OPINION: The Virtual Console is a Joke

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

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The opinions stated in this article are representative of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Operation Rainfall.

So, Nintendo promised that the Wii U would be backwards compatible with all WiiWare and Virtual Console titles that were purchased on the Wii. But, it turns out there’s a catch…wait, sorry. I mean catches. First, you can’t access WiiWare and Virtual Console titles straight from the Wii U like you can with DSiWare on the 3DS. You have to go into this Wii emulation program and then select them. Second, if you want to buy more WiiWare and Virtual Console titles, you can’t get them on the brand new Wii U eShop. You have to go through the Wii Shop Channel while in this Wii emulator, navigate that horrible labyrinth of a service, download them, and only THEN will you be able to access them in this Wii emulator. And as if that wasn’t enough, Nintendo also decided to take all three Donkey Kong Country games for the SNES off the Virtual Console without telling anyone.

In short, Nintendo somehow made their Virtual Console service even worse. And Nintendo wonders why people don’t take their digital services seriously.

Now, I love the Virtual Console. I love the idea of buying older titles digitally so that people who didn’t get a chance to play them the first time around can do so now. But I hate the way Nintendo’s been handling it over the past couple of years. The way Nintendo shoved WiiWare and Virtual Console titles in their own little box is the especially perfect example of how little Nintendo cares about its own service. Say what you will about the 3DS. Jonathan and I certainly have. But at least when you transfer your older downloadable titles from your DSi to your 3DS, you can access them on the main menu. You can’t access them from the SD card, but it’s still better than the way it’s handled on the Wii U. Not only that, but you can purchase older DSiWare titles directly from the eShop. Funny how all of this works.

When the Virtual Console was initially available, there were a good number of Virtual Console titles released per week. That number had since dramatically decreased to only a handful of titles per month. Even after six years, there are still many holes in the Virtual Console library that should have been filled by now. I’m not talking about third-party games, either. Several of Nintendo’s own titles are missing from the Virtual Console. Aside from the one game that I shouldn’t even need to mention at this point, we’re missing stuff like Dr. Mario for the NES, the original Star Fox for the SNES, Illusion of Gaia, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong 64, ExciteBike 64, Mario Party 1 and Mario Party 3, and several others. I guess we can count the three Donkey Kong Country games for the SNES now that they’ve been delisted.

The 3DS Virtual Console isn’t much better. As Higgins and I explained, the Virtual Console for that system is falling in the same trap as its Wii counterpart did. The games are being released at a snail’s pace, several of which having been available in Europe months before their North American releases. This was mostly so that Nintendo of America can put them into random promotions, like the 8-Bit Summer earlier this year. Stuff like Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Wario Land 3, the Pokemon games, and much more are still absent from the Virtual Console. The Game Boy Advance isn’t represented at all.

This leads me to the Ambassador Program. Back when Nintendo made a major price cut to the 3DS, they gave early adopters ten free NES titles and ten free GBA titles to download. Fast forward one year since then and most of the NES titles that were part of the Ambassador program have been released on the eShop as of this writing. The GBA games have not. …Why?

The only people that lose here are the paying customers who have to wait for Nintendo to slowly let these games become available.

Of course, the Wii U has only just been released. None of us have any idea where it will go from here. Part of me hopes that the Virtual Console will improve and that I’ll be eating my angry paragraphs covered in chocolate syrup for dinner. Part of me is hoping that old Gamecube games and old Game Boy Advance games that I missed out on will be available for me to purchase. But then, the other part of me knows better than that. The other part of me knows that no matter what they do, no matter how good their digital storefront is, they will still treat the Virtual Console the same way they have for the past several years. The same way most other people have been treating it because of Nintendo. Like a big friggin’ joke.

About Kyle Emch

Kyle has been studying music at college for about three years now. He's played the piano since he was 6 years old and has been recently been learning how to write music. He has followed the Operation Rainfall movement on Facebook since it started and was happy to volunteer for the website. Just don't mention Earthbound or the Mother franchise around him.




  • NIntendo will learn. All we have to do is wait.

    • Lightthrower

      Telling customers to wait in 2012? Are you insane?! 

    •  They will. I’m being serious here, but it’ll take them at least half a decade to finally get their act together on the 3DS and Wii U. The original Wii is a lost cause, as is the DSi.

  • Alexandre Trottier

    The Wii U offers a very roundabout way of purchasing old games, but it doesn’t really bother me. I just downloaded Metroid II for free courtesy of Club Nintendo, so as long as Wario Land II really DOES come out tomorrow, I’ll be one happy gamer.

  • Seems like a temporary solution. Maybe for the next console iteration? Otherwise we’d go into the emulator within an emulator within a… Or maybe they’ll just drop supporting them which will surely upset fans.

  • While I agree there’s plenty to be upset about regarding the Virtual Console (as indicated in my 3DS love/hate-fest linked in this very article), I don’t see a solution to the problems Kyle has posed.

