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Component cable

Virtual Console

Virtual Console, sometimes abbreviated as VC, is a specialized section of the Wii Shop Channel, an online service that allows players to purchase and download games and other software for Nintendo's Wii gaming console. The Virtual Console lineup consists of titles originally released on now defunct past consoles. These titles are run in their original forms through software emulation, and can be purchased for between 500 and 1200 Wii Points depending on system and rarity and/or demand. The library of past games currently consists of titles originating from the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Nintendo 64, as well as Sega's Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis, NEC's TurboGrafx-16 and TurboGrafx-CD, SNK's Neo Geo AES, Commodore 64 (Europe only) and MSX (Japan only). Over ten million Virtual Console titles have been downloaded as of December 2007.

Library history

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. Certainly, 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.

Nintendo had stated that the Wii Shop would not be used exclusively for retro games, and WiiWare games have appeared in North America as of May 12, 2008. However, original games are made available through the WiiWare part of the Wii Shop, 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. 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. Nintendo announced MSX compatibility on September 19 2006, announcing on February 23 2007 that the MSX titles Eggy and Aleste would be released in Japan. In February 2007, a heading for Neo Geo games was added to the Japanese Virtual Console page, and in September of that same year, games for that system appeared on the list of future releases, priced at 900 points each. 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. They will be priced at 800 points.

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.

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.

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

Games from several new past consoles were added during 2008: Sega Master System on February 26, 2008 for Japan's Virtual Console, with other regions and Game Gear support under the Master System label to follow at currently unknown times; Commodore 64 support was added on March 28, 2008 for Europe's Virtual Console. and MSX support was added on May 27, 2008 for Japan's Virtual Console.

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), 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.

Third-party support

Unnamed Nintendo employees have reportedly speculated that licensing issues will be a predominant factor in determining whether a game is available for Virtual Console, 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 such as Ninja Gaiden, Rygar, and Tecmo Bowl. Tecmo was the first third-party game developer to release a game on the Virtual Console (Solomon's Key from 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, would be unavailable for purchase due to Microsoft's acquisition of Rare, but Rare has hinted the possibility of such titles being released on Virtual Console. 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. Midway also plans to bring classic Mortal Kombat games to the Virtual Console.

Storage

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

Games can be transferred to a removable SD card for backup purposes only – they cannot be played from this external memory. If the internal memory is filled, Virtual Console games can be deleted to create more room, and the games can be downloaded again at a later date at no additional cost, or can be copied back over from an SD Card.

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. 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. In the event that a Wii is damaged and the Virtual Console games can no longer be played, Nintendo will provide support (providing the serial number or console email name can be provided.).

Game saves and save data

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. 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. Mario Kart 64, Wave Race 64, and Cruis'n USA used 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

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. Two exceptions to this are the N64 and Neo Geo titles which do not support this feature. 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 but will not be able to return to the previously suspended state.

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, and 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.

Control

Virtual Console games can be played using three different controllers. The Wii Remote itself (turned on its side) can be used for NES, TurboGrafx-16, and some Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Neo Geo games, and the 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. As a result the wireless GameCube controller (the WaveBird) has seen increased popularity. The Nintendo GameCube controller can be used for all games on the Virtual Console except for some TurboGrafx-16 games.

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). In certain titles, such as Nintendo 64 games, there may be specific controls tailored to the Classic Controller or GameCube Controller. So far, none of the Nintendo 64 titles released have been able to support the Rumble Pak feature of the N64 controller.

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. At least one player has to use a Wii Remote or Classic controller, and at least one player has to use a GameCube Controller. The other three can use either one.

Platform Wii Remote Classic Controller GameCube Controller
NES/Famicom

SNES/Super Famicom

Nintendo 64

Sega Master System

Mega Drive/Genesis Most*
TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine

Some*
Neo Geo Most*
Commodore 64

MSX

MSX games also support USB keyboards, as the original system featured their input. 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).

