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Feature: The Wonderful World of Multiplayer Add-Ons

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

The lengths we go to

If you want to play a bit of multiplayer in most games nowadays, and you don't have a friend nearby, it's as easy as selecting a menu and waiting for strangers to appear as competition. Online multiplayer can perhaps be a bit more personal than that, of course, with the ability to meet up with friends and have a blast, as we did in some community Mario Kart 7 shenanigans recently.

In past generations, however, you had to be enthusiastic enough to arrange to play with someone else you already knew, and you had to be in the same room. It might not be alien to us as Nintendo gamers, with titles such as Nintendo Land reminding us that local multiplayer can still be King, yet there are some who'll find the concept rather antiquated.

Still, with the recent unveiling in Japan of a rather clunky process to add online multiplayer to a major 3DS release — skip to the end to read about that one — we thought we'd highlight some of the workarounds we've seen to support multiplayer in the past. We're focusing on some well-known examples, though we may dig out some quirkier, even clumsier solutions in a future article.

As the banner is a bit of a giveaway, this link cable was used to allow competitive multiplayer or co-op in popular and compatible titles such as Pokémon Red and Blue; though there were a surprisingly large number of other games that used it. Puzzle releases such as Dr. Mario and Tetris were joined by brawlers such as entries in the Double Dragon series. Rather than being a rarely used extra, it was an important part of the system — it was also nothing special to look at, being a cable and all...

Super Nintendo Multitap

A standard SNES had just two controller ports, somewhat limiting when so many games — especially sport sims — offered support for even more players. If you had friends on hand, a glut of controllers and a Multitap, you were all sorted. An adapter with extra controller ports that simply slotted in the second system port, you could get support for up to five players with one of these add-ons. Naturally, third-parties went crazy and there was no lack of choice on the market.

Oh, Virtual Boy, how it all went wrong. It's the portable — well, supposedly — system that Nintendo often likes to forget. A bold idea with good intentions, it suffered from a lacking game library, abysmal sales and genuine warnings about the red and black 3D visuals causing headaches and nausia. Such was its short stint on the marketplace, the inevitable link cable for multiplayer never even saw the light of day.

Game Boy Color's Bold IR Experimentation

The Game Boy Color offered a relatively modest upgrade over its venerable predecessor, but did add some lovely colour visuals and, at the time, an innovative IR port to allow wireless multiplayer. A neat idea that would avoid tethering yourself to another player, it was poorly supported and didn't get used enough to be viable, so much so that Nintendo would abandon it in the system's portable successor.

This connection between the GBA and GameCube could be used for a variety of purposes, such as titles being run on the Game Boy Player on the TV being controlled by the handheld. The most notable use, and one that arguably served as a major precursor for the Wii U GamePad concept, was the ability to download mini-games from GameCube games to a GBA, or even to use the connected handheld as a secondary screen for asynchronous multiplayer. Famous examples include co-op in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker or Shigeru Miyamoto's multiplayer concept in Pac-Man Vs.

The GameCube Broadband Adapter, Shame About the Games

The GameCube is often described as an offline system, but there was a broadband adapter — as well as a modem for 56K dial-up connections — that allowed certain games to be played online. The problem is that some of the games required LAN workarounds, and those that could be intuitively played online could be counted on one hand. Many SEGA fans no doubt look back fondly at Phantasy Star Online, but for most this was a side to the famous Cube that barely registered in significance.

Wii Speak, Is Anyone There?

The Wii is many things, but it's certainly not a powerful and well-connected online console. Good online experiences are definitely there to be found, but the infrastructure often seemed to lag behind its competitors, with Wii Speak a notable example of an attempt to level the playing field that failed to hit its mark. Released to bring extra interaction to games such as Animal Crossing: City Folk and Monster Hunter Tri, with the downside that hardly anyone seemed to own it. Even if you go to the trouble of finding one and plugging it in, you'll probably be talking to yourself.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate 3DS Online, You Just Need a Wii U

And so we come to the recent announcement that inspired this article, a feature that seems comparatively strange in 2013. Announced during a recent Japanese Nintendo Direct, owners of Monster Hunter 3 G will be able to play the previously local-only game online with the help of an adapter, downloadable app and a Wii U. Designed for those with the 3DS game that don't want to invest in the Wii U version to play online, it's a workaround that just about makes sense in Japan, with the handheld version having been on the market for over a year. Will it make it West? Perhaps more importantly, would anyone buy the adapter?


