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Wii U Virtual Console: how it works

A close look at the first Virtual Console game released for Wii U, as well as the features and options that support it.

If you own a Wii U, there’s really no excuse for not having already downloaded Balloon Fight, a classic NES game and the first title on the system to carry the ‘Virtual Console’ brand.

The game is the first in Nintendo’s Famicom 30th anniversary Virtual Console trial campaign which, as detailed in the recent Nintendo Direct, will be providing a new classic title every 30 days for the low price of just 30 cents. Balloon Fight for 30 cents? This is what I mean by no excuse.

But if you don’t have an online Wii U, or you just haven’t had time to go in-depth with the first Virtual Console title just yet, you may be wondering how the classic games will work on Wii U compared to other systems like the Wii and 3DS. Of course if you have spent a bit of time with it already, read through and then leave your own impressions in the comments below.

The most unique and most pleasing aspect of the Virtual Console this time around is its ability to change in order to suit your play style or preferences.

First of all the VC menu – which acts as a separate overlay to the home menu – is very clean, very visual  and very easy to use.

Every Wii U compatible controller works great with the Virtual Console: gamepad, Wii remote, Wii classic controller and Wii U pro controller. It’s as simple as just picking up the controller you want to use. Each of these controllers is also fully mappable to whatever system the VC game you’re playing happens to come from.

This means that if you want to use the gamepad with an NES game, you can actually choose whether Y is 1 and B is 2, or B is 1 and A is 2. If you wanted to you could have ZR as 1. It’d be stupid but you could do it. Every button is mappable and you can even set one button to bring up the VC menu, that way if the gamepad is out of reach you can map buttons and set save states just with the controller you have in hand.

Speaking of the gamepad, the games are of course playable on the small screen alone. By default the game is displayed on both screens at once, but if you want you can easily disable the gamepad display by closing the VC menu while clicking the right analog stick down.

Every VC title will also be coming with its own Miiverse community. Satoru Iwata had hoped Balloon Fight‘s would quickly fill with friends exchanging scores and exciting moments, although right now it’s mostly filled with “Am I doing it right” and “How do I play?”

Of course all of the new stuff is built on top of the features you expect from previous iterations of the VC. Exiting the game with the home button will automatically suspend your progress so you can jump straight back in next time. If you need a little extra assurance for those hardcore old NES games that don’t allow saving, you can create a restore point at any time. Die too much, and you can easily load that save point back up. Usual bits and bobs like the digital manual are also present.

Taking all this into account, it becomes clear that the couple of dollars it will cost you to convert your Wii VC games into Wii U VC games will be well worth it. Not only will the games actually display in their correct aspect ratio and at 1080p, but you can play absolutely however you want, even if for some reason you want to play with only the four trigger buttons, saving every 10 minutes, bragging on Miiverse and watching Next Top Model while you do it.

As for the game itself … well it’s Balloon Fight, you probably know the deal. In the lead up to the full Virtual Console launch though, Nintendo will continue to push you awesome old games for 30 cents a pop, including:

  • January: Balloon Fight
  • February: F-Zero
  • March: Punch-Out!!
  • April: Kirby’s Adventure
  • May: Super Metroid
  • June: Mario & Yoshi
  • July: Donkey Kong

So how do you feel about the tweaks and changes made for the Wii U Virtual Console? Which games are you really hoping to see once the service launches? Keep in mind Nintendo has so far only announced that they’ll be bringing NES, SNES and Gameboy Advance games. So don’t be like that guy in the Balloon Fight Miiverse community who’s already asking where Skyward Sword is.

Around the web
  • A SNES Day Off

    Wait, how long has the VC been available on the Wii U? I thought it was only available from the existing Wii Menu format?

    • fernandez_rl

      It’s a recent thing ;)

    • ludist210

      They’re integrating the VC with the Wii U fully beginning in the spring.  NES titles that you’ve previously purchased will cost $1 to upgrade to Wii U, and SNES will be $1.50.  No other consoles (other than GBA) have been announced for Wii U yet, but they will be added in the future.

      • Brett Bates

        I find it strange that Nintendo is charging again for games you have already bought through their download service.

        • ludist210

          Yeah, I guess it’s a relicensing fee…at least that’s what I want to think of it as.  I won’t be doing that for all of my VC games, but there’s a few that I would love to have at their correct aspect ratios with save states.

          • Elem187

            I think you keep the ROM, but its the emulator you are paying for.

            For what it adds its worth having the ability to play on gamepad, or the save state is pretty epic.

        • EvanescentHero

          It’s a heavy discount and the extra charge is for save states, Miiverse, and off-TV play.

          • Arthur Jarret

             But you already have save states,
            miiverse can be accessed even if I don’t own the game.
            So you’re just paying for off-TV play, really – which is the same code they put in every game. Try selling that to anyone who has 100+ VC games.

          • EvanescentHero

            No, the “save states” are only in NES games and only when you leave the game to return to the Wii menu. I’ll grant you it’s tough for people who own lots of games, but even with my meager collection I’m probably only going to upgrade a few of mine. I would assume most people will do the same, because yes, the dollar will add up with multiple games. It’s not like they’re going to force you to update.

