Feature | Virtual Console: Wii U’s Not-So Secret Weapon?

By Shane Jury 26.08.2012 13

Feature | Virtual Console: Wii U’s Not-So Secret Weapon? on Nintendo gaming news, videos and discussion
As the closing of the summer months approaches, the release of a completely new Nintendo console will be at the forefront of gamers' minds all around the world, for positive or negative reasoning. Despite two relatively poor E3 showings (especially in comparison to the dying days of the GameCube at 2004's Expo and the dawn of the Wii's sales onslaught of 2006), and a lack of details beyond box art template designs, many are looking forward to not only seemingly one of the strongest launch line-ups in console history, but the salivating prospect of seeing the last major games creator in the world open up to the idea of making the jump to High Definition gaming. Lack of information revealed at this stage opens up conversation to the speculator side of debate, and aside from the name, will Nintendo take another aspect of the Wii to its maximum potential with their newly-found stronger focus on online services?

 
Back at E3 2005, Satoru Iwata pulled out a black rectangular box and declared it to be Nintendo's new 'Revolution,' thought of as such because of how it would evolve games based on control input and not visual level as both Sony and Microsoft would go on to do. One key detail he spoke briefly about, and the titbit that would keep the unit fresh in Nintendo enthusiasts' minds was its potential to download three generations of Nintendo console-based software, ranging from the humble NES to the 3D powerhouse that was the N64, through a quick and easy downloading ability. Microsoft would seek to offer a similar service with Xbox Live Arcade at the Xbox 360 launch later that year, but it became clear that it would be difficult to match up against Nintendo's own retro games alone, much less the entire licensed catalogue of those machines.
 
Image for Feature | Virtual Console: Wii U’s Not-So Secret Weapon?
With luck, Black will be a standard colour choice this time around.

The reality of the Virtual Console itself, however, became apparent upon Wii's worldwide release in late 2006. Although few could argue that the legendary Super Mario 64 is a worthy headliner for any launch period, and the added Genesis/Mega Drive and TurboGrafx categories would add even more diversity, they were but a mere smattering of the potential hundreds on offer from all five machines. Granted, looking back on it now it would have been completely unrealistic to expect Nintendo to be able to grab all those games in a matter of months, even when not considering the ratings system for each game in each territory and the time and costs associated with that.
 
The service had more damning issues to contend with regardless, particularly in PAL territories. European gamers once again had to return to the days of a thinner, slower 50Hz picture for nearly all NES, SNES and Mega Drive games whilst all other regions were treated to full 60Hz retro glory. The Wii Shop Channel, the means by which potential customers would access and purchase these games, was slow, clunky, and unwieldy in finding the games you might be interested in. And then there was the extremely limited storage space, which wasn't a huge issue until more games starting popping up for purchase and Wii owners rightfully grew tired of the laborious process involved with moving games to and from SD cards. This issue was resolved with the SD Card update a couple of years after, but to this day the clunky shop interface and slow update activity of the Virtual Console puts off many from purchasing the wide array of classics on there. Also, the lack of security regarding possible loss of those purchased games spoke for itself, especially when both Sony and Microsoft made use of account-based systems.
 
As everyone looks to the Wii U launch later this year, could the Wii's underappreciated (and quite frankly undervalued even by Nintendo's own standards) download component be the new machine's greatest asset coming out of the gate? Consider the briefly mentioned sparse selection at the Wii's street date, and then consider just how many have been put on the service since. What was a grouping of a couple of dozen retro games has exploded into hundreds of titles across a multitude of formats, including three others that Nintendo added during the Wii's throne years; the Master System, Neo Geo, and the Arcade systems.
 
For the many that own a Wii hooked up in the living room or resting an early retirement elsewhere, Nintendo has confirmed you will be able to transfer the catalogue across machines, which suggests two key details. First of all, that aside from the re-clarification the games might need with the ratings boards for each region (possible but unlikely given what little needs to change), the entire catalogue will be Wii U enabled from Day One. Secondly, the process will most likely replicate how DSiWare games were moved to 3DS systems from DSi ones, possibly via a Wii Channel created for that very purpose. These games should logically tie into the Wii U's user accounts, which Nintendo has already confirmed for the system and that should also spread to the 3DS in good time.
 

Image for Feature | Virtual Console: Wii U’s Not-So Secret Weapon?
Who else thought their Wii had frozen on this animation at one time or another?

For an example of how Nintendo has learned from experience with its download services, one needs look no further than the eShop on 3DS. Since its introduction not long after the 3DS launch window, the service has constantly evolved and altered to streamline the user experience in a way the Wii Shop Channel never could, making use of proper currency instead of Nintendo Points, and a download function that could be suspended or left to its own devices when in 'Sleep Mode.' Pricing on the Shop Channel was at best passable and at worst a rip-off, but with Nintendo's recent sales offerings on the eShop there is potential for a wider pricing net for the Wii U. Acting as a mishmash of the Shop Channel and the media-packed workings of the Nintendo Channel, the eShop provides all the trailers, demos, screenshots, and downloadable titles it can hold, all wrapped up in a user-friendly presentation, and it would not be difficult to see Nintendo continue this style with its next home console, especially considering the similar dual screen layering.
 
