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Kaasa Interview - Commodore 64 on Virtual Console

Posted by Darren Calvert

If we had reported back in 2006 that the Virtual Console would ever play host to a series of Commodore 64 games we might have been branded as crazy. Heck, some of our readers are too young to know what this home computer was, some even questioned if the beloved breadbox was a competitor of the Nintendo 64!

Despite the initial surprise of getting the first C64 game on the Wii back in March 2008 and scoffers suggesting that no one would pay the same cost as a NES game to download them it – the decision to release these old games on the Wii seems to have been worth it. Older gamers with rose tinted spectacles firmly in place have enjoyed reliving those old classics and even younger gamers seem to have got a kick out of cherry picking some of the classic games which have managed to stand the test of time better than others.

To find out a little more about how this all came about and what the future has in store we got in touch with Commodore Gaming. It turns out that they partner with a German company called Kaasa so our interview was passed over to Nico Kaartinen who was one of the masterminds behind this. With a skill that would impress even an experienced politician he manages to sidestep some of our more probing questions, but given the difficulty of licensing these games from defunct publishers and other factors we can understand this.

Read on and let us know your thoughts below:

VC Reviews: How did the decision to rerelease Commodore 64 games on the Virtual Console come about?

Nico Kaartinen: At the beginning it was all a crazy idea which came up with Commodore Gaming and some other friends from the gaming industry. We have all our interest in retro gaming as it all brings back the memories of how it all started and how much we time we spent playing or coding in front of the C64. At some point we involved Eidos and Alten8 into the idea and we had all pieces together to get this project started.

We decided to move forward and talk with Nintendo and present them our thoughts. The great thing was that Nintendo of Europe was open to our idea from the beginning even though a C64 has never played a big role in Japan. It was not necessarily easy all the time but at the end we established a great relationship with the guys at NOE and are happy that we have so many titles on the Wii C64 VC.

VCR: Can you tell us more about the C64 emulator you are using? What are the challenges involved in making games play correctly on a Wii Remote?

NK: I can not tell you too much about the technical issues of the emulator as this is all being handled by our partner Chris at Alten8. I think he has done and is still doing a great job with all the bits and pieces involved with the emulator. Obviously not all went smooth from the beginning but Chris spent a lot of time to get the emulator as far as it is now.

VCR: Might we see USB keyboard support in the future for some games?

NK: I can say that there is no title planned to use the USB keyboard yet. We have decided to not support it for various reasons but the possibility is there and if we see a good implementation for a game to implement it we will most probably do it. At the end you have the keyboard as a new layer over the game that is running whether it is transparent or not.

VCR: So far you have released a lot of the older C64 classics, but is there a chance we might eventually see games from later in the C64’s lifespan such as the Turrican series, Creatures 1 & 2 and Flimbo's Quest?

NK: As you know yourself the C64 catalogue is so huge and it has so many great titles that it takes some time to decide which titles should be released and which not. I am sure that you will also see titles that have been developed in the later days of the C64, see for example Mayhem in Monsterland which we hopefully surprised people with. It is a great title and impressive to see what John and Steve Rowlands got out of the C64 at the end.

VCR: Have Nintendo mellowed on the Great Giana Sisters yet? Might we ever see that on the Virtual Console?

NK: Interesting question as we have been involved in the mobile phone version of Giana Sisters. It is something I have thought about but currently this title is not in our line up. When you know better it is very interesting to see and read about people’s opinion in forums. Some bits of the actual story are more of an urban legend that people like to tell each other.

VCR: So far we have seen games from Epyx, Hewson, System 3 and First Star Software. What were the obstacles to overcome in working out the licensing for games from these defunct publishers?

NK: I would like to say that this is the easiest part but as licensing contracts were a bit different today than back in the days problems pop up here and there. I am happy that I am working closely together with Darren from Eidos even though he is a very busy person. At the end, the Wii C64 VC gives a wide audience the chance to experience these computer games that many generations were brought up with even though it seems sometimes funny that we have spent hours, days and sometimes weeks in front of certain games and were just flashed when we saw the large pixels moving.

VCR: What is the likelihood of licensing C64 games published by the greats like Codemasters, Ocean, US Gold, Firebird, Elite, Melbourne House, Mastertronic and Kixx? Which ones seem more possible at present?

