News Article

Talking Point: The Virtual Console's PAL Problem

Posted by Michael Teasdale

60Hz and the confusing state of Virtual Console emulation

“Many people don’t know what the difference between 50Hz and 60Hz is, but since most modern TV models support 60Hz it’s definitely worth finding out.”

This interesting and illuminative statement, plucked readily from any number of Nintendo Wii game manuals, is fascinating in its transparency; boldly asserting what the Big N believes to be the mindset of its European market while also confirming with knowing awareness its knowledge that in 2010 there are few, if any, gamers boasting television sets so outmoded that they are unable to take advantage of the benefits that 60Hz gaming can offer them.

The statement is also supremely frustrating for PAL Wii owners wishing to make use of the console’s Virtual Console service. The PAL VC, unlike Nintendo’s retail output, boasts a mere handful of titles that run in 60Hz, which, when weighed against the hundreds of titles that do not, displays a depressingly unpleasant dichotomy with the policy that Nintendo so clearly endorses in the instruction manuals for its retail games.

But what is "60Hz"? What benefits does it bring? Why should anyone care about playing games in this format over the traditional 50Hz method and what makes people so angry about the prospect of a game running in 50Hz that they would decide not to purchase the title in question?

Playing Sonic in 50Hz just isn't right.


To answer these questions, it is first important to distinguish the basic differences between the encoding system of European Television sets in comparison to those of our North American and Japanese cousins. While the NTSC format is the standard in North America and Japan, most European (and some other regions) television sets use the Phase Alternating Line (PAL) method of encoding. Without becoming embroiled in the technicalities of the two mediums the important differences to distinguish here is that NTSC televisions typically output a 60Hz refresh rate, displaying 30 frames per second with each frame consisting of 525 lines. In comparison PAL televisions traditionally output a 50Hz refresh rate displaying only 25 frames per second but with an improved resolution of 625 lines.

In the Eighties and Nineties PAL gamers frequently received a raw deal from publishers. Our release schedules were staggeringly far behind those of our NTSC regions and, as a consequence of this, we almost always received ports of North American title for systems such as the NES, SMS, SNES and Mega Drive. For most developers, porting games to the PAL region became a difficult problem of pushing a square block awkwardly into a round hole, with inevitably undesirable results.

The first problem was that the slower frame rate of the PAL output could lead to timing problems with gameplay when running with code created for a faster refresh rate. There were two solutions to this unwanted and unacceptable situation: recode the game to output correctly or slow down the game to match the reduced refresh rate. Inevitably, faced with the prospect of an extra workload for the former, almost all developers chose the latter option and as a result PAL gamers experienced their games running at a speed 17.5% slower than their NTSC counterparts. Not a good start.

The second problem occurred, ironically, due to PAL television’s superior resolution. Because the vast majority of games were created for the 525 line display of NTSC televisions, the extra lines available to PAL TV’s were not utilised when porting the game over to PAL machines. This created an unfortunate “letterbox” effect; with ugly black borders at the top and bottom of the screen filling in the gaps left by the missing lines not utilised in the conversion. This by itself might have been bearable if it wasn’t for the fact that the incorrect aspect ratio caused by the implementation of these borders left the graphics themselves taking on a squashed appearance as developers were, again, reluctant or unwilling to spend time and money recoding the games to compensate for the different output.

For those still struggling to imagine what playing a game at a slower speed and with a squashed letterboxed display must have been like in comparison to the original, we suggest you take a look at the following video which compares neatly the differences between the NTSC and PAL versions of one of the Nineties most popular titles: Sonic the Hedgehog.

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The difference is immediately noticeable: with the PAL version chugging along with noticeably slower gameplay and music, not to mention the compressed nature of its graphics and those ugly blue borders at the top and bottom of the screen. In comparison there can surely be few who would claim to prefer this version over the full screen, full speed original available to the NTSC market.

Consumer Consciousness and the Rise of 60Hz TV

While it’s probably fair to say that the degraded quality of PAL conversions went largely unnoticed in the 8-bit era, burgeoning consumer awareness began to grow during the 16-bit era, fuelled by an increased exposure to what was then labelled the “grey import” market.

Fed up with interminable delays and an unreliable release schedule, PAL gamers began turning to North American and Japanese imports and an increasing number of people began noticing the difference that existed between PAL and NTSC games. Television technology had moved on, and many PAL sets were now able to display NTSC outputs. People became increasingly aware that they had essentially been paying for inferior quality products for many years and the complaints began rolling in, backed by a large section of the UK videogame press who further drew attention to the problem.

The initial response to the complaints by several big name publishers was encouraging. SEGA partially recoded the PAL version of Sonic 2 so that the audio ran at the same speed as its NTSC counterpart (although the borders and squashed screen display were retained) while Nintendo made a similar effort with Super Mario Kart, increasing the game speed to compensate to generally mixed results. To be fair to developers, such recoding to translate the game to a 50Hz PAL output was inevitably time-consuming, potentially pushing back releases still further.

Wave Race 64 suffered a poor PAL conversion.

By the time Generation Five arrived the output for Nintendo’s flagship N64 had become an unreliable mixed bag; with horrendous PAL ports of crucial first party titles such as Wave Race 64 and Pilotwings 64 being counterbalanced by carefully optimised efforts from European third-party developers such as Rare.

The efforts and passion of some of those responsible for going that extra mile is to be commended. An excellent interview with one such figure, the late Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, responsible for the PAL conversion of N64 launch game Shadows of the Empire is available at Game Set Watch. Meanwhile, another equally good piece by UK journalist Stuart Campbell highlighting the contrasting views shown by higher profile figures at Nintendo was published in N64 magazine.

The 60Hz Solution

Putting aside the properly converted exceptions that occasionally saw release it remained obvious that, to advance beyond relying on the goodwill of a handful of individuals, then a more robust solution had to be forthcoming if developers and publishers were to permanently address the situation and give PAL gamers the conversions they deserved.

The solution in question was pioneered in 1999 with the launch of SEGA's Dreamcast console across PAL territories. The company had seemingly been listening diligently to the complaints of consumers and emerged as a veritable white knight to European gamers. Many Dreamcast games, taking advantage of the new technology of modern PAL television sets, allowed the user to select the option to run the game in PAL60 mode, essentially allowing the game to run in 60Hz exactly as its NTSC version had, and importantly, without the need for the type of major recoding that had put off so many other developers in the past. Nintendo’s GameCube followed SEGA's lead and Microsoft’s Xbox even went so far as to offer a 60Hz dashboard. In what seemed like an early admission of 60Hz's prevalence long before the Wii manuals were ever printed, Nintendo began releasing 60Hz-only titles in some instances, including key titles such as Metroid Prime 2 and the Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition. To PAL gamers it seemed like all the troubles of the past were over.

Animal Crossing came in 60Hz, but its NES games didn't.


By the time the Virtual Console service was announced for Wii, worrying about poor PAL conversions seemed to have become a thing of the past. In reality, however, Nintendo had already marked its intentions with the much delayed PAL release of Gamecube title Animal Crossing. Although the game itself ran in 60Hz, the NES games that could be unlocked within it curiously did not, but instead were the same versions available during the 1980s. With the Wii taking a cue from the Xbox and incorporating the option to run the system itself in 60Hz then Virtual Console releases would feature the same option. Sadly the initial week of releases was a disappointment.

When service launch title F-Zero slipped onto the screen along with borders and 17.5% slower gameplay there was uproar online with numerous complaints and threats to boycott the service. At first, just as in the Nineties, this tidal wave of complaints appeared to cause Nintendo to listen: while not officially acknowledging that the inability to run 60Hz games on a system with a 60Hz dashboard was in any way technologically impaired, small improvements were noted with the next batch of VC releases. While doing nothing to fix its NES titles, all subsequent SNES titles and a handful of N64 titles were recoded to remove the borders and make them run in full screen, if not full speed. The rest of the VC continued to be a mixed bag, with SEGA, once the white knight of European gaming with its pioneering Dreamcast, releasing a mass of 50Hz bordered Mega Drive and Master System titles for the VC service, while curiously releasing corresponding titles in full 60Hz on the rival Xbox Live Arcade service. As more and more systems were added the problem mounted, with just a handful of imports and the library released for the Turbografx console running in 60Hz mode, and this only because those titles never received PAL versions in the first place.