Additionally, this is where we get to the real strawberry centre of the jam doughnut, the Wii U Pad itself. Nintendo has been coy in regards to how far the GamePad's usage goes, beyond just the Wii U menus and games that we know of already, but it would be difficult to imagine the big N missing out on a vast potential selling point; being able to play retro titles in the palm of your hands. More than a few retro games on the service do not mesh well with the huge display that a High Definition television provides, so a much smaller optimised screen would complement them greatly, not unlike the Game Boy Advance SP's frontlit bigger picture to the Game Boy micro's backlit, smaller but more focused display. The button mapping of the GamePad would easily support any of the requirements of the games in the Virtual Console library, and its motion capabilities and touch screen can provide a workaround should more complex titles require it.
 

Image for Feature | Virtual Console: Wii U’s Not-So Secret Weapon?
Two vastly different pieces of tech, will both have the same effect on supported games?

Then there is one more thing to consider. Since the initial announcement of the Virtual Console in 2006, Nintendo has practically doubled the system support on the service with aforementioned SEGA and arcade-based machines. One of the major reasons speculated as to why more games from disc-based machines didn't appear was the restricted Wii memory and download speeds, two aspects that Wii U looks set to bypass with a much larger amount of on-board flash memory and support for external USB Hard Drives. Virtual Console releases for the Wii have trickled down in number over the past year in relation to its current status in sales and reception, so there would be very little the Wii U could add on top of those system catalogues.
 
Not to say it would be an easy task, but few would object to seeing Third Party PlayStation One and PlayStation 2 games on the service, and unless Nintendo plans to make a HD classics line like the New Play Control series, GameCube games are as good as confirmed too. Heck, why not throw the legendary Dreamcast and slightly-less epic Xbox libraries into the mix? Nintendo's mention of suggesting that the Wii U could be left overnight to download more data-heavy titles (like Wii's WiiConnect24, except actually working as stated) would be ideal for these bigger titles, and the PlayStation 2's catalogue minus Sony's own games could fill out an entire download schedule for the Wii U's lifespan just on its own.

Of course, there is room for scepticism on these points, considering Nintendo's unpredictable nature. It may simply deem it too much work to provide the retro titles already on the service and in the future with the means to display on the GamePad, though with the clear amount of focus it has put into making the synchronisation of controller and console as flawless as possible, it shouldn't be a difficult task to accomplish. Nintendo might consider the shop side of things a lesser priority over that of Miiverse, but with its own Wii U games going digital from Day One that thought looks unlikely also. Whatever happens, despite Nintendo's current tight-lipped stance on what can be expected from the machine itself from launch, the Wii U holds far more promise and potential for retro gamers than first impressions may suggest.

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Comments

I always wanted a GBA Micro. I already have a GBA and a DS, but the Micro just looks so cool.

Wii U totally needs better virtual console support. I think the 3DS and Wii U should have GBA games available, too. they let us play gameboy games on the GameCube, why not Wii U? The portable screen seems perfect for it.

It might also be wise to start releasing Gamecube Games for virtual console, since the Wii U won't support them at all.

NNID: crackedthesky
My blog, mostly about writing: http://www.davidjlovato.com

Woah Phoenom... I love classy language, but yours is over the top for me. Smilie I started reading the first sentence, but I lost track of what you were saying halfway through.

I guess I'll have to concentrate more, because I do want to read this article. Just know that your writing style is almost elitish. (I'm Dutch so not a native English speaker, however I do recon my language level is rather good.)

Ok, nice article.

One of the first thing I thought when seeing the Upad was "imagine playing A Link to the Past on that thing!" It's perfect for VC games.

As for Playstation and Xbox titles... no chance. Gamecube and maybe Dreamcast will have to do. And then there's a huge list of superb N64 games that haven't appeared on the VC yet...

Now the only thing that is keeping me back is the price. Why would I pay €12 for a game I can buy on Ebay for €10 and later sell for €8?

gwalms (guest) 27.08.2012#4

Everybody forget about the Sega Saturn?

tommy (guest) 27.08.2012#5

yay i relly like nintedo cince i was young so im happy right nowSmilie

Ljink (guest) 27.08.2012#6

You put NGC on there and I'm buying wii u. Please big N, put ssb melee, super mario sunshine, and zelda ww on there and we've got a deal! I mean, playing those on a handheld would be a greater selling point than the current one. JUST THINK! WIND WAKER AT THE PALM OF YOUR HANDS! I don't know how nintendo will accomplish this whether it be by cloud/streaming, I just hope it happens.