NK: All of the publishers you mention have had great games during that time. The likelihood that new publishers join the Wii C64 VC is there but who it will be out of your list is something I can not really tell you.

VCR: Do you intend to make C64 games available to the Virtual Console service in Australia and North America soon? What have been the difficulties in doing this so far?

NK: I do understand that this is one of “THE” questions in regards to the Wii C64 VC as I am reading the feedback from your users and other web pages. I can not say if it comes to the regions you refer to.

VCR: Have you got any plans to bring out games from the C64’s big brother, the Amiga eventually?

NK: Did the C64 have a big brother? Seriously speaking, we are currently concentrating our efforts on the C64 releases.

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User Comments (57)

DrakeStaff

#2

Drake said:

From what I understand there's certain licensing issues in the US and Australia. I think Commodore doesn't have the right to rerelease their own games there at the moment.

Lugia2

#3

Lugia2 said:

It's a little annoying though. It would be interesting to see some of these titles _

truercki

#4

truercki said:

I guess you can interpret a lot in the US answer but do I read some hope in those lines ? ;-)

Auntman

#6

Auntman said:

Is Nico Kaartinen a Finn or does he only happen to have a Finnish lastname?

Link79

#7

Link79 said:

I would really like to know why north America isn't getting any Commodore games on VC? I'm starting to doubt we ever will.
It's a shame too because I was really looking forward to checking them out. I've always heard about how popular it was but I guess It's not a high priority to get them released on VC here.

Bristol_Red

#8

Bristol_Red said:

Shame the last question wasn't answered - that's the one answer I was scrolling the interview to see! Man, I'd love the Amiga to come to VC.

Ian_Daemon

#9

Ian_Daemon said:

"good interview though. very interesting and thought provoking."

What are you talking about? He didn't say anything. He said repeatedly: "I can't tell you... doing a great job... I'm glad you're enjoying it."

Although he DID say "I can say that there is no title planned to use the USB keyboard yet."

Outrunner

#10

Outrunner said:

When I saw "Flimbo's Quest" mentioned I nearly fell off my chair. Lol. Hope it makes it to VC eventually as that was a childhood favourite of mine. I loved Rick Dangerous too.
Were any of the Dizzy adventure games ever available on C64? I can't remember. I'd love to play one of those.

The_Fox

#12

The_Fox said:

Would have been better if he were more forthcoming. Oh well, he probably didn't have much leeway in what he could talk about, I guess.

CorbsAdmin

#15

Corbs said:

Well my Commodore 64 setup is on its last legs as it is...they'd better hurry and bring these games to the US Wii Virtual Console or I'm afraid I'll have to resort to less ethical solutions. :)

And while I'm at it, here is a list of C64 titles I'd like to see: Master of the Lamps, Karateka, Jumpman Jr., Forbidden Forest, and Breakdance. :)

Rawk_Hawk

#18

Rawk_Hawk said:

Oh well it does not look like its coming here soon Bummer :(

I keep my fingers crossed for 32x. Although I am sure Sega would push for that one

MayhemStaff

#19

Mayhem said:

Just as well I still have my C64 and tons of games, given I have a US Wii... still, would be nice for American peeps to relive some of their childhood too.

marktheshark

#20

marktheshark said:

NK:" I can say that there is no title planned to use the USB keyboard yet. We have decided to not support it for various reasons but the possibility is there and if we see a good implementation for a game to implement it we will most probably do it. At the end you have the keyboard as a new layer over the game that is running whether it is transparent or not."

Wow, just wow

what's the point of not bringing USB keyboard support to VC C64 games?

FGOD

#21

FGOD said:

@ corbie: how do you mean your less ethical solution? i hope can have more figured out as some of us do, cause we are stuck at problems with the onscreen keyboard and multi prg/disc games...

timp29

#22

timp29 said:

Corbie is going to storm NoA offices and put a gun to their heads until they promise to put c64 on NA VC

Kawaiipikachu

#23

Kawaiipikachu said:

Why ask about the fact wether Amige coming to the VC or not as when Commodore went bankrupt Amega seprated themselfs from Commodore & even ironically attemted to but out Commodore but unfortunately someone beat them to it .

