Virtual Console

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This article is about the Virtual Console component of Nintendo's game download services. For the computer user-interface concept, see virtual console.
Virtual Console
Wii Virtualconsole Logo.png
Developer Nintendo
Type Classic video game re-release distribution
Launch date Wii
November 19, 2006
Nintendo 3DS
June 6, 2011
Wii U
January 23, 2013 (soft launch)
April 26, 2013 (official launch)
Platform Wii Shop Channel
Wii
Nintendo eShop
Nintendo 3DS
Wii U
Website Wii
Official US website
Official UK website
Official Japanese website
Nintendo 3DS
Official US website
Official UK website
Official Japanese website
Wii U
Official US website
Official UK website
Official Japanese website

Virtual Console (バーチャルコンソール Bācharu Konsōru?), sometimes abbreviated as VC, is a specialized section of the Wii Shop Channel and Nintendo eShop, online services that allow players to purchase and download games and other software for Nintendo's Wii and Wii U home gaming consoles and the Nintendo 3DS portable gaming console.

The Virtual Console lineup consists of titles originally released on past home and handheld consoles. These titles are run in their original forms through software emulation (excluding GBA titles on 3DS), and can be purchased for between 500 and 1200 Wii Points (Wii), $2.99 and $5.99 (3DS) and $4.99 and $8.99 (Wii U) depending on system, rarity, and/or demand.[1][2] Virtual Console's library of past games currently consists of titles originating from the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Nintendo 64, as well as Sega's Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis, NEC's TurboGrafx-16 and SNK's Neo Geo AES. The service for the Wii also includes games for systems that were known only in select regions, such as the Commodore 64 (Europe and North America only) and MSX (Japan only),[3] as well as Virtual Console Arcade allows players to download video arcade games. Virtual Console titles have been downloaded over ten million times as of December 2007,[4] relatively early in the console life cycle. The distribution of past games through the Virtual Console is one of Nintendo's attempts at preventing software piracy.[5]

List of Virtual Console games[edit]

Virtual Console
Platform Wii Shop Channel Nintendo eShop
Wii Wii U Nintendo 3DS
Home Systems and Arcade
Nintendo Entertainment System / Famicom Yes Yes Yes
Super Nintendo Entertainment System / Super Famicom Yes Yes TBA
Nintendo 64 Yes Wii Mode only
(Coming soon to Wii U eShop)
No
Nintendo GameCube Backwards compatibility only
(Applies to the initial console model only)
TBA No
Sega Master System Yes Wii Mode only No
Sega Mega Drive / Genesis Yes Wii Mode only Sega 3D Classics only
PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 Yes Yes Yes
Neo Geo Yes Wii Mode only TBA
Commodore 64 (North America and PAL regions only) Removed as of August 2013 Wii Mode only
(Removed as of August 2013)
No
MSX (Japan only) Yes Yes No
Virtual Console Arcade Yes Wii Mode only 3D Classics only
Handheld Systems
Game Boy No No Yes
Game Boy Color No No Yes
Game Boy Advance No Yes Ambassadors only and TBA
Nintendo DS No Yes [6] Backwards compatibility only
Sega Game Gear No No Yes
Neo Geo Pocket Color No No TBA

Japan[edit]

There were 38 titles of Famicom, Super Famicom, N64, Mega Drive, and PC Engine games available at launch on the Wii Virtual Console for the Japanese region. The Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console launched with 9 titles of Game Boy, Game Boy Color and 3D Classics. New Virtual Console software is added on Tuesdays (Wii) and Wednesdays (Nintendo 3DS, Wii U) at 2:00PM JST and there are currently 656 titles for Wii, 244 (254 for Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors) titles for Nintendo 3DS and 179 titles for Wii U available.

North America[edit]

There were 12 titles total of NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis games available at launch on the Wii Virtual Console for the North American region. Two TurboGrafx-16 titles were added two days later on November 21, 2006. The Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console launched with 5 titles of Game Boy, Game Boy Color and 3D Classics. New releases are added to the Wii Shop Channel and/or Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS at around 12:00 PM EST/9:00 AM PST currently on Thursdays. [7][8] North America saw its first release of Commodore 64 games on the service on February 23, 2009, and its first Virtual Console Arcade games on March 25, 2009. As of July 24, 2014, there are 402 titles for Wii, 150 (160 for Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors) titles for Nintendo 3DS and 99 titles for Wii U available.