Perhaps the most peculiar releases, however, were to come again from SEGA. Whereas all Hanabi inports found in Nintendo’s VC output run in full-screen, full-speed 60Hz, SEGA's Hanabi releases such as Pulseman, Puyo Puyo 2 and M.U.S.H.A run, through some bizarre emulation device, in exactly the same squashed 50Hz format they might have done had they received their PAL conversions in the Nineties. This was not a case of “gaming as you remember it," but round pegs in square holes all over again and even more inexplicable in its execution than it was back in the day; with seemingly nothing preventing SEGA’s games from following Nintendo’s 60Hz-only Hanabi lead other than implementation.

Following the recent issues with the PAL release of Last Ninja 3 for VC, the question might well be asked whether Nintendo is completely aware of the quality of content being placed onto its service, something evidenced by the following screenshot which can be replicated by looking at any of SEGA’s 50Hz Hanabi offerings:


While the Wii Shop Channel might claim “runs in 60Hz,” five minutes spent playing any of the the titles in question will be enough to convince PAL gamers that this is not the case. Why this misleading information continues to be displayed on the Wii Shop Channel is something Nintendo has yet to confirm, although it should be noted that the recent NEO GEO import release Iron Clad also suffers from being shoehorned into 50Hz, but has had a similar message removed from its software confirmation screen days after its release after numerous complaints.

The Future

So what are the possible reasons for Nintendo’s decision to make the VC an almost exclusively 50Hz area?

It could be that the company would argue that it wants to ensure that everyone can download and play the titles in question and, although they are few and far between, the reality is that there are still people out there with television sets that might not properly display a game running in 60Hz.

There are two problems with this as an argument. Firstly Nintendo has for some time now been releasing key titles such as Metroid Prime 2 in 60Hz only. If it doesn’t care about excluding this userbase to a core first party title then why would it care about excluding them from a download service which, by its own admission, is only being used by a minority of Wii owners? Secondly, Nintendo has released 60Hz titles on the service itself in the form of its Hanabi imports, and as the Wii has the option to run retail games in 50Hz and 60Hz without a problem then where is the harm in giving people the same alternative on the VC? Why lock Virtual Console titles out of what is a useable, built-in and furthermore company-endorsed feature of your console?

Another argument, and one frequently used by Nintendo’s Service Centre when fielding complaints about the issue is the old chestnut: “this is how the games were originally,” and therefore, “this is how people remember them.” While this may be true, does that lead to the conclusion that because we played an inferior port in the Eighties or Nineties we should be unable to play the game as it was intended, when the technology allows it, in the year 2010? In other words, because we may first have watched Raiders of the Lost Ark on a grainy VHS copy don’t we ever want to watch it, digitally remastered, on DVD?

In some gamers' eyes, Nintendo has yet to produce any viable arguments against having a 60Hz option for its VC library. Real change was brought about in the Nineties, and an industry standard was created out of people’s frustrations and refusal to accept being sold inferior conversions.

There's one final quote from those Wii instruction manuals that resonates in favour of users seeking out the 60Hz option:

“We at Nintendo want players to enjoy our games under the best possible play conditions."

Over three years into the Wii's life, it’s time Nintendo began living up to that ethos.

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User Comments (148)



Big_A2 said:

It really has gone on for long enough. I want to play Mega Man 2 and Castlevania at the speed they were meant to played. Is it really so much to ask?



Omega said:

Interesting article.

But I would not see this 50Hz thing as a problem. It is in my eyes a matter of what one is accustomed to. I have played Sonic on the PAL Mega Drive with 50Hz since it was released in 1991. So I'm really used to the slower speed and that feels just right to me. When I recently had the opportunity to play Sonic in 60Hz, I just thought: Wow! That is horrible. It runs much too fast. This Mega Drive must have a defective timer or something.

I agree that it's a good thing if we always had the choice between 50Hz and 60Hz. But to force a game in 60Hz, that europeans have always known in 50Hz is the wrong way imho. This can only come from someone who has always lived in an NTSC region. Really, I don't want my games faster than they were before.



Corbs said:

I finally got the chance to try out Sonic the Hedgehog in 50Hz mode and I have no idea how anyone could ever stand the play the game that slow. But as Omega says, if you played it that way originally, maybe it's not so bad.



Sean007s said:

Is this the reason why some old games have faster music in their American versions and the European versions have slower music?



Ren said:

I wish I was a nicer guy but I can only hear the voice of Nelson saying, "Ha Ha!".

besides, totally re-code a bunch of really old games for people who will buy them anyway out of nostalgia? Seriously? Sure that sucks but it's not gonna happen; just be happy it's fixed for new games.
Looks like the slow sonic might have actually been fun anyway; Those dumb Sonic games where always so choppy and cheesy, never understood the appeal.



Jon2 said:

I can't see why Nintendo doesn't give us the 60hz 480P versions. I only buy TurboGrfX games on VC now days as I cant stand the resolution problems and the slow speed.
Would it really be such a big deal for Nintendo to give us what we want? Is there licensing issues stopping them or are they just ignorant?



JakobG said:

Fun fact: PAL was created 5 years after the NTSC format.

I'm pretty annoyed from those format problems. It sucks to be forced to stick with 3 objects in the same format - TV, Wii and Game.



Mange said:

How about you NintendoLife have a chat with Nintendo regarding this issue? I believe you are big enough to actually get some answers.



Big_A2 said:

@7.Ren: They don't need to bloody "re-code" them, they just have to give us the US version. It's not that hard.

Also, it not always has to do with nostalgia. Some poeple are playing these games for the first time. They should be played how they were meant to be played. They should give us a choice between 50hz or 60hz, so people can have their nostalgia if they want.



Outrunner said:

For me it is a problem. Certain 50hz games such as Sonic will not display on my TV at all...



Wilhjelm said:

Excellent Work, Betagem 7!
So are the imports we get in 60 Hz e.g. Ogre Battle March of the black queen, in NTSC or PAL 60? I suppose converting games that were originally released in NTSC to PAL 60, would require some recoding, or am I wrong, folks?



Sean_Aaron said:

Excellent article; hopefully someone at NoE will take note!

Unless you have a really old TV does it matter if it's PAL60 or NTSC? I mean my TV will display either so both are going to show up as 480i on my set.

Unless it was a text-heavy game which was localised for a specific country, I'd say just release the American version. The stuff about the Sega imports is just bizarre, why would they put them through a PAL converter?

Ultimately it is kind of annoying there are multiple TV standards, but I do like having the better colour reproduction PAL offers over NTSC and having my DVDs natively display in 576p is pretty nice too. Now if someone could only convince North America and Japan to switch from 100/110v to 220v home current then I could import electronics in peace!



Jay1 said:

Really nice article. I stopped buying VC games a long time ago because of this very issue. Sorry, NoE, but my money stays in my pocket until you stop stitching up EU Wii owners with inferior versions of releases.



Cia said:

I prefer the pal versions, cos that's how they were when i was a kid. I just couldn't play games like mega man 2 as NTSC, it just doesn't have the same nostalgic feeling if the soundtrack and the game itself moves too fast



TKOWL said:

The only porting problem on my Wii is that the Wing Fortress Zone in Sonic 2 is missing the bass.



Neoprenanzug said:

@7.Ren and 11.Big A2,
That's right, there is no need to recode the games. In fact, in many cases there is no need to deliver the NTSC version at all. Just take the PAL version, let it run with 60 Hz and that's it. I remember having a 50/60 Hz switch on my Super NES and Mega Drive, and I played all my PAL games in 60 Hz with full speed and full screen just by using that switch. The number of games which could run into timing problems should be very low. At least, concerning games of the 8- and 16-bit-era. Polygonial games could be a different story. And, of course, with those semi-optimized PAL versions, things get even more complicated. But in the end, it's just a matter of emulation.

