Forget the Virtual Boy, the VR64 is the most retro 3D-gaming headset ever

As a shining example of nerdy perseverance and dedication to a truly retro technology, YouTube user 64Jim64 has made a virtual reality headset that is compatible with the Commodore 64. Better than that though, he coded his own compatible game, Street Defender, letting him do some old-school eight-bit gaming on a contemporary VR headset.

Although virtual reality might be most commonly enjoyed on consumer headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, there are a lot of different headsets out there now and some give you access to unique game libraries. In the case of the VR64 though, there is just one game and it is exclusive to the only headset in the world that supports it: 64Jim64’s homemade VR64.

64Jim64 has been playing around with homebrew virtual reality for a while now, building a number of prototypes and compatible software with his daughter (detailed on his blog). However, the VR64 is an entirely fresh project of his own, built using a $10 smartphone VR headset frame and an LCD screen with a resolution of 304 x 200 pixels (resulting in 152 x 200 per eye).

The headset mirrors what is displayed on a standard cathode ray tube (CRT) television, supplying it with all the visuals it would ever need. The only problem with that, is that the Commodore 64 itself never had any virtual reality game releases, so what is a homebrew hacker to do? Make his own game, of course.

Street Defender was the result, a game about fighting intergalactic aliens, ninjas, and robots with a variety of weaponry on the mean streets of Earth. The game employs some clever tricks to display enemies closer and further from the player, as well as give a 3D effect to the walled alleys of the game’s setting.

Although you need to petition 64Jim64 to gain access to the original VR64 headset and the only copy of Street Defender in existence, if you want to get a taste of what it is like to use both at the same time, all you need is a Google Cardboard or another compatible VR headset. Open up this YouTube video in your own headset and you will have a somewhat stereoscopic view of what it’s like to play a virtual reality game on hardware that was released the same year that Tron hit cinemas.