Twilight_Crow

#24

Twilight_Crow said:

As it seems, theres still hope for C64 on NA VC, but not that much. :'( I want Mayhem in Monsterland.snif

Adamant

#25

Adamant said:

Ah, Flimbo's Quest. I believe that was the fist non-arcade game I played in my life. I can barely remember anything from it, but that would be a day 1 purchase for purely nostalgic reasons.

classicmike

#26

classicmike said:

Well, I guess this explains why we haven't got any C64 games yet, since it is being released through a German company. But it also sounds like we might get it here soon. (hopefully)

mummydaddy

#29

mummydaddy said:

I still think that c64 games are overpriced and more expensive than you were able to obtain them yesteryear *. I think they would sell more if they went for pocket change i.e. the 100 or 200 points that you always seem to have left over. At that I would probably end up buying them all regardless of reviews. Again I would love to see the spectrum (48, 128, +, +2, +3 et al(Sam coupe anyone)) grace the VC, also at a decent price.

  • Back in the day budget releases and PS2/PS3 style platinum games retailed at about £1.99 and sometimes even less.
Betagam7

#31

Betagam7 said:

Mummydaddy: as explained in a previous topic C64 games are not overpriced compared to "yesteryear". The £1.99 games you speak of were ONLY budget games (and usually very poor ones). Most budget games were £2.99 and by the end of the C64's life £3.99. Full price new games were £9.99 to £12.99 and include the likes of Mayhem in Monsterland (and most of the other VC releases) which you can get on Wii for a meagre £3.50.

Will

#32

Will said:

@Betagam7, Also, lets not forget, we dont have to sit through loading times on the VC!!!! Thats so important with the C64 games and makes it totaly worth any meagre price differance.

As I recall, C64 games in Ireland were five pounds. Thats not budget titles now, thats the good stuff like creatures and last ninja titles (on tape). Translate that to 6.35 euros today (not counting inflation) and whats the problem? This is a freakin bargain right here!!

Wario4mom

#33

Wario4mom said:

It would be be so much better if they put sega saturn games on the USA VC instead of C64 games. ( Mega man 8!)

Betagam7

#34

Betagam7 said:

Strange about the Irish prices. Are you sure that was always the case and they wernt just being sold for that near the end of its life?
In England the full price games were always around a tenner.
Full price games came in a bigger case (about twice the size of a normal cassette tape) wheras budget titles came in a normal cassette tape.

Wario4Mom: You can forget all about Sega Saturn games. The machine is nigh on impossible to emulate, not to mention the size issue. Also, even if they could do it, why on earth would they make it an alternative to the C64?

Will

#35

Will said:

Yeah, Im pretty sure I remember those prices. £4.50 to £5 for a cassette, and around £12 for a cartridge. The shop I used to buy them in wasnt a chain or anything, it was just some guys corner shop, so he probly addded on a £1 or 50p more say. I never got any game in the bigger case you mentioned though.

Wario4mom

#36

Wario4mom said:

At Betagam7: Good points in what you said but i would rather play panzer dragoon saga than mayhem in monster land don't you think.

marktheshark

#37

marktheshark said:

Well, I would rather have both C64 AND Sega Saturn games come to NA. But under one condition...

RELEASE CHESTER CHEETAH: TOO COOL TO FOOL FOR THE SEGA GENESIS FIRST! :p

(sorry for the caps lock)

Omega

#38

Omega said:

The majority of C64 games was very difficult. And it was usually not possible to save the game progress. Perhaps they should add some kind of "selectable savestates" to the C64 emulator on the Wii. Anyway, to put something on the record, I would like to see: 1.) Spherical, 2.) Hard'n'Heavy, 3.) Giana Sisters, 4.) Katakis (Denaris), 5.) Rick Dangerous, 6.) Ghosts'n'Goblins, 7.) X-Out, 8.) Logical, 9.) Turrican, 10.) Hawkeye. These are ten of my favorite games on the bread box. (In no particular order.)

