News Article

WiiWare and Retro Gaming

Posted by Damien McFerran

Nintendo’s WiiWare service will be with us soon and with it comes the tantalizing promise of liberation for small-scale developers. It should grant diminutive studios the opportunity to create fun and affordable experiences without having to worry about such complicated factors as distribution and inventory management, which is obviously great.

But will the service also be used to for retro gaming, as has been the case with Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade and Sony’s Playstation Network?

While the Virtual Console provides perfect emulation of hundreds of classic retro titles, it seems unlikely at this stage that Nintendo will support more recent consoles (like the Saturn or Dreamcast) via the service. The reason for this is that the Wii isn’t powerful enough to emulate anything more powerful than the N64.

This means we may never see titles like Rez and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (both recently released on XBLA to critical and commercial acclaim) on the VC service. Surely the solution is to release these games as WiiWare products?

The aforementioned XBLA ports were coded from the ground up for the service (so basically no emulation of the original hardware was taking place). This could easily be done with WiiWare releases, too. The Wii itself may be lacking in power when compared to the 360 and PS3, but it’s capable of replicating titles from the previous generation of machines - with a little effort on the part of the developer, of course.

As XBLA has proven, gamers are willing to pay a little more for more ‘modern’ retro games like Rez and SotN; especially when, in the case of the former, they are improved and embellished (Rez possess a new HD-display mode).

With the Wii’s gigantic installed base dwarfing that of the 360 and PS3, established companies like Capcom, Konami and Namco will surely be eyeing the new WiiWare market with interest. It could be the key to helping them make a healthy profit on titles from the 32-bit era that are currently unattainable via emulation on the Virtual Console service.

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User Comments (40)




Hmm. Tons of WiiWare news today. I can't wait till it comes to the US. Anyway, all of this is fine and good as long at the big N releases an external hardrive soon.



KeeperBvK said:

If they'd bring us a Rez port that allowed for pointing the Wiimote to target the enemies...that'd be just so awesome. But I'd also settle for a normal port and any other great 32-Bit and 128-Bit game. ^^
@ Truezeldafan: Well, it really ain't a news, is it? It's actually just a comment and some insight.



Dark_Jinjo said:

I loved Castlevania SOTN on XBLA and would love them to bring it over to WiiWare since my 360 is currently broken (for the fifth time, damn you microsoft!) I hope that developers are going to use WiiWare as a platform to update older games with new wii-specific features that they can't do currently with just the virtual console.



Bass_X0 said:

i think you'll be able to if the game is (re-)designed to use it. there's no reason why it couldn't.



Kelvin said:

I hear that Sam and Max is coming to WiiWare, and I hope it's the first of many point-and-click adventures, as the Wiimote is perfect for that genre. Monkey Island! Beneath a Steel Sky!



Clayfrd said:

Here's something I want to know. Will you guys (VC Reviews) be reviewing WiiWare games as well?



Bass_X0 said:

check the consoles listings. there are already entries for the ones that are known about.



Rapadash6 said:

I've never thought of using Wiiware for the more complex classic games. I suppose everything is in place for it to work but I'm not sure the developers would go for it. The problem with XBLA and PSN is they are MOSTLY classic games with bells and whistles added, while those services were meant for new games from smaller developers. Considering Wii already has Virtual Console, I see no need to add updated classics to the service.



Bass_X0 said:

But you can't say no to modified Saturn and PlayStation titles for WiiWare can you?



Rapadash6 said:

Well, there are a few titles I wouldn't mind seeing like Nights, SOTN and the Lunar games but I'd really much rather see this service helping out the less fortunate developers as it should be doing. I'd like to see games released without too many suits being involved. ^^' Just like the NES days where there were an abundant amount of great games because they costed less to produce. THAT'S what I want to see most out of Wiiware.



PrizePig said:

Yeah, try fitting one of those games on your Wii's internal memory. I wish they would just release a damn HD for the Wii so we wouldn't have to add and delete games as we want to play them. If we have to PAY $5 to $10 for a game, we should have the option to only have to download it ONCE.