Canyarion said:
Woah Phoenom... I love classy language, but yours is over the top for me. Smilie I started reading the first sentence, but I lost track of what you were saying halfway through.

I guess I'll have to concentrate more, because I do want to read this article. Just know that your writing style is almost elitish. (I'm Dutch so not a native English speaker, however I do recon my language level is rather good.)

Heh, sorry, me do speak classy sometimes you know? Smilie

gwalms (guest) said:
Everybody forget about the Sega Saturn?

Nope, but the games on that machine without Sonic in the title have proven almost impossible to emulate, and since they are a rarity even on XBL/PSN I wouldn't expect them on VC anytime soon. Would like to be proven wrong though. Smilie

Noobles81 (guest) 27.08.2012#8

Very good article, well thought out and presented. Smilie

Just the thought of Gamecube games, and possibly more on the Wii U makes for interesting times ahead for the download capabilities.

I am interested in the Wii U and hope it has the 3rd party support the Wii was lacking!

I would like to see the elder scrolls arrive on the system and also some games that are exclusive only for PS3 and Xbox360 head over to Nintendo also.

This console has potential, and if utilised properly it should have a unique gaming experience!

But "one" thing! I hope they release a new HD Zelda game and soon! lets have two for this console and not one at the death. Smilie

Our member of the week

Been playing some Gamecube games in progressive scan and with a 16:9 patch, on my Wii using Dios Mios. Looks stunningly better than on the original hardware (PAL games never got progressive scan, unfortunately), and since I don't own a powerful enough PC to emulate gamecube games in HD... I'd really like to see GC games on WiiU's VC. It's bound to happen anyway, but I do hope that at least they'll get an upscale.

N64 games originally in 240i were upscaled to 480p on Wii's VC, so there's at least that precedent in Nintendo's history; here's hoping.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Phoenom said:
Canyarion said:
Woah Phoenom... I love classy language, but yours is over the top for me. Smilie I started reading the first sentence, but I lost track of what you were saying halfway through.

I guess I'll have to concentrate more, because I do want to read this article. Just know that your writing style is almost elitish. (I'm Dutch so not a native English speaker, however I do recon my language level is rather good.)

Heh, sorry, me do speak classy sometimes you know? Smilie

gwalms (guest) said:
Everybody forget about the Sega Saturn?

Nope, but the games on that machine without Sonic in the title have proven almost impossible to emulate, and since they are a rarity even on XBL/PSN I wouldn't expect them on VC anytime soon. Would like to be proven wrong though. Smilie

I agree with Canyarion in regards to FIRST party XBLA & PSN titles...but with Trine 2 announced for U I'd say THIRD PARTY games would work out, I'd LOVE Braid, Scott Pilgrim, Flower/Journey (not sure if those are Sony made) Guardian Heroes & others that grace PSN/XBLA but not Wiiware Smilie

It'd be a cardinal sin not to have Panzer Dragoon & other Jap only Saturn titles show up on U...as long as there's enough english to know what to do BRING IT OVER!!!! I mean the Wii's VC has several import games to download, Sin & Punishment as well as a great Genesis title that I've got & the whole text is in Japanese...I'd say we could get quite the Saturn collection.....as long as agreements are made.

Oh...& as regards to ports of disc based games that'd work to, I mean SOny got all OUR Nintendo exclusive Final Fantasy titles yet 7 & onwards have not graced Nintendo....I'd say there's a great argument in our favor right there. It would be INCREDIBLY unjust for Nintendo to NOT receive it's MISSING Final Fantasies while SOny got ours...sorry for repeating myself there it just really pisses me off at how unjust that is.

( Edited 28.08.2012 04:42 by Vorash Kadan )

It is not wise to speak on subjects you do not know all facts about, nor is it smart to judge a game based on looks alone. PSN: Nintendo_Gamer 3DS: 4296-3029-7422

I'd like to see all my VC games on Wii and 3DS playable on WiiU, a unified account could make that happen. Handheld games on WiiU would be great to see.

3rd party XBL/PSN games, sure.
But disc-based games released on the 'Virtual Console'? I don't think MS and Sony will allow it... they probably want to put them on their own service.

Canyarion said:
3rd party XBL/PSN games, sure.
But disc-based games released on the 'Virtual Console'? I don't think MS and Sony will allow it... they probably want to put them on their own service.

Well they'll just have to PISS OFF then...as I said FF1-6 have been released on ps1-PSN...all they need to do is change the command choices & we're golden. Both the Classic Controller & Wii U Pad have ZL & ZR so L2 & R2 are covered. Who knows maybe the 3DS will get 3D remakes beyond just FF6 so Nintendo fans can enjoy the rest of their lost Final Fantasies, I know I'd rather play the FF10 remake on 3DS than Vita & don't care if we lose "pretty picture" quality because of it. Smilie

It is not wise to speak on subjects you do not know all facts about, nor is it smart to judge a game based on looks alone. PSN: Nintendo_Gamer 3DS: 4296-3029-7422

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