Well, I think it's a mix of both. I would assume the games are in NTSC format, because they only exist in NTSC format in the first place. Now, the Wii console choses the video output depending on the software you play. If you play a NTSC retail game, the console kinda "turns into" a NTSC console. Try playing an import retail game on a PAL Wii with an RGB cable on a CRT and you will see. Nintendo's NTSC consoles don't output RGB, they use S-Video, so you got wrong colours when using a RGB cable on a NTSC console (respectively playing a NTSC game on a PAL console). That's why we got all those "video fix" issues in homebrew import tools. Anyway, since "import" VC games are displayed correctly on my tube telly with RGB cable, I conclude that they are displayed in PAL. Or, in short: The game itself is NTSC, but it runs in PAL60. Basically the same effect as the 60/60 Hz switch I mentioned above.



MrWout said:

"ll subsequent SNES titles and a handful of N64 titles were recoded to remove the borders and make them run in full screen, if not full speed. "

I don't know if I'm getting this right, but does this mean (almost) all SNES VC games run like they should (like their NTSC counterparts) or does this only apply to Nintendo first party games ?

Funny thing really I was just about to check the forums about this because I knew there were some PAL problems but I didn't really knew how they really showed up on screen and with what games So spot-on timing



zemulii said:

Thankyou for writing this! I'm not usually one to get really angry over something gaming related. But this was just going too far. I sent a few angry emails to Nintendo a couple of years ago. Of course all I ever got in response was "we want to be true to the original experience". Which only made me more frustrated of course and I haven't bought a VC game since.

This should never have happened in the first place... treating paying customers like idiots. I decided to PAY for these games, rather than go the easy road of emulation. And this is the "quality" Nintendo experience I get??



edhe said:

Streets of Rage 3 is a perfect example of a terrible PAL conversion. The music and gameplay isn't slowed down to compensate - it just stutters and slows down (considerably) when the screen gets to busy.

And the Streets of Rage is always a busy place.



Luigi-la-bouncy said:

Thank god for the PS3's ultimate megadrive collection; it's such a joy playing games like sonic and streets of rage in 60hz with no borders. Going back and playing my old VC megadrive games after that is like playing with a concussion or something.



RedBlueSpot said:

Guys, guys, guys... how many times do I need to tell you this; Faster isn't always better



Betagam7 said:

Thanks for all your comments guys. Keep them coming and perhaps we can then try to get a response to the article from Nintendo (or or at least clarification over the bizarre Sega Hanabi issue) . I'd also like to thank Damo for giving me the opportunity to write this article, as many of you know its something I'm rather passionate about. Apologies it took me so long Damo

@ MrWout: 99% of SNES games have had some optimisation to them to remove borders so that they run full screen, however they still don't run full speed in most cases.
With N64 titles its more of a mixed bag, some like SM64 have had the borders removed however others such as Waverace 64 seem largely untouched, a real shame given that its not even technically the original N64 version (note those banner changes) and its a game that really suffered from its PAL port in terms of speed and borders.



Shiryu said:

This is what being an European gamer is all about. This is the reason I gave up on the Wii VC service for over an year now. The 50hz vs 60hz is only one issue, but there is also the fact that the games have no correct screen ratio for widescreen TVs, no graphic filtering options (trust me, you NEED them on HDTVs), Neo-Geo games come locked in spanish (which as you can assume is not what we speak over here in Portugal... I have yet to try and change my console region to see if this solves this) and then on top of it all, the game prices (especialy the Hanabi games).

All in all, and even if I'm grateful for games like Rondo of Blood and Tactics Ogre (both never released in Europe) I am a serious retro gamer and I spend way to many years suffering (it's the correct word) of gimped experiences just because of where I was born.

Good intentions, poor execution. Also not Nintendo's fault, but we all know how troublesome getting permissions to republish copyrighted games from decades ago can be all sorts of impossible.

I have found an alternative for my retro gaming. Nintendo should really step up it's game on the VC. I'm sure I must not be alone in dissatisfaction with this service.



Big_A2 said:

@19.Neoprenanzug: But there lies a problem, becuase some games (eg Mega Man 3) have the music sped up to match the speed of the NTSC version but the game isn't. So, if we ran it in PAL60, the game would play fine but the music would be too fast. Some games have this, others don't.

I think if they just gave the NTSC versions to us it would be a fix that would work with all the games.

Untill then, Princess Toadstool will just have to wait 17.5% longer than American Princess Toadstools to be saved.



Genjuro said:

This is such a massive issue, it really is, and I can't believe Nintendo haven't done anything about it yet. I've written to them a couple of times, and they are aware of the issue, so they should do something. If nothing else they should add an option, so you can pick either 50 or 60hz.

I actually really like the Virtual Console, and would buy games reguarly, but as it is I will only buy PC Engine ones as i know they are 60hz. I will not pay my own money for games that are gimped by being 50hz, especially when i would have played them at 60hz back in the day on an import machine. 17.5% is a big difference, you really notice it in the music and smoothness. If you had an RPG which would take 40 hours to finish at 60hz, you'd be looking at 47 hours on a PAL machine!

We should start a campaign on facebook or something to refuse to buy any more VC games until Nintendo fix the issue.



Cipher said:

Holy hell, I knew my Sonic 1 was playing slowly, I didn't realise how slowly.



Steuph said:

Ironically, I bought a Samsung 24" LCD as a secondary screen and when I plug the Wii via the component cable and play a 50 Hz VC title... it tells me it does not support this mode.



Oregano said:

It doesn't really bother me when it comes to VC games, although it would be nice to have 60hz versions.

It annoys with new games though, it shouldn't happen in this day and age. I'm looking at you Madworld.



Guybrush_Threepwood said:

Excellent article! Nintendo Europe should finally acknowledge their big mistake and deliver the 60 Hz versions of all VC-games to Europe. I mean we got already the inferior versions in the 80/90-ies. But why does Nintendo have to repeat the same mistake nowadays? If you're paying for a videogame you should expext receiving the best possible version. It's a shame for Nintendo Europe that emulators can offer a better gaming experience for PAL-gamers than Nintendo's Virtual Console. Metroid Prime 2 is the perfect example that 60 Hz compatibility can only be a lame excuse. Even my tube television (over 10 years old) supports PAL/NTSC 60 Hz.



Betagam7 said:

Cipher, you make a very good point. Sadly Nintendo is probably right in assserting that many people in this generation don't know the difference. We now have a whole new generation of gamers who most likely never played these games in their original format and never heard about the problems with older PAL conversions. Part of my motivation for writing this article was to raise consumer awareness of the issue and get people to see what they are missing out on and just how easily it could be prevented.

It's interesting to hear people saying that they have stopped purchasing VC games or avoided buying certain titles because of this issue. Certainly I can think of ten or more titles that I would have snapped up, not least of all Waverace 64.

I wonder if Nintendo realises it is actively losing out on sales by not offering a 60hz alternative.

Oregano: you make a very good point about Madworld's 50hz release. If we as consumers become complacent about the quality of virtual offerings then its easy to see why publishers might feel they can lower their standards at retail too.



Token_Girl said:

Yeah, this sucks pretty bad for you guys. I guess Nintendo doesn't realize that paid versions of software should be better than (or at least equal to) the free versions in some way. (I'm also looking at you, needless lack of rumble in N64 games). I honestly don't understand why they can't just offer a choice on output method.



Genjuro said:

There is now a group on Facebook called "Campaign to get Nintendo to make all European Virtual Console games 60hz".



Yosher said:

It sucks to play games in an inferior version than those of other parts of the world, that's for sure, but I personally never really minded it all that much. It wouldn't been nice to play the games as they were intended to be played, but as long as I can play them it's all fine with me.