Master_Chief53 said:

I hope they put Dreamcast games and Starun games. I would love to try games liek Guradian Heroes, Shemnu, and Sonic Adventure.



Sharecrow said:

If they did release a hard drive, I bet it would be hard to get your hands on one for awhile unless you are lucky or willing to pay more than list price for would still be cool, though.



deggs said:

would be nice if they did updated versions of the gba metroid games or a new 2d metroid altogether... also, SotN and the other one (Castlevania Chronicles i think it's called) would be nice and easily done with this wiiware service. maybe square might shine to doing wiiware versions of FF games or Dragon Quest games or at least releasing some of those awesome enix games from the snes...



JNoodles said:

Oh man, if SotN were to be released for 1,000-1,200 points, even 1,500 or 2,000, I'd get it. It's that good!



deggs said:

never ever got a chance to play either ps1 castlevania game sadly... the last one i owned was castlevania 4 for snes (still one of the best games i ever played...) oh well... if SotN is released, I would dropo everything and buy it that instant... maybe they could save space in a number of ways so that it could work as a wiiware title. I don't understand why they didn't up the hard drive to a gig or something more practical...



Bass_X0 said:

How about classic licensed games but with the license removed?

Say "Castle of Illusion" on Genesis but with all references to Mickey Mouse replaced by a completely new character or something.



Lugia2 said:

Sounds like a great idea. I want SOTN, though anything after the Dreamcast- probably INCLUDING the Dreamcast- is out of the question for the GCN 1.5.

Go Wii Bomberman!



Homer_Simpson said:

The Wii is more than powerful enough to emulate Dreamcast games, it just lacks the storage space to do so.



Starwolf_UK said:

@Homer Simpson. Emualte? No, most dual core PCs struggle quite badly with most Dreamcast games. Run ports. Certainly, as Gamecube games like Sonic Adventure 2 and Skies of Arcadia prove that to work on hardware of similar power.

All I can say for ports is Nintendo is paving the way when you think about it. Dr.Mario Wii and Puzzloop/Action Lopp/Magnetica titles both could be examples of this (depends on how you define port really but in the case of former they could have justed released it on the VC rather than making a whole new version).



KirbyPunk said:

It would be great to see this happen. I've never played Dreamcast. I also would love to see a brand new side scrolling Mario platformer.



whalleywhat said:

@New Player: The original code for PDS has been lost, so the only way to recreate is either emulate it or rebuild it from the ground up (i.e. not happening)
I see no reason why, once the VC level profits start rolling in, we won't start seeing titles like these on WiiWare. I guess Rez wouldn't be HD, but imagine playing it with the Wiimote.



Manicfatty said:

I've enjoyed reading your reviewers takes on VC games, and in particular some of the TG16/CD games that I may have missed. For that I say job well done. But your assertion that the Wii isn't capable of emulating systems more powerful than the N64 is, well, laughable. To further solidify the inaccuracy of your statement, you use the Saturn and a Playstation game as your examples of that which cannot be done. Newer systems? Those were peer systems, out at the same time and roughly the same in terms of overall power. In fact, the only important (in terms of emulation) difference in the systems' handling of 3D is the Saturn's use of rectangles instead of triangles. The major stumbling point is the same one that I feel will hamper most Wiiware games - storage space. There is no way you could download a game like Panzer Dragoon Saga, with it's multiple discs. This is something for Nintendo to address, and soon. Castlevania: SotN? It's a Playstation game. Completely doable...but once again, it's a space thing, not a power issue. You can throw together a cheap PC that's no where near as powerful as the Wii and emulate roms of these games, or even play from the discs themselves (If your naughty). I just hate to see such inaccurate statements show up on, of all things, a Nintendo fan site. It's hard enough seeing this sort of thing on other sites' boards, and the misinformation on the Wii systems capabilities. That extends to the assertion that the Wii is 'about' as powerful as an XBOX. It is, (as has been intimated by various developers) in fact, capable of much more. C:SotN as a direct port of the XBLA version? Not fully intact. But other than a drop in resolution and the storage issue there is no reason why it can't technically be pulled off. And the PS1 version would be a cake walk...if we got a damn hard drive. It's also a little confusing that you later claim that it COULD be done...outside of emulation...with effort by the developer. Saturn, Playstation, N64...even Dreamcast not beyond the system's power. For god's sake, the DREAMCAST COULD EMULATE A PLAYSTATION...HELLO...and modestly enhance the games. Accuracy and focus in an article like this is important. So many 'hardcore gamers' are ready to write the system off. Let's not give them fuel for false and unfounded rumors. Thanks for listening. Not trying to be an ass. Just concerned. Oh...own all the systems, btw...not a Nintendo fanboy