Though the Virtual Console lineup initially only covered games that had been released in North America, first George Harrison indicated in an interview that there was a possibility that Nintendo or other Virtual Console providers would localize Japanese games that have never been released in English.[9] This later came to reality, and former Japan-only games have appeared on the North American Virtual Console. The first game to be added with such localization was Sin and Punishment from the Nintendo 64. While other previous Japan-only titles had been released through Virtual Console prior to this, the first being Battle Lode Runner from the TurboGrafx-16, added on April 23, 2007, this and all others were originally written in English and required no localization. Despite the fact others fit the category, there are 26 titles listed under the "Import" genre: Sin and Punishment, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (previously available in North America as part of Super Mario All-Stars), Ninja JaJaMaru-kun, Alien Soldier (although the game was previously available in North America through the Sega Channel), DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki Adventure, Puyo Puyo 2, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, Dig Dug, Gley Lancer, Super Fantasy Zone, Break In, Star Parodier, Cho Aniki, Final Soldier, Digital Champ: Battle Boxing, Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou, Bomberman '94, Detana!! TwinBee, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Pulseman, Secret Command, Street Fighter II': Champion Edition, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Ironclad, Ufouria: The Saga and Monster World IV. Furthermore, at least two import titles (DoReMi Fantasy[10] and Puyo Puyo 2[11]) were released without any English translation, and thus only Japanese text is available in these games while Monster World IV was fully translated to English.

PAL region[edit]

A total of 17 NES, SNES, N64, Mega Drive and TurboGrafx titles were available at launch on the Virtual Console in Europe and 11 titles for the Oceanic region (TurboGrafx games were first added there from July 6, 2007[12][13]). The store updates every Thursday at 12:00AM CET,[14] in Australia at 9:00AM and in New Zealand at 11:00AM AEST.[15] The number of games per update has varied, but is usually 1 or 2. As of July 24, 2014, there are 382 titles in Europe and 381 titles in Australia and New Zealand for the Wii, 144 (154 for Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors) titles for Nintendo 3DS and 101 titles for Wii U available.

Though the Virtual Console titles primarily cover only the games that have been released in Europe, Nintendo UK has recently commented that there is a possibility that in the future, Nintendo will localize Japanese and North American games that have never been released in Europe such as Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars which was released on the European Virtual Console on August 22, 2008 after being unreleased in that region for 12 years.[16] In March 2007, Hudson released three TurboGrafx games which were not originally released in Europe: Double Dungeons, Dragon's Curse,[17] and Battle Lode Runner. Five Hanabi Festivals have been held since, releasing former Japanese and/or North American exclusive titles. There are currently 43 titles listed under the "Import" genre, in which most of them were released during the campaigns.

South Korea[edit]

There were 10 titles total of Famicom, Super Famicom and N64 games available at launch on the Virtual Console for South Korea. The store updates irregularly on Tuesdays. There are currently 40 titles available. Depending on the game, they are playable in either Japanese or English. Super Mario World is the only game that uses both languages. Companies currently supporting by publishing games are Bandai Namco Games, Hudson Soft, Irem, Konami, Nintendo, Taito and Windysoft.

Wii[edit]

Library history[edit]

While the gameplay remains unchanged for all of the classic titles offered for the Virtual Console, Nintendo has stated that some games may be improved with sharper graphics or better frame rates,[18] with many PAL SNES games run with significantly reduced borders compared to the original cartridge releases. As with disc-based games, the Virtual Console service is region-locked—that is, different versions of games are provided to different regions, and game availability may vary from region to region.[19]

Nintendo had stated that the Wii Shop Channel would not be used exclusively for retro games, and WiiWare games have appeared in North America as of May 12, 2008.[20] These original games are made available through the WiiWare part of the Wii Shop Channel, as opposed to through the Virtual Console.