          • Arthur Jarret

             True, it’s  just a shame you need to do a system transfer to upgrade – meaning you are stuck with the wii mode for all your wiiware games… lost winds doesn’t work on it either.

          • Andrew W Garttmeyer

             They had to of spent SOME resources to make these playable on the gamepad.  I am fine with paying the fee for that service.

          • http://weeklyrift.com/ Tim Biggs

            Save states are for all VC games and they work like they do on the 3DS -
            you can record the save state at any time and keep playing. You can
            reload that state at any time from the VC menu. You’re thinking of the
            suspend feature, where you use the home menu to exit the game. That is
            still there, but the save state is a seperate thing.

            In my opinion the small charge to upgrade from a Wii version to a Wii U
            version is entirely fair. You get the game in proper display ratio, at
            1080p (I personally don’t think 50hz is that big a deal), off-screen
            play, save states pro controller support and fully customisable buttons.

        • Cold Heat

          You find it strange that Nintendo is charging again for games you have already bought? Really?

        • Elem187

          You are paying for being able to use it in their new emulator. The new emulator is WAAAAAYYYY better… Creating save points is pretty massive. It will be ALOT easier to beat old games now, as some were just way too brutally hard to complete.

          Your not paying for the ROM again, you are only paying a 1$ fee to use the newer emulator, if you don’t want the new emulator, you can always access your games through the Wii menu.

  • Colin Kells-Murphy

    Now my question is when dual game pad support comes to the wii u, would there be an option for nes and snes games to allow offscreen play for both player 1 and 2?

    • Jeffery02

      I was wondering about that as well. Hopefully they will add that. Otherwise you may just have to force at least one person to look at the TV. I suppose they don’t have to add it for every game though. Using 2 GamePads would be kind of pointless if you were playing Super Metroid.

  • Nintendofreak

    holy shit i loved dat game

  • Mark Portch

    i have learned hat the game runs at the old 50mhz in ENGLAND,its the dreaded pal to senario of the old days all over again.£0.30p is ok i understand this to some digree but its going to cost about £4 Aafter promotion i cant see people buying into that in the UK

    • ludist210

      You’d think they would have fixed that by now.  Sorry man.  Hopefully Nintendo gets their act together and allows VC games to run at 60 hz.

  • https://www.facebook.com/BlueLightningTechnicalServices Bob Wilkerson

    I don’t remember playing this game but for 30 cents it will be added to my collection of classic “Old School” games.   Looking forward to all the other VC games getting an upgrade too so I can access them from the Wii U dashboard even if it costs a small fee for the ones I already have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kos1c Dell Goodman

    This is a cool feature, to add certain titles till the release is better than not having a thing and bam a bunch of games at full retail price.
    Every time I see the Eshop being updated the more I’m liking Nintendo. I really can’t wait to see more indie games on the market, as well as more demos.

    I can’t wait for May, Metroid is one of my fav classics.

  • The_Last_Metroid

    i hope they finally add contra!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002239246673 Robert Burns

    F-Zero!!!!!!!

  • Dominic Coradazzi

    I’m really looking forward to march and may now

  • AKT4

    One important thing to note though is that it works only in 50hz at the moment, as it was originally decades back. The 3DS ambassador ones worked in 60hz, which made them a lot better, hoping they’ll give us the option to play these in 60hz too at some point.

  • tronic307

    This is a good development. I like the game, and for 30¢ I’ll be downloading all of these, especially Super Metroid. Just one nitpick: The image looks murky, dim and too soft. When I first saw it, I was like, “Is the screen in power saving mode?” The actual output looks nothing like the above screenshot, the pixels are round and maybe I’d accept that if the score was full white and not gray. Nintendo needs to dial back the filtering, give the option to adjust it, or let us turn it off entirely. Old games should be bright and blocky like the screenshot; that’s what really makes them pop. 
    Nintendo doesn’t want to upset those who are afraid of enormous jaggies, it seems. I bet if those people ever saw scanlines they would have a seizure!

    • Elem187

      its a beta test, not the final versions.

  • Old McGroin

    All games of this type need an online leaderboard!

  • Kirbyomega

    But can you transfer save data from the wii virtual console to the wii u virtual console? If you can than this is the best idea ever.

    Also, I have balloon trip breeze, so what’s special about this? Anyone wanna say?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003178697711 Derek Tripp

    wait. when they are released during the month are they yours forever when you download them??

    • http://weeklyrift.com/ Tim Biggs

       Yep, they’re yours to keep once you buy them. They’re only 30 cents for the first 30 days though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatmakesyoucryandwhy Joe Owens

    Can’t go wrong for 30c! Should be really good once it’s in full flight with a larger game library. I’ll definitely be getting SMB3 and SMW, which I had on the Wii, upgraded to the Wii U.

  • Robyn Hermann

    I would love to see Tiger Heli on the VC…Loved that game!

  • Saul Rivera

    So instead of passing Super Metroid from my Wii to WiiU for 1.50…I should wait for the 30 cent version