So there you go, some cables and plug-in pieces of plastic that have helped us enjoy games with others in the past and, it seems, in the present. We're barely scratching the surface, of course, so tell us about your wackiest multiplayer add-ons in the comments below.

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User Comments (27)

burninmylight

#1

burninmylight said:

After the awesome use of GBA-GCN connectivity in Zelda games and Pacman vs., I always wondered why we didn't see more DS-Wii interaction.

Jukilum

#2

Jukilum said:

I never seem to have enough GBA to GC link cables despite having them somewhere. I can never find them.

Smitherenez

#3

Smitherenez said:

Haha, I have bought wiispeak for MHtri back then. And I have never actually found someone to talke with...

Nintendojuenger

#4

Nintendojuenger said:

Why a Picture of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX? - never released on any Nintendo System (the precursor Pac-Man Championship Edition is part off Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions)

Sausimo

#5

Sausimo said:

Odd that they have the Super Mario Kart banner for the SNES multitap (which didn't support it), a better substitute would be Secret of Mana, which was the only game I've ever used it for.

Sorry for the nitpicking Thomas, great article nonetheless.

ThomasBW84Admin

#6

ThomasBW84 said:

I'll look into sorting any iffy images :)

EDIT: I've now corrected the two image errors with an NBA Jam banner (Multitap) and an actual Pacman Vs. screen, at least I believe it is!

Nintendojuenger

#7

Nintendojuenger said:

@ThomasBW84 NBA JAM!! It is Pac-Man Vs.

There are some really wacky Nintendo multiplayer add-ons:

  • Mobile GB Adapter (GBC) to play Mobile Golf over mobile phone network.
  • GC to GC-GBA-Player – Pac-Man Vs. on two TVs.
  • GBA over eCard-Reader to GC
ThomasBW84Admin

#8

ThomasBW84 said:

@Nintendojuenger I had NBA Jam on Mega Drive back in the day, one of my absolute favourites.

We're planning to do a "wacky" multiplayer add-ons article in the not too distant future, these were all fairly obvious and common this time around.

shinpichu

#10

shinpichu said:

Shame about the GC broadband adapter. I feel like if it had gotten more use, the Wii would have had better online.

erv

#11

erv said:

The gc adapter was a missed opportunity, and wii speak was horrible.

I had wii speak in the monster hunter tri setup package but I crrrnnn't fsigrru oustt whfft fou fffere ssfying annyfffws, so it's not surprising nobody used it. That is one of nintendo's worst products ever.

The adapter for monster hunter is silly. The game needs an update for 3ds allowing online just as much, no strings attatched.

However, I'll be the firs to admit that playing a game of nintendoland for a night is plain awesome fun, and playing tri ultimate for hours on end is as well. Online is the future and provides lots of gaming depth, but there will always be a place for local multiplayer fun that is well executed.

Nintendojuenger

#12

Nintendojuenger said:

@ThomasBW84 As “Nintendojuenger” I have it on SNES - with Multitap and Score Master, epic!

My absolute wacky favourite is the Bio Sensor for Tetris 64 (Bio Tetris). Every Player needs one, so I never played it multiplayer.

brandonbwii

#13

brandonbwii said:

I view the Monster Hunter thing as a previous talking point about a 'small win for gamers'. I know players in the west wanted the game to have online multiplayer so I'm sure those in Japan demanded it too.

There for we get this lackluster effort. It's not convenient in any way, but it's something.