    To be completely honest, I’m not sure if there’s a solution out there that would satisfy the majority. Either you space out the big-name releases, or you show all your cards too early and ruin the service down the line. 

    The only reason the Virtual Console is a joke to me is because the Wii is dead, and I still never got to play Bomberman 64 or the other Adventure Island games (like my favorite, Adventure Island IV).

    Poor Hudsonsoft. Master Higgins lives on through me, ladies and gentlemen. 🙁

  • Yea nintendo really needs to step it up. Luckily the wiiu seems very indie friendly. I hope to see some indie hits on wiiu’s digital service.

  • I brought quite a few virtual console games on the Wii back when it was still new. I didn’t realise just how bad the service was back then but now I wish I hadn’t have wasted my money. I assumed Nintendo would sort out a system like Sony and Microsoft have where the games were registered to the account, not the system. I can’t believe how slow they are with releasing games either. I was fortunate enough to be an ambassador so I have 10 GBA games thankfully for the 3DS but I honestly expected Zelda Oracle of Seasons/Ages among many other games by now on the portable systems.

  • To be fair, Nintendo made it clear that the GBA Ambassador games would not be available normally on the eShop. Though, it still boggles my mind why they would make that decision.

  • Mistake in your article. You claim Nintendo told no one before removing the titles:
    http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2012/11/donkey_kong_country_trilogy_to_be_pulled_from_wii_virtual_console

    That’s not true. You just happened to miss the news. It wasn’t their decision either, another falsehood. They can’t (not won’t) say why, but it’s pretty easy to assume Microsoft (Rare’s owners) are currently giving them legal trouble over Rare titles.

    • No, Nintendo owns the rights to the DKC assets, how else would a second party (Retro) be able to do a remake? They also own the Star Fox Adventures characters, which is why Krystal is used in Star Fox Assault and Star Fox Command.  Look at this screenshot, it clearly states Nintendo owns the franchise http://i.imgur.com/32gL5.jpg

    • It’s called royalties. Which Rare is still due for games they made, regardless of who owns them now. Nothing Nintendo makes magically makes the DKC games not a creation of Rare.

    • Proof?  Since when does Rare get royalties?  It says “Copyright 2010 Nintendo” on the screen?  Microsoft would never had allow Rare to put the DKC series on the VC in the first place if they owned it.

    • Neither of those points mean jack or shit. Of course it says 2010 Nintendo. That doesn’t mean that the design structure taken from the older games isn’t still part of Rare’s agreements. Nor does your Microsoft comment actually even make the remotest bit of sense.

  • Technically, Illusion of Gaia is a Enix game, so it would be up to them to put it on the VC.  Same goes with Terranigma in Europe seeing that NoE only published it there.  

    • LordSaxon

      Also the Zelda Oracle games were made by Capcom so I guess that could be a problem there.

  • Hey, Nintendo, if you do this again, and not refund those people who spent money on these games, we will find a way. Mark my words. 

    • The people who spent money on those games still have those games, and access to them. They’ve been taken down for new sale, not for product support.

  • dbclick

    What they need to do is work out a system to enable VC games to be bought and played natively on the Wii U (including TV-less play on the GamePad) that are linked to your Nintendo Network account. You should have the option to transfer/access your Wii VC games on your Wii U to these new versions as a free “upgrade”.

    Also, you should be able to purchase handheld VC games on Wii U and vice-versa and play them on multiple consoles with one purchase (where controls make sense). Unreasonable? Not at all. Likely to happen? Not at all.

  • I really hope Nintendo gets on the ball with their Virtual Console service.  At this point, it’s absolutely pitiful.  The 3DS Virtual Console is practically a barren wasteland that could easily be revived by adding GBA games.  The Wii U Virtual Console is nonexistant at this point.  I’m hoping it offers GameCube games when it does finally come out. Also, I see no point in staggering Virtual Console releases, absolutely no point at all.

  • Blastinburn

    The reason for the virtual wii is most likely a hacking concern (likely the same reason the wiiU bricks itself if you turn it off during an update).  If the wiiU natively ran wii titles it would be a foot in the door for hackers.

    • icedearthaholic

      They will figure out a way to hack into it anyway, might take a while but they’ll do it.

  • When Zelda: Minish Cap is released for purchase in the 3DS eShop, I will be first in line to purchase it. For now, I am fine downloading its ROM and playing it for the first time in an emulator. And though I am halfway through the game, I will not mind buying it twice, because I want to support the heck out of VC.

    Breath of Fire will never be released on Wii’s VC because though Capcom developed it, Squaresoft released it stateside. Not a Nintendo affair, but it’s the reason that it won’t be released. I will gladly cough up money for the GBA versions in the 3DS eShop, though. As for now, ROM it is!

    Earthbound, oh Earthbound. This won’t be released because of music licensing issues. ROM it is!

