It's a twin-stick (well, twin D-pad) shooter years before GoldenEye 007 or Halo. And it's based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, potentially with a tie-in to a contemporary Japan-only film release.
But you know what? It works. It's a fantastic and unique game, with a hyper-focused design that works wonderfully on Virtual Boy. The first-person perspective allows for some simple but never distracting parallax visual gimmicks, and the brisk gameplay allows for little bursts of action with plenty of opportunities to rest your eyes to avoid eyestrain. And on top of that, the Virtual Boy's nightmarish red-on-black graphics are a perfect match for the Lovecraftian vibe of the setting.
I wouldn't call this a masterpiece, exactly, but taken as a product of its time and platform, it's kind of incredible. And you don't need to be able to read Japanese to enjoy it, which makes it a great import pickup. The only deterrent, really, is its price, which is kind of steep. Oh, and also, the fact that if you don't earn the extremely difficult-to-achieve best ending, Cthulhu devours your soul.
Eh, details. I'd still rather be trapped forever in a pocket hell-dimension than play Virtual Lab.