BakaKnight

#14

BakaKnight said:

A couple of years ago I found a store that had both MH3 and the Wii Speak on sale. I immediatly contacted a friend, we organized and for a couple of months we had fun hunting togheter XD

I must admit the wii speak was a bit weak, it was quite hard to understand what my friend was saying at times, but MH3 was a great game and we had tons of fun :)

RaylaxStaff

#15

Raylax said:

I remember that a few Mega Drive (Genesis) games had a multi-tap where the extra ports were actually built into the game in question.

Untitled

Positive: Don't have to pay for an extra add-on that'll get lost in a box under the bed. It's built into the games that use it!

Disadvantage: Soon as anyone gets over-exited and yanks their controller, tilting the cartridge, **bzzzzt** the game crashes. Occasionally done with malicious intent :P

BakaKnight

#16

BakaKnight said:

Second comment, I never double post, but this article is bringing back memories of the old days XD

The gameboy cable... how many pokemon trades I did in first and secondary school!!!

Althought my most important and funniest multiplayer memories comes from the high school period when I used to meet every weekend with a couple of friends and connect our GBA to the GC for play 4Swords Adventure and FinalFantasy Christal Chronicles :D

Tasuki

#17

Tasuki said:

Anyone remember the Gameboy Multitap that came with F-1 Racing? It made it so you can hook 4 Gameboys together via the link cables.

I had the SNES Multitap but correct me if I am wrong Nintendo never made an official one. I had a Hudson Soft one and really only used it for Secret of Mana

Also had the GBA/GC link cable mainly used that for FF: Crystal Chronicles.

SCAR392

#18

SCAR392 said:

I used to use the IR on GBC for mystery gift. My friends and I would always play local until last gen, when internet was the main thing. We would play full 4 player Zelda with GBAs. Local multiplayer used to be a weekly thing for me on weekends.

There's way more they can do now, since tech has gotten better.

Multiplayer is a big thing, and I hope sports games adapt to it by having 2 Gamapads usable, and 4 other controllers to use(possibly 3 on 3?). We can play local 6 player without even needing cords anymore.

Aqueous

#19

Aqueous said:

Actually I still use Game Boy cables. We even had a streetpass meet where we found our old hardware to play.

TwilightV

#20

TwilightV said:

Rereleases of games like Four Swords Adventures (with Tetra's Trackers), Pac-Man Vs. and PSO would be interesting.

Edit: I saw a video for MH3U recently that gave me an idea. That adapter could also be used to combine online and local multiplayer, with both Wii U and 3DS players playing together with friends over the internet.

Emaan

#22

Emaan said:

Good times were had with my GBA link cable. Connecting that with friends for trading and battling in Pokemon Ruby, going to the island in Animal Crossing, those were the days~

I have a Wii Speak accessory, and actually used it quite often with friends via Animal Crossing: City Folk. :p

Captain_Gonru

#23

Captain_Gonru said:

I found the Wii Speak mic worked fine for Animal Crossing. I never tried it with Monster Hunter, and from the sound of it, I didn't miss much. And, oh, was Crystal Chronicles awesome with the GC-GBA cables. I picked up extras when a Gamestop was clearing them out. That's a game that needs a rerelease and/or sequel.

RaylaxStaff

#26

Raylax said:

Metroid Prime could link to Metroid Fusion, and you could play Prime the whole way through with the Fusion suit, which was really cool:

Untitled

Plus, you could also unlock the original NES Metroid with the link too :D

MarkyVigoroth

#27

MarkyVigoroth said:

I feel so bad for Pokémon Crystal and TCG... When I played Pokémon Trading Card Game 2 and saw the in-game Card Pop, I thought that the programmers put in that one because they knew how little people used the IR service, thus the programmers programmed an in-game Card Pop so that everyone would have the experience.

I also remember my Trainer House's opponent getting messed up. I figured that someone who used my GameBoy Color had Mystery Gifted with the TV set (since, even at a young age, I knew that both the TV set and the GameBoy Color used IR).

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