Satoru Iwata stated in a speech on March 23, 2006, that Nintendo, Sega, and Hudson Soft were working in collaboration to bring a "best of" series of games to the Wii.[21] At the following E3, Hudson also declared it would bring upwards of 100 titles to the Wii's Virtual Console. Additionally, Hudson mentioned that its lawyers were working on acquiring the licenses to games from now defunct companies.[22] Nintendo announced MSX compatibility on September 19, 2006,[23] announcing on February 23, 2007 that the MSX titles Eggy and Aleste would be released in Japan.[24] In February 2007, a heading for Neo Geo games was added to the Japanese Virtual Console page,[25][26] and in September of that same year, games for that system appeared on the list of future releases, priced at 900 points each.[27][28] Also in September Hudson announced that games made for the TurboGrafx-CD format would also join the Virtual Console beginning in October 2007, with five titles to be released for the remainder of 2007 and ten titles for 2008, each priced at 800 points.[29]

On June 1, 2007, Nintendo of America issued a press release to announce the upcoming release of its 100th Virtual Console title, which was Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Within this press release, Nintendo stated that more than 4.7 million Virtual Console games had been downloaded, at a rate of more than 1,000 titles an hour.[30]

Neo Geo support was added on September 18, 2007 for the Japanese Virtual Console, becoming the first addition to the list of consoles since the TurboGrafx-16 was added two days after the U.S. launch.[31][32]

On October 9, 2007, Nintendo announced that 7.8 million Virtual Console titles had been downloaded,[33] and as of December 2007, this number topped ten million.[4]

Games from several new past consoles were added during 2008: Sega Master System on February 26, 2008 for Japan's Virtual Console;[34] Commodore 64 support was added on March 28, 2008 for Europe's Virtual Console.[35] and MSX support was added on May 27, 2008 for Japan's Virtual Console.

On February 23, 2009, the first 3 Commodore 64 titles (International Karate, The Last Ninja and Pitstop II) were added to the North America Virtual Console for the first time.

On March 25, 2009, simultaneously with Nintendo's Keynote Speech at Game Developers Conference, Nintendo launched 'Virtual Console Arcade', launching with four titles, Mappy, The Tower of Druaga, Star Force and Gaplus.

On February 4, 2011, Sega announced that a Virtual Console release of Puyo Puyo, released in Japan in Spring 2011, is the first Virtual Console to feature Wi-Fi support for online multiplayer.[36]

The Wii Shop Channel has functionality to allow games to be updated. This has been used four times so far to update Military Madness, Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (in North America and Europe),[37] and Mario Kart 64 (in Europe and Australia). Several NES and SNES games released before March 30, 2007 have also been given updates in Europe and Australia to fix previous problems with the Wii component cables. These updates are free of charge to those who have downloaded a previous version of the game.

In later years, some games have been removed from the service due to their licenses expiring, namely R-Type and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, among others. The three Donkey Kong Country SNES games produced by Rare have also been withdrawn.[citation needed] Since Nintendo retains the rights to these games, the reason for their removal remains unknown. While these and other removed titles can no longer be found or purchased from the Shop Channel, they remain available to those who have purchased them prior to their removal. Such users may still re-download them on their Wii consoles and even transfer them to a Wii U system using the "system transfer" tool. Any Wii Virtual Console titles can be transferred to the Wii U and played via its Wii mode.

Control[edit]

Virtual Console games can be played using the different controllers. The Wii Remote itself (turned on its side) can be used for NES, Sega Master System, TurboGrafx-16, and some Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Neo Geo games. The original and the pro versions of Classic Controller (sold separately from the console) can be used for all Virtual Console games. The controllers from the Nintendo GameCube can also be used for all games on the Virtual Console, except for some TurboGrafx-16 games. As a result of this, the wireless GameCube controller (the WaveBird) has seen increased popularity.[38]

All Virtual Console games have their buttons mapped to the respective buttons on the controllers, however, in certain circumstances users can use X and Y instead of A and B, if the original controller does not have X and Y buttons (for example the NES).[39] In certain titles, such as Nintendo 64 games, there may be specific controls tailored to the Classic Controller or GameCube Controller. Nintendo 64 titles that originally provided force feedback via the Nintendo 64 controller's Rumble Pak peripheral however, are not supported by the built-in "Rumble" feature of the GameCube controller.

