The Virtual Console
Posted by Anthony Dickens
Not only does Wii bring something new, it brings everything old - here's our guide to the Virtual Console.
The Virtual Console (VC) is emulation software that allows you to play older games on your Wii system. If you didn't already know, an Emulator is a piece of computer software the “emulates” pieces of computer hardware. Essentially it'll allows you to run games designed for say, the Super Nintendo on your Wii console. The VC will run exactly the same as an emulator would on your home PC.
Whats The Point?
Many gamers will refer back to the 8 bit and 16 bit days as the golden era of gaming, they aren't wrong. If you missed out on these times your in for a real treat and if you were there you can rediscover why Nintendo has been so popular for all this time.
So what systems will be emulated by Wii? The good news - all of Nintendo's core consoles will be included, NES, Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. The great news – other consoles will be joining the party, starting with the Sega Megadrive (Genesis in the US) and TurboGrafx-16 with the possibility of other systems to be added at a later date.
It's likely that many of you will of come across NES and SNES emulators on your home PC and you've no doubt downloaded some ROM's (a binary copy of the original game cartridge) of Nintendo's games. So what's the difference? Mainly downloading ROMs from the Internet is illegal. The copies are freely distributed and no-one gets paid for their hard work. Some argue that because these games are “out of date” it doesn't harm Nintendo, which is true to some extent.
Now that Nintendo is releasing its own legal emulator in the Virtual Console we'll no doubt see them clamp down on the emulation scene on the Internet as it will affect their business.
Virtual Console games will be available for download via the Wii's online service, WiiConnect 24. The games will be priced in “Wii Points” you can either buy a Wii Points card from a shop or buy them online using a credit card, very similar to the mobile phone “Pay as You Go” system.
It seems you need to purchase Wii Points in 2000 point chunks, setting you back £14.99 or $20. A total of 10,000 points can be stored on your Wii account at any one time.
NES games will be priced at 500 points (£3.50/$5), SNES at 800 points (£5.60/$8), Nintendo 64 at 1000 points (£7/$10), Megadrive at 800 points (£5.60/$8) and TurboGrafx-16 at 600 points (£4.20/$6).
You may have noticed by now, but Wii has this super motion sensor new controller thing, how on earth do I play NES games with that? The answer is, you don't. There are a number of methods for controlling Virtual Console games. You can either purchase the “Classic Controller” which is a cross between a SNES and Gamecube controller or you can use your original Gamecube controller. It's also possible to turn your Wii mote on its side to use it as a classic NES controller with the D-Pad and A/B buttons. It's also worth noting that you'll only be able to use the D-Pad on older games, no chance of using the analogue stick for Super Mario World I'm afraid.
It's not said if any other controller combinations will come along, we'd certainly love to see adaptors so we can play with the original controllers. Take the hint Nintendo
It seems Nintendo are only releasing a very limited number of games when Wii first comes out, here's what will be available at launch in Europe:
- Donkey Kong
- Donkey Kong Jr.
- Ice Hockey
- Mario Bros.
- Solomon's Key
- The Legend of Zelda
- Urban Champion
- Wario's Woods
- Donkey Kong Country
- Sim City
- Super Mario 64.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Altered Beast
- Golden Axe
- Gunstar Heroes
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Space Harrier II
- Toe Jam & Earl
- Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
- Bonk’s Adventure
- Super Star Soldier
- Victory Run
- Bomberman ’93
- Dungeon Explorer.
As you can see, this is a barely a scratch on the surface of the 100's of classic games across the 5 platforms. Apparently Nintendo will be adding more and more games to the online service every month and even offering free downloads as a bonus with the purchase of specific Wii titles. For example, when your purchase Metroid Prime 3 you might just end up with Super Metroid for the SNES in your VC area, neat.
Along with Sega, a lot of third party Japanese developers have also bought into the concept and we should soon see games from companies like: Atlus, Hudson, Namco, Capcom, HAL Laboratory, KEMCO, Koei, Konami, Square Enix, SNK, Taito and Tecmo.
Love reading? Don't worry, each Virtual Console game downloaded will come with a digital instruction manual. But also remember if your importing Wii, then you'll only be able to download games from the US online store, this means if the UK gets a “exclusive” title one month, you won't be able to download it.
Nintendo have also expressed interest in using the Virtual Console system for deploying new games and software. For instance, if a small developer comes up with a great new idea for a puzzle game but can't afford a large release, they could benefit from the low-cost development of a SNES game and the very low distribution costs of a purely digital delivery.
We'd love Nintendo to open up this concept to young games designers and enthusiasts, similar to Microsoft's “XNA Game Studio”. However we're yet to hear any response suggesting this.
Games that are downloaded can be stored either to the Wii's internal memory (512MB) or onto SD cards, which plug into the SD slot on the front of the Wii. In addition the console also stores a history of all of your downloads so that if you have to delete any VC games for any reason you could re-download them for free at a later date.
Although you'll be able to remove your SD card, this doesn't mean they'll play on a friends Wii console - all VC games will be locked to the console they are downloaded on.
Nintendo have done something a lot of people will appreciate, it’s hard to know why this hasn't been done before. Personally I'm really excited about building my collection of VC games, it'll be a great trip down memory lane, Super Mario Kart anyone?