This was a pretty big problem with a game like Final Fantasy 9 on the PSX though, if you were a completist. Because the game ran slower, PAL gamers couldn't obtain a secret weapon, Excalibur II, because the game would have to be cleared within a certain time limit, which wasn't possible because no matter how fast the game was cleared on PAL, it would always be too slow to obtain the weapon. (That's where cheating devices come in handy I suppose! Not that I support them though.)



Rensch said:

At least our TV shows look much better than in "Never The Same Colour".



wow..I never imagined such big issues with the VC over there.
But from what I have assumed after reading this, the whole blame relies on SEGA, not Nintendo. Is not that I defending them, but Nintendo doesn't make these games. Companies makes the games for the VC and Nintendo just release them there. So instead of blaming Nintendo for everything again why don't complain to SEGA?

Also, like some say, the VC is sadly used by the minority of gamers and is aimed more to the Nostalgic value. Why spent more money to recode something that won't sell that much?



Skrubber said:

I only download a few european VC games nowdays. I can bear with the slower speed, but most of the time I just prefer to download the american versioes, which is free, but illegal.



Incognito_D said:

What an interesting article. It really annoys me that in 2010 Nintendo are releasing 50Hz games - especially since only the most ancient of TVs are incapable of running 60Hz



SKTTR said:

Great article, Betagam7!

The solution: When starting a Virtual Console game for the first time AND when resetting the game it asks you if you want to run it in 50Hz or 60Hz mode.

Both sides are happy! Easy!!

It would be neat if all Virtual Console games in the EU Wii Shop channel would be updated this way.

Also, what I heard from NEO GEO and SEGA imports: this is hilarious! Almost unbelievable if it wasn't true! Betrayal! Not only that they say it's 60Hz when it's 50Hz, but the unnecessary code screwing to make import games run in a bad 50Hz format. Why dumb down games that are already in a good condition? Why putting work into making games worse?



Fuun_Saiki said:

This whole 60hz thing is really frustrating. There's no good reason for us to be paying for shoddy PAL conversions in this decade. There's no way I'm paying for Iron Clad or MUSHA just to end up with some mutilated imitation of what they should be. They can't get rid of 50hz soon enough.



Betagam7 said:

@ Buffalobob. Unfortunately although they are currently the worst offenders on VC, the problem does not just rely with Sega. Every NES game, for example runs in 50hz with borders and slower speed.
Also, "recoding" isn't what we are asking for and as the article relays, if Nintendo allowed a 60hz/50hz option as standard it wouldn't actually be necessary. This is how Wii games themselves are able to run full screen and full speed without the recoding work that once would have needed to be done on, say, a Shadows of the Empire.

@ Genjuro, nice work with the facebook group, if it is indeed you who created it. I've joined and I hope others will too:!/group.php?gid=113312485358377&ref=ts



Genjuro said:

I'm having trouble configuring the group at the moment, looks like issues with Facebook, but it will improve soon, i'm sure!



zemulii said:

I hope we can all be more vocal about this (we as in, gaming sites ), Nintendo has to take notice eventually if they're getting bad press. They can't just keep giving rubbish escuses. We're not going to buy that.

Edit: Great! Just joined the group. Hope it'll be successful.



HipsterDashie said:

I think it's shocking that Nintendo advertise some games as running in 60Hz when in reality they only run in 50Hz. Surely that's false advertising?



meppi said:

The official NOE statement seems to be that it's a case of presenting the games in the exact same way as people remember them, so naturally previous Japan exclusives will run in 60Hz.

But to keep everyone limited to playing all other VC games in 50Hz is shortsighted to say it mildly.
In a perfect world NOE would let gamers decide which version they'd like to play and put an option in the Wii's option dashboard about running games in either 50Hz or 60Hz.
But that'll probably never happen.
Which incidentally is one of the major reasons why I keep buying original Japanese retro games for the original systems, even though the publishers don't get any money from that.
It's a lose-lose situation on both sides I'm afraid.



@Betagam - oh I see. For what I understand some games have such option but not all of them. I really hope they fix this.



Ren said:

great, I'm sure once Nintendo hears about the facebook group exploding with dozens of angry members they'll dump as much money as possible into fixing and re-uploading every old game possible.

I can see it now at a huge press conference where they will publicly apologize and refund all those 50hz games, and "simply add a 50-60 switch", so all the masses of young new gamers can experience the old games they love to hate the way they were originally intended.

Seriously I don't see how they could really lose enough money from this to warrant doing much about it since it's fixed in more modern games; It's only people like us that will care enough or even notice the difference. their real, profitable consumer base doesn't give a rats ass. I'm not saying this just to be mean, because it sounds like a really aggravating problem, I just think it wouldn't affect their bottom line enough to do much more about it.

I also don't entirely understand the situation as it is now. The article (which is fantastic) continuously states that the main way to really fix this was to "re-code" the game which was later fixed by the advent of tv's that can display PAL60 and games that are made to take advantage of it.
That still doesn't fix the much older games that may not have been designed to do this at all, which means they would evidently still require some "re-coding". they still rely on the frame rates to accommodate the resolution format of the region even if the refresh rate has been fixed don't they? (i.e. 29.97 fps in NA and 25 fps in EU) Hence there must still be a PAL version if the game wasn't made to accommodate the modern "switch". I could be wrong but if that's true don't you think they would have just release the NA versions instead with no conversion at all? Many EU countries speak english as well so there would be no point in releasing anything but the NA version if it could work with no conversion whatsoever. But if it did need something than it's much easier for them to just grab the one that was released there originally and release that (the crappy slow ones). Call me a scrooge but I kinda think they're just interested in making a buck without reworking anything. Sorry in advance if I'm misunderstanding this, though.



SKTTR said:

@ 53 meppi: Not all previous Japan exclusives are 60Hz. SEGA and NEO GEO titles are dumbed down to 50Hz.

@ 54 buffalobob: No. There is no option. It's either 50Hz OR 60Hz.



GEOFF said:

I just recently got madworld and it's 50hz with borders.I couldn't believe my eyes this is 2010 you swine bags. I 'm glad the game sold like a bucket of walrus whiskers.



BobberyFan98 said:

Whoa! Thats a huge difference bettween PAL and NTSC! Sonic was meant to be fast dangit!

I feel bad for those of you who live in the UK, hope that gets fixed for you




madgear said:

since you can select 50hz in the Wii option menu then why not just have them 50hz when that is on, 60hz when it's on 60hz - simple. If people really must play 50hz Sonic then they can if they wish, but the rest of us can play it full screen and full speed.

Anyway the 50hz thing doesn't bother me so much - it's the fact some of my VC games don't work through the component cables! It's a pain in the arse having to switch to scart just to have a 20 minute go on Gunstar Heroes.



GEOFF said:

The bottom line is they could let us choose 50hz or 60hz and they don't. It's a absolute downright total bloody disgrace.



zemulii said:

@Ren: So what... do nothing about it? I don't care if it's likely or not. Sitting around and doing nothing makes it even less likely they'll take notice. If they want to make a reputation around being backward and biased then I'm not sticking around to be a part of it (the digital download scene that is... I couldn't bare to live without Nintendo games ).

This is just plain unfair. I mean not only do we pay more (taking exchange rates into consideration), but we get a vastly inferior product. Nintendo is laughing in the face of progress. Not a good look for a company that prides itself on being forward thinking and innovative. Something has to be done about this eventually. Do you think it would be at all acceptable if in a couple of generations time... we STILL have 50Hz?? it's already bad enough now...

This is why it's great that Nintendo Life have done an article like this. From the comments you can see that some people never realised they were playing an inferior product. The more people are made aware of this problem, the more likely something will have to be done. Nintendo can keep quiet about it and hope that the general public won't notice; but the internet can be a powerful thing. Word just has to get out, and it can have a real impact.