The button mapping has become the cause of problem and concern, however. The button mapping is rigid and is not customizable. Because of this, many games are difficult to play. All Neo Geo fighting games have very awkward control schemes and glitches when changed to GameCube controllers. Nintendo has acknowledged this issue but has not put any efforts towards fixing it on the Wii. Currently, all Wii U Virtual Console games support customizable button mappings.

With the release of Bomberman '93, it was revealed that TurboGrafx-16 games can support full 5 player games. Since a single Wii can only have four Wii Remotes and four GameCube Controllers connected at the same time, a combination of the two is needed for 5 player games.

Wii Remote Classic Controller GameCube Controller
NES/Famicom Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Super NES/Super Famicom Red XN Green tickY Green tickY
Nintendo 64 Red XN Green tickY Green tickY
Sega Master System Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Mega Drive/Genesis Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Neo Geo Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Commodore 64 Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
MSX Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Virtual Console Arcade Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY

MSX games also support USB keyboards, as the original system featured their input.[40] However, Commodore 64 titles use a pop-up "virtual" keyboard, which can be toggled on and off by pressing the "1" button on the Wii Remote, and only then to set up the game (i.e. not for input during gameplay).[41]

Titles[edit]

System Japan North
America
PAL region South
Korea
Europe Australia
Commodore 64 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
NES/Famicom
147
92
79
77
23
Sega Master System
14
15
15
15
N/A
TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine
119
59
58
58
N/A
MSX
13
N/A N/A N/A N/A
Mega Drive/Genesis
91
73
74
74
N/A
SNES/Super Famicom
99
67
61
62
13
Neo Geo
75
54
54
54
N/A
Nintendo 64
20
21
21
21
4
Virtual Console Arcade
78
21
20
20
N/A

Storage[edit]

Games downloaded from the Virtual Console library can be stored in the Wii's built-in 512 MB flash memory.

Wii system software versions 2.0 and later allow Virtual Console and WiiWare games to be moved from the console's internal memory to a removable SD card and then back to the same console. Wii Menu 4.0 added a new menu to run channels from an SD card provided there is enough free space to hold a copy of the channel in internal memory. If the console runs out of memory, the SD menu will offer to move other channels to the SD card.[42]

Virtual Console games are locked to the Wii on which they were purchased—they cannot be transferred to another Wii via an SD card, although it is possible to purchase games in the Wii Shop Channel and send them as gifts to people on their Wii Friends list.[43] This procedure does not work across regions and it has been reported that bought titles cannot be sent to users from other countries either, even if they are on the same region.[44] In the event that a Wii is damaged and the Virtual Console games can no longer be played, Nintendo will provide support (if the serial number or console email name can be provided).[39]

Game saves and save data[edit]

Game saving is functional and intact on the Virtual Console for all games which originally had a save feature on their cartridge. Saved games are saved to the Wii Internal Memory and function exactly as the original cartridge did. A game which in its original cartridge form did not have any form of save feature will not have any save game feature on the Virtual Console (though depending on its original system it may have the suspend feature as described below).

Most first-party N64 games used internal cartridge memory for game save data and thus will save properly on the Virtual Console. A select few first-party and nearly all other N64 game cartridges utilized the extra memory capability of the N64 Controller Pak.[45] Saving of data to the Controller Pak is not supported by the Virtual Console, so for those games which used this feature, the save feature will not work properly in the Virtual Console.

An extreme example is that of Mario Kart 64 which uses internal cartridge memory for progress and save game data. Consequently all progress is saved properly (since it was saved to the cartridge itself) but one of the features in Mario Kart 64 (saving ghosts for racing at a later date) will not work since that particular feature utilized the Controller Pak, and the option to copy data to the Controller Pak won't function in those games.

Suspending play[edit]

Like other emulation software, the Wii Virtual Console enables the user to suspend play of a game at any time. To do this, users simply return to the Wii main menu from the game.[46] Two exceptions to this are the N64 and Neo Geo, titles which do not support this feature.[47] The N64 will allow play to be halted by returning to the Wii Menu but will require the person to start from the title screen to continue playing. Note that suspending play enables the player to pause the game indefinitely but does not function as a "save state" in that, once the game is resumed, the user will be able to pause play again (overwriting the suspend point) but will not be able to return to the previously suspended state.[46]

The suspend feature will not be available if the user resets the Wii with the reset button on the front of the console during gameplay. Further, if the Wii loses power during gameplay, there will be no further suspend state, nor will there be a way to restart from the previous suspend state. There are some exceptions, however. Arcade games released by Bandai Namco feature an updated menu and when reset during gameplay the save state will be saved before the console is reset.