Manicfatty said:

ps. my friend has a modest (read old) pc gaming rig (and by gaming rig, I mean reserved for emulation...not a 3D monster) and he hasn't had a troubles emulating Dreamcast or Saturn games. It's not a dual core powerhouse. Just an observation. I gues it just depends on how you're set up, memory and the emulator you're using. He does just fine.



Starwolf_UK said:

@Manicfatty. All I can say is we won't be seeing a Playstation emulator on the Wii. Remember Bleem (you should you referenced Bleemcast...which it must be said leaves lots to be desired in compatibility*). Yeah Sony sued them off the face of the Earth (well by taking Bleem to court until they couldn't afford a lawyer). Sony still a viable case these days thanks to PSN.
*-Though admitingly you would have to buy a different emulator for each game so to speak.

My thought is the power is there but in terms of complexity in getting the emulation correct it would be more cost-effective to just port the game (and consumers can benefit from having enhancements too such as being able to use the Wii remote). Think of how long its taken Saturn, Dreamcast and beyond to have emulators of acceptable standard. Many of them are far from perfect to this day.



Manicfatty said:

@Starwolf_UK. Oh I agree completely that there won't be a Sony emulator of ANY kind EVER. I was just speaking to the system's ability to do that level of emulation, and giving the Bleemcast series of individual ps1 emulators as an example of what has been done before.

'Think of how long its taken Saturn, Dreamcast and beyond to have emulators of acceptable standard. Many of them are far from perfect to this day.'

I agree with this in spirit, as I waited for these babys to hit their stride myself. The biggest diffence of course is that these were done as home-brew and enthusiast projects, and certainly didn't have the funding and resources that a SEGA/Nintendo joint emulation project would have. If we were talking about a small, underfunded developer getting the rights to handle the emulation and publish the games under the Wiiware label, I think we'd see something akin to the Genesis emulator on the SEGA Smash Pack on the DC (I know SEGA Farmed the project out...I just can't remember to whom). But handled by the companies themselves, I'm sure they would be very solid and quality control, while it might not be perfect, would certainly be much, much tighter.



Manicfatty said:

@Starwolf_UK. ps. heh. Always think of something else just as I post. Your points about the benefits of building the games from ground up with Wii functionality are very well taken. I agree that enhanced versions of classic would be more cost effective, well received and for my part, I see them as the perfect way to promote the wonderful differences between systems. Motion controls, nunchuck (the most underrated part of the Wii experience - Have you played Metal Slug and lobbed your bombs with the 'chuck? FUN!) integration, modest visual enhancments. After all, I have to admit to be seduced by the glorious HD XBLA versions of games. Why not promote the Wii's strenghths in the same fashion? So, yeah...good points all.



whalleywhat said:

@Manicfatty: agreed, I think the main problem with homebrew Saturn emulation is that it was an extremely unorthodox system in its design, and a lot of the time the people working on these projects are trying to reverse engineer the entire thing. Add to that the fact that it was created with 2d in mind and Devs had to be even more unorthdox to coax 3d out of it. For hobbyist projects it's a massive undertaking, but even they're making strides. Given Nintendo and Sega's current relationship, it shouldn't be too hard for Sega to bring the necessary data and make it happen. Saturn emulation on the VC would be a massive coup.



snabald said:

I would love to see SOTN on WiiWare, especially if it had a native wide screen mode!