Case in point (forgive me if I get this wrong - just going off what I can remember): Just recently when Cadbury started using Palm Oil in their chocolate here in NZ, there was a huge public backlash - it got all over the news, and eventually, due to rapidly decreasing sales, they were forced to take it out. Don't underestimate the power of the consumer .



jangonov said:

I never knew the difference between 50 and 60 Hz, but it makes me feel fortunate to be an american gamer. I feel sorry for europe, and while I understand not "remastering" them to run in 60 Hz for "nostalgia" the VHS to DVD analogy is spot on. If the world got them as they should have been, but Europe got an admittedly crippled version, Europe should at least get the same treatment as the world when they are re-released.



EdEN said:

I can't imagine having to play games in 50 hz and not be able to enjoy them as originally intended. Quick question, WHY did PAL ever get created in the 1st place?



SepticLemon said:

I've been ranting about this since day 1 of the Wii. Why isn't there an option to turn 60hz on my games? Why do TurboGrafx games have both 60hz and 50hz modes, whilst Nintendo and Sega games are crippled to 50hz, whilst Arcade and import games are only 60hz? It's just ridiculous that I can play Super Mario Bros 2 Japan in it's entirety, but not Super Mario Bros 1? Plus there's a whole bunch of games that got bad PAL ports, the Mega Man series is guilty, same with the Majority of early Nintendo NES titles.

NOE, I ask you this...? Why don't you give us the options, I know how you're going to answer, you want to make things simple, but now you have 60hz only game... you've already made it confusing.

Plus, who the hell is using their Wii on a 50hz only TV?



RadioShadow said:

The PAL version of Sonic Mega Collection allowed users to run the games in PAL60 or in PAL50. Running in PAL50 however doesn't have borders and makes the game use the extra lines, but the images has been stretchered and it looks worse than having Black Borders.

Having a US Wii rules so I have no problems!



Kelvin said:

It's a good article, and I can definitely understand and sympathise with the frustration if you happen to care about the 50hz/60hz difference, but the thing is, I just don't, and never have. Sorry. I can't get angry about it, as it's just not important to my enjoyment of these games, and wasn't important back when they first came out. All that said, I do support the campaign, as it seems fair to allow everyone the same experience if they choose.



Stuffgamer1 said:

That really is a BS issue, and my sympathies go out to all you PAL gamers. I've joined the Facebook group and signed the petition, whatever good it may do.

I'm with EdEN...WHY does PAL exist in the first place? Someone above said it was created five YEARS after NTSC...why not just stick with the one format?



Kelvin said:

Stuffgamer1, PAL has better picture quality, in terms of resolution. In these HD days, the distinction is largely irrelevant, but back in the day, it made a difference. Also, PAL was designed specifically to eliminate many of the colour problems suffered by NTSC broadcast; there is a reason why one definition of the standard is "Never Twice the Same Colour".

In other words, it's not a simple case of one format being objectively better than the other. NTSC was perhaps better for video games, but not for other televisual uses.



StarBoy91 said:

Good article, Betagam (or Michael).
That would most definitely explain those borders at the top and bottom of the screen whenever I played PSX games at my Italian grandmother's house. I also have a PSX console here in Texas, and when I play the games here, there are no borders.



tank2tank said:

It really is completely ridiculous... I have both SMB1 and the Lost Levels and the VC port of SMB1 is a complete mess and for some reason the music actually plays faster than it should- like they tried to compensate for 50Hz but screwed it up completely. In comparison Lost Levels is 60Hz and runs fine, so its annoying if I want to play SMB1 its a choice between awful 50Hz and really insane difficulty, and I'd go with the latter.

Like people have said there should be a 50/60Hz option, and if thats 'too hard' then I say screw 50Hz altogether and just make the Wii run on 60Hz only, because if your TV doesn't support it, you shouldn't be playing games on something so old.

And another thing, it's abysmal that there's no way to download trial versions of VC games because there's no way of knowing how awful the 50Hz version is going to be.



timp29 said:

Thanks for finally explaining this Betagam7!!

I must admit the hanabi version of Ninja Gaiden was much harder than I rememebr it as a kid (please let it be 60Hz and not that I have gotten worse at games!!). Some sections went from being dodgable to a battle of attrition. The intensity and enjoyability of the game went up a notch too.



Ren said:

Yeah, to the folks here in the US, if you could see a TV show in PAL it is somewhat noticeably nicer looking. Better colors, and has a prettier looking frame rate; hard to describe. Think of it this way: movie film runs at 24fps and is very high resolution we all know how nice it looks. PAL video runs at 25fps with 625 lines of resolution; very nice to look at. NTSC (what we have) runs at 29.97 fps and has only 525 lines of resolution. We're used to NTSC here but PAL really does look better. Originally the formats were chosen to better match the mains power supply frequencies (200-250 in 50hz territories like Europe, and 110-110v in 60hz territories like NA) though there is no longer any connection. Good for TV over there, bad for video games now. It was a good idea then, but no longer matters much, just a big annoyance as evidenced here.



Betagam7 said:

Timp29: Yes you are correct that Ninja Gaiden's pal release was the 60hz import.

Tank2Tank: The Version of SMB released on the PAL VC was the "Speed corrected" version found on the SMB/Duck Hunt combo cartridge. It was, as you speculate, a not entirely succesful early attempt to correct some of the issues found in the original release.

Here's another interesting fact. As well as GC Animal Crossing, Wii Smash Bros Brawl's "masterpieces" are also the 50hz PAL originals despite the main game itself running at 60hz. It's to be supposed that Nintendo didn't want to give the game away with a straight NTSC port that revealed the differences in these mini-games to the actual VC content available, although humourously its there for all to see everytime an 'unsquashed' 60hz Mario runs across the screen for a VC download, looking ever so slightly taller than he does in the VC version we get to play!

It will be interesting to see whether or not the SNES PoP game unlocked in UBISOFT's new Wii Prince of Persia will be the PAL or NTSC version, given that they have no such interest.



Ristar42 said:

Nice article!
SEGA actually screwed up the Dreamcast launch with 50HZ butchered versions of SEGA Rally 2 and Virtua Fighter 3.
This was after Saturn SEGA Rally and VF2 had appeared as complete 50HZ optimised versions, full speed, full screen.

I have an original NSTC Megadrive sitting next to my Wii that lets me play my PAL Sonic cart, that I've had since 1991, in 60HZ. Its the same game, the same 'ROM', but the console or emulator makes all the difference. That my 2010 Wii doesnt provide this function is absurd.

The specific misleading advertisment of imports running as 60HZ is even worst - I downloaded IronClad, then realised they provided incorrect information on the shop channel.
First thing I did with my copy of GC Animal Crossing was trade it for the US version!

Regarding the problems in supplying PAL 60 VC games, I am sure it is something Nintendo could easily overcome (every other emulator I ever saw managed it), its just at the moment, they dont have to.



CanisWolfred said:

Betagam! You actually got your article up! Sweet! Hopefully it raises more awareness so they actually do something about it.

I know I've actually played PAL-converted games before, and it's awful. Even for games that I never played before, the awkward slowness to the music and gameplay was simply frustrating. And you guys have to put up with that all the time? Man, that just sucks.



gojiguy said:

Honestly, if Nintendo is saying that their game runs in 60hz and it doesn't you can take them to court.

Contact the Better Business Bureau through their website and file a formal complaint. I did that with Nintendo before and they gave me two options to solve the problem I had- one of them was to refund my Wii points and return the messed up Virtual Console game.



Ravage said:

I prefer the Beatles on record than CD.
Very good and interesting read, I never knew about this issue, glad I don't have to worry about it though



MakeMyBiscuit said:

Great article. Being here in the U.S. I had no idea about this.

I'm sorry to all my European brothers and sisters out there!



BulbasaurusRex said:

Are there any PAL developed games that have the opposite problem in NTSC regions, meaning gameplay faster than intended and the top and bottom of the graphics getting cut off?