    • Yeah, I’m calling BS on that one. http://www.blisteredthumbs.net/2011/05/16-bit-pop-music/

    • That doesn’t really do anything to win you the argument.  For one thing, Apple Corp, the holding company that handles the rights to all things Beatles related, would sue the utter shit out of Nintendo if they had reason to believe that the fab four’s songs were in the game in any fashion.

  • inzanoflex

    the solution of that is…. homebrew channel and thats it, install it into your wii emulation and load all your wads in a instant, but of course only with your own risk.

  • I AM ok with just having a Wii Mode, just wished the transition between modes was faster. Would be nicer if they gave the option to let people buy from either Wii Shop or eShop.

  • Javienen Bernal

    You can always use emulators if you missed a game…

  • monkey

    the virtual console was amazing

    better than anything sony or microsoft did with past games 

  • Noble

    The Wii U eShop is basically a website that can only be navigated on the Wii U, and therefore they can make serious changes to it without the need of a mayor update like the PS3, i do agree that Nintendo needs to start pouring these Classic games weekly or bi-monthly so I can star pouring my wallet at them, Im also an Ambassador i spent my 249.99+tax for my 3DS and I love my free games, but Nintendo made the mistake of giving GBA titles (which Nintendo clearly stated that these titles would never be available to the rest of the World) because that opened Pandora’s Box as others say and giving the possibility of playing all of those wonderful GBA titles but creating the hunger for more, because I would really love to see Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced or the Summon Knight games, there is a ton of games that could be released but haven’t or wont be released, Nintendo need to get ot together of they don’t want to get left behind bi Microsoft or Sony.

    P.S. Don’t get me wrong about the PSStore, I own every current gen gaming console, also bought a Vita on day 1

  • I’m not sure it’s fair to call the service a joke. Especially if you compare it to other systems and what they offer in regards to old titles.

    The Virtual Console program of the Wii as far as I’m concerned was robust and had a lot of titles available. It certainly had a lot more to offer in the way of classic titles then any other systems online store.

    It did that aspect right, and I still consider it the go to place for classic titles… despite those few titles that interestingly have yet to be emulated onto the service. Mind you personally I think they didn’t expand the N64 Virtual Console because they wanted to wait and give those releases some proper fixing if they are to be released (similar to how MS has re-textured and turned some of it’s classic titles for HD).

    With that the real issue at hand is this sort of transitional phase going on right now. Which is honestly what I truly believe is going on. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Wii U doesn’t have Virtual Console titles on the eShop yet.

    I think that they are still trying to figure out how to somehow integrate the old Virtual Console/Wii Ware service into the eShop. What we have right now is sort of a band-aid solution at the moment.

    They are trying to undo the poor choice they made of creating stores built around a system, as opposed to building stores that stand apart from the system they are on. From the sounds of the Wii U’s eShop it’s the start of the solution…. as their long term goal is that you will be able to access the new eShop from other devices then just the Wii U.

    Still it means they have quite a few messes to sort out…. between the original Wii’s Shopping Channel system, and the current 3DS eShop…. which is at the moment a separate entity.

    The Nintendo Network accounts and the new Wii U eShop are the first steps towards that. Hopefully it won’t take them too long to start unifying everything. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but to me this seems to be what they are building towards.

  • Errrrrm, you know you can have every single Mega Drive, SNES, PC Engine, Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy, GBA, GBC, and NES title ever on your Wii. Its called the Homebrew Channel. Stop giving money to these dinosaurs for gamed you already paid for.

    • monkey

      stupid thief. I hope you get arrested

  • monkey

    this article is nonsense

    • How so?  Because it says it like it is and how Nintendo’s VC services sucks balls?  They’re ruining it due to “licensing” issues; let’s be honest, they should have renewed these things six years ago.  And yet, Nintendo has to ask why people download ROMs?

    • monkey

      how so? the VC had the largest collection of older games on any system ever……. The vc made nintendo alot of money

  • LordSaxon

    I’d really love to see SNES games in the 3DS shop. 

    I cant really enjoy them on a big TV screen, they just dont look good :/I’d also love to have N64 games on 3DS but I dont see that coming.

  • Matthew Dickinson

    PSN is frustrating too. I’ve gotten a lot from it, but it doesn’t really make sense why some titles are on one region’s store and not on another. For instance, Blazing Lazers (TG-16 game) is on the Japanese PSN under that name with that cover (U.S. vers rather than Gun-Hed) but it’s not on US or EU PSN. That said there’s a lot of good games for very cheap prices, so it’s nice. Some games that sell for over 200 on eBay are $6 on PSN. And I hear e-Shop is getting Summer Carnival 92 now as well (Recca). 

  • igbfygy

    So, you’re saying Xbox 360 and PS3 have a better selectionof retro games? Nintendo has a pretty good selection f retro stuff on VC