Nintendo 3DS[edit]

The Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console logo.

Library history[edit]

On June 6, 2011, Nintendo launched the Virtual Console service for the Nintendo 3DS on the Nintendo eShop. Games released for the service include titles for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Sega Game Gear, with announced plans for games from Game Boy Advance TurboGrafx-16 and Neo Geo. There are also special features available while playing Virtual Console games, such as viewing classic Game Boy titles with the traditional green screen or viewing them in an emulated border. A separate but related set of games are '3D Classics', which are remakes of classic titles that make use of the 3DS's 3D capabilities.

When asked if Virtual Boy games were going to be available for download on the Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told Kotaku that he couldn't answer, as he was unfamiliar with the platform.

"As a consumer, I have experience with every Nintendo platform and, I think every accessory, including the Superscope, with the exception of the Virtual Boy... so it's difficult for me to articulate a point of view back to our parent company [in Japan] why we absolutely have to have a Virtual Boy store"

The author of the piece, Kotaku's Stephen Totilo, called upon readers to "argue for a Virtual Boy store on the Nintendo 3DS, if you can."[48]

In response to an August 2011 price drop on the Nintendo 3DS hardware, Nintendo announced plans to give early adopters of the system a number of Virtual Console releases as appreciation of their support.[49] Owners of the system who logged into the Nintendo eShop by a specified time in their home markets became "Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors".[49] In September 2011, ten NES titles were made available through Virtual Console to the Ambassadors at no cost before their general release; the games included marquee titles such as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.[49] They were released to the general public for purchase at a later date, with additional features such as simultaneous multiplayer across multiple systems; Ambassadors received the new features as free software updates.[50] On the 16th of December Ambassadors received access to ten Game Boy Advance titles, also at no charge, that are not scheduled to be released to those who are not Ambassadors.[49] On February 1, 2012, Punch-Out!! the first non-ambassador NES game was released on the Virtual Console service. Since then, other NES games that were not part of the ambassador program were released including third party games by Capcom, Konami, and Tecmo such as; Mega Man, Gradius, and Ninja Gaiden. TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine games were added to the service starting with Gradius and China Warrior on December 25, 2013 in Japan.

Control[edit]

Titles[edit]

System Japan North
America
PAL region
Europe Australia
Game Boy
68
46
41
41
Game Boy Color
20
17
17
17
Game Boy Advance
10
10
10
10
Game Gear
22
16
16
16
NES/Famicom
111
57
56
56
TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine
4
-
-
-
3D Classics
18
14
14
14

Storage[edit]

Virtual Console games are saved on an SD card and are accessible through the Nintendo 3DS home menu.

Game saves and save data[edit]

The save feature for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual console service is similar to the Wii's however unlike the Wii's, the games can save a single "restore point" that can be used as much as the player wants to but is replaced and overwritten if the player makes another one.

Wii U[edit]

The Wii U Virtual Console logo.

Library history[edit]

In a July 2011 interview, Nintendo's Amber McCollum stated that select Nintendo GameCube titles would be made available for download on the Wii U console via the Wii U's own Nintendo eShop.[51] In January 2013, Nintendo announced a native version of Virtual Console, which would be launched on Wii U on April 26, 2013 in North America and April 27, 2013 in the United Kingdom.[52] Initial releases will come from the NES and Super NES libraries, with Game Boy Advance titles was available on April 3, 2014 and Nintendo 64 titles arriving soon after.[52] Wii U Virtual Console titles will include the option to use Off-TV Play on the Wii U GamePad and Miiverse integration. Users who own the Wii Virtual Console version of a game will be able to get the Wii U Virtual Console version of that game for a discounted price.[53] Nintendo also announced some individual games would be released prior to the full Virtual Console launch as part of a special promotion celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of the Famicom.[53] Existing Wii Virtual Console games can be accessed via the Wii mode. The UK Virtual Console service offers versions of games from both North America and Japan, in lieu of slower PAL versions.[54] On December 25, 2013, TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine and MSX titles were added to the service in Japan. During January 2014 Nintendo announced they intend to release Nintendo DS games to the Wii U Virtual Console.[55]