Ruffy said:

I used to have a snes that was modded with a 50 to 60hz switch, and when i played starfox (ntsc version) not only was it slightly bigger, it ran a hell of a lot better, the extra 17.5% though it may sound small, made a big difference, i had to even alter my game play to suit it, as it was really noticeable and far more enjoyable. I really envy you Americans, you had the snes gaming days far more better, than the pal regioners.



Big_A2 said:

@87.Ravage: That's really just becuase vinyl records are an analogue format, and thus give a warmer sound. I don't see how it's related to this. It's not like music runs slower on one or the other.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Bulbasaurus Rex: You'd think there would be, yet somewhere in all the text above (I forget if it was the article or a comment), someone mentioned that Rare did especially good jobs on their PAL ports. Seeing as they're a European company, it seems as though they actually developed for NTSC anyway. Which seems odd to me, but I'm having trouble finding anything to the contrary online...not that I really know what to look for.



Vinsanity said:

I gotta say Europe, I've always had a beef with your stupid PAL signal!

Anytime I've ever watched a british tv show, from the Office to the Mighty Boosh to Monty Python's flying Circus to Medieval to Dr.Who, it always looked... blurrier(?) than US shows. I wondered for YEARS why this was, and then I found about your crappy, stupid, useless PAL signal.

NTSC Rules!!!! What's wrong with your continent? Jump on board the NTSC bandwagon, along with Japan and Canada. PAL blows. Also, it results in some crappy and late gaming ports, apparently.



Sean_Aaron said:

@Vinsanity: Um, PAL is completely superior to NTSC in every way bar this conversion problem (I'm not interested in the film-PAL DVD "speedup" issues some people claim to detect). I suspect the problem is that whomever did the PAL-NTSC conversions you were watching did a poor job of it.

People are right, Nintendo is legally obliged to refund you if you're unsatisfied with your experience and sadly rather than fix the issues that is what they do: refund and change any misleading text regarding the game's signal when people complain. It will be interesting to see if any effort is made to resolve this matter; without any disclosure as to per unit sales of these games it might not be worth it to them.



Betagam7 said:

Bulbasaurus Rex:

The simple answer to your question is YES! There are even some on the VC; nearly every C64 game for example. Because the majority of these games were developed in PAL regions they wern't converted properly for NTSC for many of the same reasons. As a result, while you don't lose any of the picture, C64 games are sped up in NTSC, making what was already a difficult batch of games even trickier. I neglected to point this out in my article but thanks for reminding me as it demonstrates that even if only in small incriments, lack of proper optimisation affects the NTSC crowd too.

There are some European developed console games which are similarly affected such as Shadow of the Beast for the Genesis which plays absurdly fast in NTSC (some further info on this here:, but as yet none that I'm aware of have hit the NTSC VC.



outrun2sp said:

People that have paid for these versions have allowed nintendo to get away with this. Shame on you all.

I have never, ever got a pal version on VC.

Now they are releasing neo-geo games in 50hz. Shocking.

50hz is untouchable and ruins the WII's credibility in europe.

I like the WII but im off to play Final Fight double impact and am looking forward to afterburner climax.



SuperMarioFan1995 said:


I would have thought it would run okay in 50Hz. But my opinion has changed.

Now I know why 50Hz just damages the speed.



SNK said:

PAL games have always been pure ... with big borders and the games running slow,i can remember the megadrive and the snes days the pal games were crud compared to the JP and US conterparts,why the hell do nintendo continue to make the games on the VC run in 50hz,what a joke nintendo are.



BlueFlameBat said:

Why can't they just have better TVs and game systems in Australia?
And no, I didn't read the whole article.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Betagam: Okay, thanks for the info...I thought I might've easily missed something. Well, that just plain sucks. I think I could tolerate slowdown far more easily than speedup in my games! Just another reason to ignore C64.

@BlueFlameBat: It was the technology of the time. Modern PAL TV's DO support 60hz, but the standard of the time didn't. Though it wouldn't be difficult for them to have a 60hz option for VC, they just haven't bothered, and they seem to be completely clueless as to how many sales it's cost them.



ToastyYogurt said:

Good article .
I'm sorry for all those Europeans out there who had to live with slower versions of games, especially Sonic. It makes me glad to be an American gamer .



Betagam7 said:

In the 90's this issue led to people turning away from purchasing PAL consoles and instead importing the superior NTSC machines and games or modifying their consoles to run in 60hz, all practices we know Nintendo seeks to discourage. The question for Nintendo is; in 2010, do you really wish to recreate that situation?

The issue regarding the misselling of Sega Megadrive titles (and for a short time Iron Clad for Neo Geo) erroneously advertised as 60hz is also something they should be treating with a degree of seriousness, especially after they were reported to trading standards and forced to remove Last Ninja 3 after having sold this faulty piece of software to PAL VC owners for over a year.

Over 100 responses to this article in a little over 24 hours (combined with the independent creation of a protest facebook group and petition of 2000+ signiatures) almost all largely condemning the 50hz practice seems to tell its own story about how its PAL customers view the issue. Perhaps its now time Nintendo themselves were guided towards this content and encouraged to provide an articulate and reasoned response to what appears to be large scale European consumer dissatisfaction with the service being provided.

Perhaps the most alarming thing for Nintendo is the revelation that many people who have commented here are actively avoiding using the VC service because of this issue, surely that, if nothing else should be a motivation to a company that is openly keen to promote and grow its online services to the extent that it runs a connection ambassador programme.



Ristar42 said:

I'll be demanding a response on the (then) falsely advertised '60HZ' IronClad for sure.
I'm also STILL awaiting a last ninja 3 refund (anyone else?), the PAL VC service is just poor.



Betagam7 said:

Ristar, I am aware of at least one PAL owner who purchased IronClad under the misleading "runs in 60hz" banner, being given a full refund of his points when he complained to Nintendo's UK service centre. The precedent has, it seems, been set.

It seems Nintendo only gave the refunds for LN3 to those who had logged a complaint prior to myself reporting them to UK Trading Standards and accelerating the issue. Refunds for that game have now seemingly been handed over to Commodore Gaming. If they continue to delay on giving you your money back then i would suggest contacting Trading Standards yourself through their website. They are very quick and efficient at chasing up such matters on your behalf.



Ristar42 said:

Yep, I've chased up Commodore gaming who claimed the were waiting to buy the points from Nintendo...hmm.
I'll contact them and Nintendo about the relevant IronClad
issue and as you say, if they keep stalling contact trading standards.



Ristar42 said:

Yes, that was about three weeks ago... Well, sent those emails off so lets see.
I imagine at the moment the most they will do is remove the 'runs in 60HZ' from the import Megadrive games but surely Nintendo don't intend to keep non-optimised 50HZ alive forever!?



XyVoX said:

I for 1 have never bought a Pal VC game only Wiiware Games as i always new at a young age growing up the HUGH Difference between a PAL game and a NTSC game either for a eg, SNES,Megadrive or N64 i always bought imported consoles & games as they were 17.5% faster, full screen gaming with sharper graphics, which translated into a significantly different experience if you mastered as i did back in the day many games eg, mario kart on the Snes Pal 150cc was the same speed as a 100cc NTSC version, responsiveness everything changed, games on PAL where there was slowdown were in most cases eradicated on a NTSC version, Plotwings 64 was completely different feeling in your hands on NTSC so much more accurate. Most of my friends wont touch the VC also because of this, SIMPLY put the games were not designed/made to be played in 50hz so converting it can never really work out.



outrun2sp said:

I got my megadrive chipped around the time that street fighter came out on it. 1993. Ever since never played anything at 50hz.

60hz saturn and only import games bought. No money for sega europe.
japanese DC and no 50hz game on the machine. I even got the american Code Veronica.



WiiLovePeace said:

I personally don't notice any difference between PAL50 & PAL60 when I'm playing games, like there was only a very small difference in my eyes when I watched the "plain to see" differences of Sonic The Hedgehog game.I just leave it on PAL50 because the Wii menu is on a bit of an angle on my TV when in PAL60. Not a big deal to me. AND Wave Race 64 is one of the greatest games of all time AND I'll be darned if it I ever think it suffered in any way shape or form. It was just too awesome!