Damo said:

Manicfatty - you certainly put together a solid argument but I think you overestimate the power of the Wii. Emulating a console like the Saturn is a difficult proposition, and even today the fastest PC isn't able to emulate every Saturn game 100%.

As Whalleywhat says, the Saturn was a pain to program for thanks to the twin CPUs and therefore it's also difficult to emulate accurately. Therefore my original point was perfectly valid - it's unlikely that we will see any more VC channels more powerful than the N64. Yes, the Saturn was a 'peer system' but the aforementioned hardware issue would present a sizeable problem. I'd like to be proven wrong, of course, but I don't see it happening.

Also, Dreamcast emulation is even more unlikely. The reason most PCs can emulate the DC is because it was essentially a PC in a box and used many PC-like components.

And in reference to your original post - I never claimed emulation "could be done with effort from the developer". I referred to the developer taking the original game code (stuff like AI routines, sprite artwork and the like) and totally rebuilding the game from the ground up to suit the Wii hardware (as has been seen with many XBLA games).



Manicfatty said:

Damo - I still believe the Wii has the horses to do the work. Yes, the unusual design of the Saturn (actually 4 processors all together if you count vdp 1 and 2 and their workload) made it hard to program for (not to mention the decision to use quadrilaterals) and I would imagine emulating that mess would be difficult. But once again, I contend that this is one of the reasons that a Saturn emulator produced by SEGA and/or Nintendo would be much more viable. Those who have written the existing Saturn emulators are, no doubt, incredibly gifted. But they also have day jobs and finite resources. Given a team that has worked on the Saturn hardware and whos one purpose is to create a Saturn emulator for the Wii, I think it would be verydoable. As I said before, I'm not a fan boy. In fact, there was a period of loathing Nintendo in the early days because of their arrogance and business practices. But I think people underestimate the Wii. Not that anyone cares anymore, since the whole casual game thing has moved systems like a prune juice and cod-liver oil smoothy moves cheese.

Also, I'm sorry that I read your statement incorrectly. I would love to see SEGA release Saturn games re-built for the Wii. But I still contend that a tight, less bloated 1st party Saturn emulator could work on the Wii. I think that SEGA and Nintendo have to think long and hard as to whether or not it would turn a profit. Nintendo also has to crap or get off the pot and be honest about their plans for storage. But I believe it can be done. Call me an optimist, but I've seen plenty of encouraging things said about the Wii as a system, and it's untapped potential. I actually believe that, for the first time ever, a system may never know it's true potential. The focus on casual gaming, and gamers lowering the bar and buying into the hype that visuals don't matter as much now that Nintendo has opened the market is damaging. There is no motivation to push the hardware when gamers will buy anything that makes you waggle and wiggle. I can't wait to see what Factor 5 is doing. Someone needs to light a fire under other developers. I'm not a graphics whore, but there is no reason we can't have both gameplay and visuals.

But i digress...and that's a whole other topic. Sort of. I guess the point is that everything related to the Wii's power and most examples of what the Wii can do are very distorted and overshadowed by this push towards less is more and casual gaming. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad that the core experience has returned to center stage. I just feel that most developers who could push the machine, won't. Why spend the dollars when you can have greater return on yet another waggle experience with 'stylized' graphics...oh how I've come to hate that word.

I have to say that I've really enjoyed this give and take of ideas and opinions on this site. I'd given up on boards on other sites. Too much bashing and disrespect. Nice to see we can agree to disagree, and be civil. That's refreshing.



Damo said:

We're very civil here, Manicfatty!

I'm also a little worried about the "casual" element that seems to be invading the marketplace thanks to the success of the Wii, but sadly it's the price you have to pay when a console becomes as successful as the Wii has done. I still think we will see some amazing games for the system - Nintendo is a company that values quality - but as you say, some of these 3rd party publishers need a kick up the arse to ensure they don't get lazy with their product.



PoisonedV said:

I cry when I think about the fact that Rez game to the Xbox and not the Wii
in fact I'm crying as a post this. tears are falling on my keyboard



Mabbit said:

ahhhh, back in the day of the beginning of wiiware....and when wiiware world was a stand alone site

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