Betagam7

#39

Betagam7 said:

Wario4Mom: Luckily for me I have PDS at home to play on my Saturn ;)
Interesting point though. If these games could be emulated then don't you find it odd the publishers arnt cashing in on their notoriety by charging high prices for them. I'm sure even a remake of Radient Silvergun could command a high price for download, yet they'd probably just whack it out for 1000 points!

Will, sounds like the corner shop guy was ripping you off a bit there. Those must have been the budget rereleases of the title you mentioned if they came in small cassette boxes. ALso the fact he was selling carts (which themselves were pretty rare) sounds like it was around the time of the C64 console that only ran on carts and had no keyboard. This would have been fairly late into the systems life.

Am I the only one hoping for Head over Heels incidently?

Will

#40

Will said:

@Betagam7..hmmm, its kinda hard to remember stuff from when your 11. But I still have my C64 at home, and its definitly got a keyboard. Got the C64, tape deck and power supply. But other leads, joysticks and all games were lost somewhere along the way. :( Maybe he was rippin me off, but it didnt matter at the time. It was the only shop in town selling the C64.

Outrunner

#41

Outrunner said:

My C64 didn't have a tape deck. I was only wee so didn't know much about it other than that I had 2 carts for it, both with 4 games each. The first one had Fiendish Freddy's Big Top o' Fun, a Soccer game, Flimbo's Quest (my fave), and Klax. The other one which was on a red cart had another Soccer game, Rick Dangerous, a skateboarding game, Stunt Car Racer I think and Dizzy's Fast Food. Oh wait, that's five games... Aw man the memories...

Airola

#42

Airola said:

@Betagam7
While it's true that cartidges weren't as common as cassettes and diskettes, there have been carts available almost the whole life of C64 and they weren't that uncommon. Of course, the more "advanced" games such as Batman The Movie and Robocop 3 were made as carts in 1990 or so, but most of the game carts were made in 1983 or so.
Well, I guess you already knew that but I just had to write something :D

And yes, Head Over Heels would be great! Although more than that I would like to see Gogo the Ghost released as a VC game. That's one of my favourite games ever (and not just as a C64 game).

Outrunner

#44

Outrunner said:

Aw cool! Thanks Mayhem. Yeah I remember getting the one with Rick Dangerous awhile afterwards.
Just looked at your scans there. Yeah the names definately ring a bell. Power Play and Fun Play. That one was red and the Flimbo's Quest one was black.

MayhemStaff

#45

Mayhem said:

No problem... many people know me as the bloke who knows about Commodore cartridges ;)

Nathan

#46

Nathan said:

Hah... Yeah, I remember the Great Giana Sisters... wasn't that bad, although if i can recall correctly, the first levels were basically straight up clones.

tasthomas

#49

tasthomas said:

As an American, I would love to have the C64, but they still haven't put out any of my favorite games: Roarwar Europa, Gunship, Airborne Ranger, Koronis Rift to name a few.

RadioShadow

#53

RadioShadow said:

You American's get 60Hz games and you want Commodore 64 Games as well? You greedy people! :P

Betagam7

#54

Betagam7 said:

Good point. I often don't think American's (particularly the young generation) appreciate just how good they have it.
They moan about having to wait whole weeks extra for some games to arrive on their VC like its a huge injustice. Try living in the early 90's when not only did Europe not even get half of their releases (it was decided, for example that we wouldn't enjoy RPG's but would just love the latest Madden franchise!) but that when we did we got a slower, bordered version based on the fact that we had a superior TV display!
I'd gladly swap not having the C64 on an emulator for the hundreds of games we've missed out on over the years, not to mention the continued 50hz misery Nintendo afflicts on us apparently on the purposes of "nostalgia"!

porkroll

#56

porkroll said:

Ultmate Wizard would be great. I still have my old system with the tape deck. I would also like to see impossible mission.

Captain_Konami

#57

Captain_Konami said:

Ahhh yes, the ol C64 cassette deck............

I'm not sure which ring of hell it belongs in, but which ever one I'm sure it'd be titled "Press Play on Tape." :)

It made me appreciate my lone cartridge game, Congo Bongo.

If the US VC ever gets C64, I hope they get around to putting out Rambo First Blood Part 2 for it. For some odd reason I miss that one as much as any of them. Between that and Raid Over Moscow I lost many an hour.

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