Control[edit]

Wii U GamePad
(Off-TV Play)
Wii U Pro Controller Wii Remote Classic Controller Gamecube Controller
NES/Famicom Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY TBA
SNES/Super Famicom Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY[a] Green tickY TBA
Game Boy Advance Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY TBA
Nintendo DS Green tickY TBA TBA TBA TBA

^ a Wii Remote is compatible with Wii U Virtual Console releases, but may require button remapping to accommodate for the lack of buttons.

Titles[edit]

System Japan North
America
PAL region
Europe Australia
NES/Famicom
81
56
54
54
SNES/Super Famicom
58
29
31
31
TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine
12
-
-
-
MSX
7
-
-
-
Game Boy Advance
20
14
16
16
Nintendo DS
1
-
1
1

Storage[edit]

Virtual Console games are saved either on the Wii U's flash storage (8GB or 32GB) or can be saved on a USB flash drive or external hard drive.

Game saves and save data[edit]

The save feature for the Wii U Virtual console service is similar to the Wii's however unlike the Wii's, the games can save a single "restore point" that can be used as much as the player wants to but is replaced and overwritten if the player makes another one. Game saves from Wii Virtual Console games are not transferred to the Wii U versions.

Third-party support[edit]

Unnamed Nintendo employees have reportedly speculated that licensing issues will be a predominant factor in determining whether a game is available for Virtual Console,[56] giving the examples of GoldenEye 007 and Tetris as games that might be too expensive to license for the Virtual Console. Tecmo has announced its plans to "aggressively" support Virtual Console by re-releasing classic games. Though Tecmo did not specify which titles it intended to release, the company is responsible for many retro classics, such as Ninja Gaiden, Rygar, and Tecmo Bowl.[57] Tecmo was the first third-party game developer to release a game on the Virtual Console (Solomon's Key for the NES). Since then, Capcom and Konami, among others, have also released titles.

Matt Casamassina of IGN reported that Rare titles absent of Nintendo-owned characters, such as Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark, would be unavailable for purchase due to Microsoft's acquisition of Rare;[58] some of these titles have since been released for Xbox Live Arcade. SNK Playmore has announced intentions to release the Samurai Shodown series and a few other games to the Virtual Console which has brought the Neo Geo to the list of consoles available.[59] Midway had also planned to bring the classic Mortal Kombat games to the Virtual Console,[60] but later sold the franchise to Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment when it filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Warner Bros. has not stated whether it will release the Mortal Kombat games to the Virtual Console. Recently, however, it was stated by Ed Boon (co-creator of Mortal Kombat) on his Twitter account that the SNES Mortal Kombat games have "0.0" chance of happening.

Criticism[edit]

Wired's Chris Kohler protested the disparity between the American and Japanese libraries, both in quantity and quality.[61] The difference between the two libraries became minimal at one point, leading him to change his stance,[62] only to change it back once more as North American releases began to slow.[63] In addition, Kohler has also criticized the overall release strategy, with a handful of games at the beginning and two or three every week. Kohler also took issue with the Virtual Console's aspect ratio which stretches the 4:3 games when the Wii's system settings are set for a 16:9 television.[64] The pricing has also been criticized as too high, especially for the NES games,[65] given the prices of many of the games available as used and the near-zero costs of manufacture and distribution.

Differences from original games[edit]

Nintendo has stated that the Virtual Console releases will be faithful to the original games, eliminating the possibility of graphical enhancements, customizable controls, or added online multiplayer features.[66] However, for various reasons, the gameplay experience is not always identical to the original.