Betagam7 said:

Interesting views WiiLovePeace, however from the 100+ comments here so far, what is "plain to see" is that you appear to be in the minority. Waverace 64 is certainly a terrific its original format. to anyone who's played that format, the humungous borders and abysmally choppy framerate and squashed graphics of the PAL version are a real travesty. It's a fact that these are all things present in the PAL version and closing your eyes and denying their existence doesn't alter that fact.

I see your argument though; you're perfectly content to eat fishsticks while the rest of the world dines on caviar; that's your own prerogative.

My argument is that when I walk into a restaurant and order caviar, when the restaurant menu clearly states caviar, when I am billed the exact same price as the customers who are eating caviar...I don't want the waitress to bring me fishsticks.



Mach-X said:

Lol, come on europe, you should be blaming your government for adopting PAL in the first place, when the rest of the world used NTSC. While I'm sure somewhere in history there's a logical reason for it, considering that hollywood is the center of the filmmaking world, why did europe adopt a different standard than hollywood? As far as 'being superior to NTSC in EVERY way', come on. A few extra lines of resolution does not make it 'superior in EVERY way'. Slower refresh, an aspect ratio not compatible with film/tv being produced in hollywood. so you get a few extra lines of resolution, but everything being made looks/runs like crap on it. Hardly 'superior in EVERY way' XD



Guybrush_Threepwood said:

@Mach-X: Who made the decision to release only 50 Hz versions of all Virtual Console games (except most Hanabi festival releases) in Europe instead of delivering the perfect 60 Hz originals? Sorry but there is no one other to blame here than Nintendo.

It's not a discussion about television standards or PAL vs. NTSC any more since all European televisions support NTSC nowadays (even my old tube television does). Our only problem is that Nintendo chose to give us the 50 Hz versions on Virtual Console. Although there is no understandable reason offering inferior PAL ports nowadays.

Nintendo should just release the 60 Hz originals in Europe and everyone would be happy.



starlac said:

This is the reason I have a 50/60Hz switch on my main Mega Drive, and soon - I hope - my main SNES, and why I rarely buy anything other than Hanabi and Turbografx games on the VC.


“Slower refresh”

Hardly relevant to most things outside of the gaming world and made for NTSC TV.

50hz interlaced is 25 complete frames a seconds, so most companies ran/run their theatrical films in 25fps on PAL without having to resort to the telecine 3:2 pulldown – and the problems it involves* - that NTSC has to do to get 24fps to work on a format that runs at 60hz (or 30fps), since it cannot go down the speedup route without speeding up the film to an intolerable rate (+1fps increase in speed is a lot less noticeable to most than +6fps would be).

“…an aspect ratio not compatible with film/tv being produced in hollywood.”

The aspect ratio of PAL TVs is - and always was - exactly the same as NTSC TV, 4:3 on a “square” “Full Frame” - or 1.33:1 - TV and 16:9 for a widescreen – or 1.78:1. These aspects have always been global standards on both TV formats since their inceptions.

Basically PAL has the same picture ratio as NTSC, but a higher resolution (however slight). For a modern example, say the difference between a 40” 1080 and a 40” 720 TV, the screen is the same physical size, but I know which would offer a potential sharper picture. The reason for the squashed image in games is because of poor encoding, not a difference in aspect ratio.

Consoles outputted the lines as normal back then, but since they where based on the NTSC standard**, the amount did not tally with the lines on the PAL TV it was outputting to, end result, the unused lines are left empty, distorting the picture and giving us the fake boarders, and squashing the image from 4:3 into a mockery of widescreen.

As others have said, PAL’s main goal was to eliminate the color shifting issues that NTSC can suffer through poor reception, without the need of a tint control knob. Note the word reception, meaning station transmissions, rather than playback with a domestic source sans signal fluctuations (e.g. DVD, VHS).

*Double image caused by using the interlaced nature of SDTVs to take a picture of one frame and combine it with the next frame, to make up the needed extra frames (though to be fair this is hardly noticeable). Then there’s the judder effect that happens with pulldown, particularly when the screen scrolls horizontally due to a slight error inherent in the process when compared to how film frames are shown.

Note that it is completely possible to do pulldown in PAL, by holding every twelth frame for longer than the rest, which unfortunately causes the image to jerk a couple of times a second (though it’s generally done when converting NTSC TV shows out of necessity: i.e. to avoid the same problem that games have, seeing as you’re trying to convert a program made at 30fps onto a 25fps format.

**Outside of properly optimised games where the extra lines have the image data added for their PAL release.



StarDust4Ever said:

I know it's not the best deal, but there is a fairly simple solution: import a US Wii. Fact is, Nintendo is not going to change. As I said nearly two years ago (22 June 2008),

"If you want to help out [the American economy], then do us a favor: Stop complaining about [prices] and start importing our cheaper, better selection, non-crippled 60hz games. PLEASE, SEND US YOUR HARD-EARNED POUNDS AND EUROS..."

View the full rant HERE:



Betagam7 said:

Stardust, I agree that would have been a good solution had we seen this coming in advance however by the time the VC launched many of us had already purchased our Wii's and several games by the time we realised that we were going to be stuck with this problem, that's why many of us are still hopeful Nintendo can come to its senses.
Surely it can't be happy to learn that people making up its userbase are actively avoiding its products because of this issue, nor should it dismiss them as geeks and otaku when, quite frankly, geeks and otaku are exactly the core userbase that a retro download service should be catering to. Wii-fit moms certainly arn't the ones downloading M.U.S.H.A!

Whatever the future holds for the issue the question Nintendo must answer in the present is why it is misleading customers into potentially purchasing games such as the abovementioned title by claiming they run in 60hz when they do not. This is, without question, false advertising and anyone who bought a title under this premise should be querying it and asking for their points to be reimbursed.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@StarDust: You're right that change is unlikely, but it's inconvienient enough to import EVERYTHING for the issue to be worth fighting for in the first place. Reform is not impossible, but it does have a tendency to take a FREAKING LONG TIME to be implimented with Nintendo; see: SD Channel, released roughly two and a half years after a problem was widely recognized. This PAL issue has been known among a relative minority for a long time, but it's only now getting more press. It's perfectly possible that Nintendo has not even been AWARE that this was a concern to their customers and their sales to the extent that it is. Seeing as our understanding is that it wouldn't be difficult to fix the issue, a loud enough outcry could actually force them to pay attention. I say it's worth a try, at least, and I'm not even one of those suffering the problem!



Ristar42 said:

I agree Stuffgamer1, also Betagam7 is quite right in suggesting that those who downloaded Megadrive imports at extra cost under the impression they run in 60HZ should complain.
Who knows where the decision to supply 50HZ games was made, but I'd bet there weren't any retro gamers on the committee.



Useless_Account said:

Ok... thanks for the info. but how do i get my Wii to play to speed on a 47" lcd. It plays fine on my 27" lcd but if i want to play in my living room it doesn't go to the right speen me and my family are used to... Mario Power Tennis, Metroid Prime 3, and even Megaman 10 don't work correctly. Fixable? help please: l thanks:)



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Ristar42: They were probably business suits who idiotically thought it was a good idea to minimize the likelihood of gamers buying the 60hz games and realizing what utter garbage their 50hz offerings are by comparison.



Ristar42 said:

Well, finally got my last ninja 3 refund code (with many thanks to the efforts of Betagam7 in getting them to admit the game was, in fact, broken).
This was only after contacting Commodore gaming three times over the period since it was removed. Neither Nintendo or Commodore gaming made any initial contact with me about the purchase, so thanks also to Nintendo life for posting the info.

Still waiting a response from Nintendo regarding the IronClad 50HZ issue...