Titles

System Starting cost
(Wii Points)
Japan North
America
PAL region South
Korea
Europe Australia
Commodore 64 500 - - 15 - -
NES/Famicom 500 (400 in Korea) 100 77 60 59 15
Sega Master System 500 7 4 4 4 -
TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine 600 100 55 55 55 -
TurboGrafx-CD/PC-Engine CD-ROM 800
MSX 700 2 - - - -
Mega Drive/Genesis 800 (600 in Japan) 78 55 57 57 -
SNES/Super Famicom 800 (600 in Korea) 49 34 31 32 10
Neo Geo 900 18 18 18 18 -
Nintendo 64 1000 (800 in Korea) 14 15 14 14 3
Total games as of October 7, 2008 373 258 254 239 28

Japan

There were 38 titles of Famicom, Super Famicom, N64, Mega Drive, and PC Engine games available at launch on the Virtual Console for the Japanese region. The store updates on Tuesdays and there are currently 373 titles available.

North America

There were 12 titles total of NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis games available at launch on the Virtual Console for the North American region. Two TurboGrafx-16 titles were added two days later on November 21 2006. New releases are on Mondays at around 12:00 PM EST/9:00 AM PST (although they have been released an hour or two early on several occasions) and typically consisted of around 3 games on average; but starting in 2008, updates began to consist of 1 or 2 games. As of October 6, 2008, there are 258 Virtual Console titles available, with the list growing weekly as per the above.

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. 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 & 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 only 14 titles listed under the "Import" genre: Sin & Punishment, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, 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, and Final Soldier.

PAL region

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). The store updates every Friday at 12:00AM CET, in Australia at 9:00AM and in New Zealand at 11:00PM AEST.. The number of games per update has varied, but is usually 2-3. There are currently 254 Virtual Console titles available in Europe and 239 titles in Australia and New Zealand.

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. In March 2007, Hudson released three Turbografx games which were not originally released in Europe: Double Dungeons, Dragon's Curse, and Battle Lode Runner. Three Hanabi Festivals have already been held, releasing former Japanese and/or North American exclusive titles on the Virtual Console in the PAL region. There are currently 20 titles listed under the "Import" genre, released during the campaigns.

South Korea

There were 10 titles total of NES/Famicom, SNES/Super Famicom and N64 games available at launch on the Virtual Console for South Korea. The store updates irregularly on Tuesdays. There are currently 28 titles available for the South Korean Virtual Console. Games on the South Korean Virtual Console are playable in either Japanese or English (depending on the game), or in some cases, both (Super Mario World). Companies currently supporting by publishing games are Bandai Namco, Hudson Soft, Irem, Konami, Nintendo, Taito and Windysoft.

Criticism

Wired's Chris Kohler had protested the disparity between the American and Japanese libraries, both in quantity and quality. The difference between the two libraries became minimal at one point, leading him to change his stance , only to change it back once more as North American releases began to slow. 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. The pricing has also been criticized as too high, especially for the NES games, given the prices of many of the games available as used and the near-zero costs of manufacture and distribution. It has become apparent, however, that the effort involved in emulating these games can be significant, as evidenced by several serious bug fix updates (see "Library history", above) and by significant differences in the emulated versions' game features, including added capabilities (See "Differences from original games", below). Further adding to the cost is getting older games rated by the ESRB. All games released on the Virtual Console must be ESRB-rated, and many have not been as regulations did not exist at times of publishing.

Differences from original games

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. However, for various reasons, the gameplay experience is not always identical to the original. For example, in F-Zero, when the player hits the rails on the track, the track no longer flashes in black as in the original SNES game.