For example, some Nintendo 64 games offered optional features that required peripheral hardware, such as the Rumble Pak for force feedback and the Controller Pak for additional data storage. Because these peripherals are not emulated or simulated in Virtual Console, the games play in Virtual Console as they would on the N64 without the peripherals attached.[66] In particular, Mario Kart 64 cannot save "Ghost Data" since no Controller Pak is available,[67] and Cruis'n USA and Wave Race 64 have had their save options disabled. Similarly, both games Mario Golf and Mario Tennis cannot use a Transfer Pak to copy data to or from a real Game Boy Color running the same game.

Some reviewers have reported that games play differently due to the different controllers. For example, Super Mario World is often cited as being more difficult to play due to the GameCube controller's button mapping. The Classic Controller has a button layout more like that of the Super Nintendo's controller, and an adapter has been released that enables a player to plug an actual SNES controller into one of the Wii's GameCube controller ports.[68] Similarly, most N64 Virtual Console games have mapped the Z button to the L, ZL and ZR buttons and the C-buttons to the right analog stick on the Classic Controller, which some reviewers have described as awkward.[69] Furthermore, the mapping of the left analog stick for N64 Virtual Console games does not use the full range of the stick, and instead uses a range of approximately 67%, likely due to the differences in design of the N64 controller's control stick and the GameCube style analog stick. This has been noted to provide a significantly different sensitivity when compared to the original N64 mapping.

Three Famicom games—Excitebike, Mach Rider and Wrecking Crew—included the ability to save player-designed levels via the Famicom Data Recorder. Since this peripheral was never released outside of Japan, the NES versions of these games did not support this save feature. However, all three games have had the feature implemented in their Virtual Console incarnations, allowing players to save course data to the Wii's memory.[70] Additionally, the N64 game Pokémon Snap allowed players to take their Game Paks to special in-store kiosks to print stickers of their in-game photos; the Virtual Console version emulates this by letting players send a photo to the Wii Message Board once per day. By contrast, the Virtual Console version of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (Game Boy Color) on the Nintendo 3DS cannot print photos taken in the game, since this required the Game Boy Printer peripheral to be attached throughout the game.

While virtually all Virtual Console games play identically to their original versions, some games have been altered cosmetically to address licensing and copyright issues. For example, Tecmo Bowl (NES) originally included the names of real football players licensed from the NFL Players Association, but since the game's release, Electronic Arts obtained exclusive rights to the license. Consequently, the names were removed from the Virtual Console version, with only the players' numbers being shown. A similar case occurred with Wave Race 64, in which Nintendo's license with Kawasaki had expired and all of the ad banners in the game were replaced with Wii and Nintendo DS banners. The Mega Drive/Genesis game The Revenge of Shinobi originally featured Spider-Man as a boss character, but the game had been banned from later compilations and download services because the license to that character had expired. To address this issue, the 2009 release for Virtual Console removes the Marvel copyright notice and changes the character to pink, but retains all of Spider-Man's behaviors and patterns.[71] And the Virtual Console release of StarTropics (NES) changes the name of one weapon from "Island Yo-Yo" to "Island Star", since Yo-Yo is a trademarked term in Canada.

Other games have experienced minor graphical differences from their original versions as well: F-Zero (SNES) eliminates the track dimming when the player runs over the edges of the track, and Nintendo 64 games render polygons at a higher resolution than in their original hardware (though sprites and text appear blocky and pixelated by comparison).[citation needed] The Wii and Wii U Virtual Console release of The Legend of Zelda (NES) uses the updated version featured in 2003's The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition compilation for the GameCube. While the gameplay is identical to the 1986 original, this release includes the save screen from the Famicom Disk System version, as well as an updated translation of the introduction screen. Most of these changes (as well as several others) were done due to Nintendo being more cautious about epilepsy, since many of the games during that time employed high flickering of color patterns that engulfed the screen. For instance, in Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, the screen only turns red upon the player losing a life, whereas the original employed a rapid screen flash (Nintendo has yet to use such an effect since the Dennō Senshi Porygon incident in 1997).

One significant difference in gameplay occurred in Kid Icarus (NES), which had its password system altered to disable certain special passwords that gave the main character special powers or large amounts of money, while also enabling new passwords to be found.[72] Many players did not like this change, and the later release of Metroid, which used a similar password system, retained its original behavior.[citation needed] Similarly, Mario Golf originally had a code to enable password input for special tournaments, but had this feature removed for Virtual Console.[73]

Certain games that were originally released only in Japan have been translated and released in other regions on Virtual Console. For example, in Sin and Punishment (N64), all menu commands and certain in-game text (all originally written in Japanese) have been translated into English. The game retains its Japanese title screen, and dialogue subtitles remain in Japanese since the game featured English voice acting.