GarrettCRW said:

Let's face it: PAL is the red-headed stepchild of the video format universe. Games in the format play too slow and fail to fill the screen, and movies play too fast. NTSC's frame rate, while not ideal, is much better than the sloppy methods that are used to convert film and video games to PAL (which are seldom used, as the European VC situation and the Filmation library can attest to). This does not, however, excuse entertainment companies for not presenting films and games at their proper speed when technology has long since bridged the gap between NTSC and PAL.



Betagam7 said:

The next step might be to contact Nintendo for an update on this situation (particularly the false advertising over Megadrive Hanabi games)

For the UK and Ireland that means an email to:

For our German Readers its:

Spanish readers can contact them here:

While our Australian friends don't seem to have been given the option of emailing them (a bit like all those missing Aussie VC titles!) but can find other methods of contacting them here:

Swedish customer service seems to have been farmed out to a 3rd party, details here:

While Norway gets the slightly better:

There will be others that I've missed off but the point is that if everyone who has taken the time to comment on this article can also find a few minutes to email their local Nintendo HQ then we might just send them a message.

Keep the faith, we have nothing to lose by trying and history tells us that its something that was achieved through similar methods in the past. Keep the emails polite and logically argued and we'll see what Nintendo has to say for itself.
I've actually been really pleased by the lack of negative comments and its great to here that so many other people have yet to become jaded by this and are still keen on trying to get Nintendo to reform its do so (even if it doesn't come this generation) will hopefully send a message to other services pulling the same stunt (PSOne Classics anyone?)



Ristar42 said:

They are now 'investigating' regarding my IronClad complaint.
I also pointed out the Megadrive issue and gave my general opinion about the 50Hz situation... I'll post what I find out.



Ristar42 said:

No worries, I shan't be fobbed off. Wrote them another nice email reproducing the 50/60Hz quote from the retail disc release instruction manuals (used to start your article) and added that I therefore downloaded this game under specifically false information. Cant see how they can dodge responsibility really...



Betagam7 said:

MrMystery; there are always people who believe that "nothing will be done". People said it was a waste of time complaining about the Last Ninja 3 issue, yet consumer action got that title removed and refunds issued, something that wouldn't have happened if people sat on their hands waiting for Nintendo to decide to fix it. People said there was no point in complaining about the misleading advertising over IronClad, yet people who complained have received complaints.

People said "nothing will be done" when complaints were flying in about the storage solution situation. Low and behold Nintendo acted when they realised lack of storage was costing them sales.

In the 90's there were plenty of people who said that complaining about PAL ports wouldn't achieve anything yet Nintendo, Sega, Sony et al listened quickly enough when people began turning to grey imports.

Nothing is ever gained by saying "nothing will be done" but something is nearly always gained by doing something.

Simply not buying the broken titles is an admirable suggestion but when that equates to 75% of the VC's library then why is that an option that people should have to sit and take, when a ready made solution is staring Nintendo in the face.

Much like the storage solution situation, it is simply going to take enough people to tell Nintendo that it is haemoraging sales due to the lack of an easily fixable solution to get the company taking the issue seriously.



UKwoods said:

I'm so bloody angry. I bought my wife a Wii last week for Wii fit and party games, but was very much looking forward to playing all the old gems. To my horror, I have just found out that they are the 50hz versions that I wouldn't play then, let alone now. I drifted from Nintendo towards Xbox at around the time of the gamecube simply because Microsoft treated Europe with respect. I buy loads of great games on XBLA and will continue to do so, but I will not buy a single virtual console game until they give us the same quality version as the Americans.



Blk_Mage_Ctype said:

Wow, it really sucks that Euro gamers have to play gimped versions of classic games on the VC.

With problems like this, it's a wonder why Europe still uses PAL TVs.



SuperMarioFan1995 said:


All right, from now on, we'll just have to wait for Nintendo to bring us the 60Hz option to the Wii Shop Channel (or its VC games alone). THEN we'll have full screen and faster gameplay speed. And then we'll just stop with all the dang complaining about it. Hopefully in Summer, they will bring us Europeans the 60Hz option sooner or later.

The only game that bothers me about the PAL problem is the Super Mario Bros. original on the NES. The music running too fast is just not correct, and the black borders suffers its problems from making it an ugly letterbox. Of course, the gameplay runs at the same speed, but the developers at Nintendo needs to wake up and either fix this issue or bring us the dang option to us Europeans. The Lost Levels, which is Hanabi Festival, runs at faster speed and in full screen resolution (which is great).

Thankfully, most actual Wii games have both the 50Hz/60Hz options, but not all of them. There are 2 games that lacks 60Hz, if I am correct - MadWorld and Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility.

Surely Sonic 2 (NTSC) runs the same in PAL form, but those borders needs to be erased off the screen.

EDIT: [June 21 2010]
Ugh! We have waited so long for Nintendo to give us the 60Hz option, but Nintendo STILL isn't listening to us! Why are we Europeans still stuck with the problematic 50Hz option? The company's still not giving us that option for absolutely no reason. I've still been wanting to play the most popular title Super Mario Bros. in American format. Man, those borders and faster music really annoys me it does, same with Sonic the Hedgehog. Ah well, perhaps they're still working on the new Wii games. Nintendo just doesn't listen to us.

Well then, I'm off. But come on Nintendo! Just bring us the option already! It's not that hard for you, is it? Please do it as soon as you can. Thank you and many regards.




Incognito_D said:

the Stuart Campbell N64 magazine article was interesting and a good laugh! - I love how the THE Games guy just flat out denied that PAL games ran slower! I'd love to have a shot on his magical full speed PAL copy of Wave Race! Anyway, it never bugged me back in the 90s because the PAL games were all I'd ever known, so to me they weren't slowed down, they were running at normal speed. Ignorance was bliss, but nowadays it'd be unacceptable as I now appreciate the difference.



Alfred_ENG said:

Nintendo could update all the VC games to work in both 50 and 60Hz. Why don't they do this?. It would make their fans very happy. They would sell more games and make even more money. Come on Nintendo make this the best Christmas ever!.



Betagam7 said:

@ Alfred.

It seems so obvious doesn't it? But then a lot of things do and yet seemingly don't occur to Nintendo. The best thing you can do is express your disappointment to them directly via their UK service centre and request that your complaint is passed on to Nintendo Europe's HQ.



HapsNinFan said:

They Should Totally Ask What Tv You Have!
Is It Really That Hard! You Are Losing VC Customers!! :/



Big_A2 said:

I sent angry email to NoE. Told me the aim of the Virtual Console was to provide exact replicas of what was originally released in its respective region. They ensured me that my comments would be passed on to Nintendo's headquarters. The PR was very polite about it too. Now I feel a little bad for getting mad at them....

EDIT [22nd January 2011]:

I just had a thought; if Nintendo's aim is to provide replicas of what was originally released, then why bother changing some games to have reduced boarders or fixed speed? It's almost like the PAL VC fails at almost everything it tries to do! When will you listen Nintendo?



Kurachi said:

oh my, i play PAL 50hz VC games, and no problems
alot here make it sound much worse than it is, sry to say
seriously, if you cant enjoy a good game, even with 50hz, you cant enjoy games, you just enjoy its graphics

i prefer good games with a bit lower graphics and such than bad games with..... you get my point.... i hope

well, i'm gonna enjoy my games in an older sight, just like back then

ps. kinda sad that people dont buy games they like JUST cuz of a bit lower graphics quality... thats my opinion...



Betagam7 said:

It's a shame that you don't appear to have read the article properly, Kurachi. If you had then you'd see that the problem extends to way more than "a bit lower graphics quality". Playing games that run 17.5% slower than they were intended to has nothing to do with graphics for one thing. Games that rely on their speed like Sonic the Hedgehog are detrimentally affected by such poor conversions.

Whether they are good games or bad games isn't the issue. the issue is why we should have to pay the same price for inferior products or, in the case of imports, even more for crippled ports,

Still, if you're happy being ripped off, good for you.

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