Some Nintendo 64 games originally required peripheral hardware (which the Wii hardware does not support) in order to use these features, and they play the same way they originally would without the peripherals plugged in. For example, none of the Nintendo 64 Virtual Console games feature force feedback, which originally required a separate Rumble Pak peripheral. The Gamecube ports of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask do use the force feedback from the Gamecube controller, however. Mario Kart 64 no longer supports saving of "Ghost Data," which originally required a separate Controller Pak on the Nintendo 64. Cruis'n USA and Wave Race 64 also cannot access the option to transfer save data to and from a Controller Pak. Likewise, Transfer Pak functionality is not included in Mario Golf. However three NES games—Excitebike, Mach Rider and Wrecking Crew—made use of a peripheral called the Famicom Data Recorder (not available outside Japan) to save data of player-designed tracks and courses; this feature was fully implemented in their Virtual Console incarnations by way of saving the course data to the Wii's internal memory. One N64 Virtual Console game that does support an extra feature is Pokémon Snap which allows players to send one in-game photo to the Wii Message Board per day-- emulating the original version's sticker-printing feature which could be used by bringing the Game Pak to special in-store kiosks.

Some reviewers have reported that games play differently due to the different controllers. Super Mario World, for instance, has been cited as more difficult to play due to the GameCube controller's button placement. The Classic Controller, which has buttons arranged differently, in a fashion very similar to that of the Super Nintendo's controller, works as a better alternative. The Nintendo 64 controller featured more face buttons than either the GameCube or Classic Controller, so most N64 games released so far have mapped the C-buttons to the right analog stick and the Z button to the L button on the Classic controller, which some reviewers have described to be somewhat awkward.

Hardware differences aside, most Virtual Console games released thus far have not changed from their original versions; however, Nintendo 64 games render polygons at increased resolution. One significant exception is Tecmo Bowl, which originally featured real player names via the NFL Players Association, but because of licensing issues (EA Games owns exclusive rights to the license), their names have been removed, and only their numbers are shown. A similar case has occurred with Wave Race 64, which had all of the Kawasaki ad banners replaced with Wii and Nintendo DS banners, because Nintendo's license with Kawasaki expired. Other documented changes are in Kid Icarus, whose password system has been altered and in the previously unreleased-outside-Asia title Sin & Punishment, whose menu commands, and certain in-game text (all originally written in Japanese), have been translated into English. The title screen logo and in-game subtitles, however, haven't been translated from their original Japanese versions.

The Virtual Console versions of The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link are not the original NES releases, but instead the updated versions featured in 2003's The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition compilation disc for GameCube. The core gameplay is identical to the original games, however they feature the save screen from the 2003 version.

Punch-Out!! has at least one notable change from the NES version. One of Piston Honda's between-round quotes, on the NES version is as follows: "Where is the NHK TV Camera? Hello, Tokyo!" NHK is an actual broadcaster in Japan, so (presumably due to trademark reasons) this has been replaced by "Where are my camera crew? Hello, Tokyo! in the Virtual Console version.

The above changes to The Legend of Zelda and Punch-Out!!, however, were not made to the versions of the games included in Animal Crossing for the GameCube.

Reports have surfaced stating that when the Virtual Console version of Punch-Out!! is played in progressive scan, the game suffers from a lag in controls, which significantly raises the difficulty level compared to the NES version.

PAL issues

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 50Hz mode and in their original unoptimized state. Unoptimized PAL games run roughly 17% slower than their original speed in 60Hz and have borders covering the top and the bottom of the screen. Setting the Wii console to 60Hz mode does not force the 50Hz game into 60Hz 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 50Hz 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 60Hz counterparts this time around (the most obvious examples being Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest).

Turbografx games are the only Virtual Console games to actually run in 60Hz 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 50Hz 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, 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 60Hz 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.

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. The mode can be enabled by accessing the operations guide of the game, and (with the Nunchuk attached) pressing the buttons Z + A + 2 simultaneously. A sound is played if the mode is enabled correctly. Several older games also have updates available to enable the feature, such as Super Castlevania IV. The mode can be disabled by using the same method, but with the button combination Z + A + 1 instead. A full list of games supporting this mode is available at nintendo.no, an English version can be found at vc-forums.com.

References

External links

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