The NES version of StarTropics shipped with a piece of paper, resembling parchment, which was an integral part of advancing the game's storyline. At one point in the game, the player is instructed to dip the paper into water, revealing a code required to continue. Virtual Console releases of this game work around the absence of this physical item by simulating it in-game or allowing the player to simply click a button to reveal the code.[citation needed]

Re-releases of Game Boy and Game Boy Color games on the Nintendo 3DS give the player the option to play the games as they appeared on their original hardware. By holding a button combination while launching the game, the 3DS presents the game in its original resolution rather than upscaling it to fit the height of the screen, making it appear smaller but more crisp. Game Gear games can also be played in the original resolution by changing the screen settings on the touch screen menu. Monochrome Game Boy games can be displayed in both "black and white" and "black and dark green" color palettes, switchable during gameplay.

PAL issues[edit]

With the launch of the Wii in territories using the PAL television system, it has become apparent that in most cases the games supplied for the Virtual Console run in 50 Hz mode and in their original unoptimized state. Unoptimized PAL games run roughly 17% slower than their original speed in 60 Hz and have borders covering the top and the bottom of the screen. Setting the Wii console to 60 Hz mode does not force the 50 Hz game into 60 Hz mode (as is possible on emulators and modified PAL consoles).

All currently released Nintendo 64 games are partially PAL optimized, resulting in full screen games (although still running in 50 Hz and locked to the original slower gameplay speed). This optimization was not the case for the original cartridge versions of Super Mario 64, Wave Race 64 or Mario Kart 64, making the Virtual Console versions superior in that regard.

Additionally, some Super Nintendo games are also partially PAL optimized with reduced borders but still retaining the slower run speed of the original PAL release (Super Mario World, Super Probotector and Street Fighter II).

A select few games were already optimized in the original release to begin with, and are thus just as fast as their 60 Hz counterparts this time around (the most obvious examples being Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest).

TurboGrafx-16 games are the only Virtual Console games to actually run in 60 Hz on PAL Wii systems; this is because the game data was never changed for release in PAL territories, the original hardware itself performed the conversion to a 50 Hz signal.

One example of a poor PAL conversion is seen in the Virtual Console release of Sonic the Hedgehog, which retains the slower framerate, music and borders of the original PAL Mega Drive version,[74] despite the fact that the GameCube release Sonic Mega Collection allows PAL users to choose which version of the game they want to play.

Recently, during Nintendo's 'Hanabi Festival' campaign, certain titles that were never released in Europe are being added to the Virtual Console. Some of these games, namely the Japan-only titles such as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, are run in 60 Hz only, thus keeping the original speed and gameplay. A small reminder is shown when previewing the game's channel. Interestingly, these games can actually be played in both PAL60 (480i) and 480p modes. This makes these releases look significantly better on Progressive displays such as LCD TV's. The fast moving sprites in NES and SNES games generally create a significant amount of interlace artifacts on such displays that the 480p option resolves. However Hanabi Mega Drive titles run in 50 Hz with the usual PAL conversion problems, despite not been released in PAL.

Initially, some PAL Virtual Console games would not display correctly on high-definition televisions when connected via the component lead. However, starting with the April 13, 2007 update of the PAL Virtual Console, certain newly added games, such as Punch-Out!!, support the "Wii Component Cable Interlace mode." This is a temporary fix to problems with various Virtual Console games being played over component cable on HDTVs.[75]

The PAL versions of all 3D Classics games on the Nintendo 3DS except Xevious and TwinBee run much smoother at 60 Hz unlike the Wii's Virtual Console versions which only run at 50 Hz mainly due to the fact the 3DS versions are semi-modified ports of their original NES and Arcade versions. The ambassador and the full release versions of the NES games also run at 60 Hz but when NES games arrived on the Wii U eShop, they are again running the PAL 50 Hz version.[76]

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External links[edit]