Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Dislike of the Wii Part One: The Virtual Console

I do not hate the Wii because I am a fanboy of the “other consoles”, I am merely disappointed with the Wii when it comes to potential and Nintendo.

In this series I shall focus on things I dislike about the Wii. The first installment will focus on the Virtual Console. The Virtual Console was a highly touted feature of the Wii and promised to allow you to buy older video games in a DLC format. You would pay 500 Wii Points for an NES game, 800 for a SNES game, and 1000 for a Nintendo 64 game. Each Wii Point was worth about a penny (or a bit more than that, when you factor in taxes), so a NES game would be $5. For 2006 and at the release, $5 sounded quite reasonable. There was the promise of new titles, and possibly other consoles down the road. Especially lucrative was the thought that the Wii could kick the butt of the $600 PlayStation 3, which was potentially heading for a disaster...the PS3 was graphically superior and more powerful than any other game console on the market, but the $600 price would scare away consumers. In a Nintendo fan’s mind, defeating the PlayStation 3 would mean that PlayStation games would come over to Nintendo, finally ending the PlayStation rivalry that plagued the N64 and GameCube. But it didn’t happen that way. Why? We’ll discuss THAT later. Virtual Console was supposed to be the equivalent of the iTunes store, which was quite big at the time. The Virtual Console wasn’t really so easy, plagued by the fidgety control scheme (we’ll discuss that later too) and whole “feel” of it. When you downloaded a game, you don’t get a full manual, only a brief description of controls. And you can’t make a hard copy of a game (as you would, say, downloading music). Most irritating is the fact that unlike PC digital distribution site Steam, you can’t run Wii games ANYWHERE besides THAT WII. In an ideal world, you can “remove” Wii games through an SD card (SD cards are merely there for “overflow” uses) and play them on another Wii or heck...maybe a real computer. We won’t talk about the antiquated pricing system, that’s already been covered elsewhere on the Internet. Add to the fact that the money being spent really goes nowhere: some money is spent on ESRB ratings, but none really goes to the original creator. Unlike the original games, no game you buy pays the creator’s rent.

Alright, what do we have so far?

1) Poor documentation
2) Overpriced
3) No transfers.

But there is more. The fourth thing is Game Changes. If I really want to “recreate” the old gaming experience, I gotta have the original game. Many of these games have made changes, some understandable, but some leave you scratching your head.

I refuse to buy Wave Race 64 solely on the fact that the original game was called Wave Race 64 Kawasaki Jet Ski and featured in-game ads for Kawasaki. Rather than attempting to renew the license, all ads were removed. But instead of making a clever knock-off replacement (Mario Kart 64 in Japan had “Mariobro” signs on racetracks, a parody of “Marlboro”) the Kawasaki ads were replaced with obnoxious green Wii ads. Thus comes a constant reminder that it’s NOT 1997 anymore, and it is a clearly different game.

StarTropics has more than a few problems. It was innovative in the olden days for featuring a use of a yo-yo for fighting. But in the VC version, the “Island Yo-Yo” is replaced with “Island Star” because yo-yo is still trademarked in Canada. Also innovative was the “physical item” as an anti-piracy measure. In the case of StarTropics it was a physical piece of paper you had to dip in water to reveal a secret code. But in the Virtual Console, there’s apparently a virtual piece of paper that you dip in a picture of a bucket of water. Or something like that.

Kid Icarus still holds to a password-based system, but the password ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS was removed, which started you on the last stage with invincibility.

Tecmo Bowl originally had NFL players on it, but because EA owns the license to NFL games, no player names are available.

Zelda II: Link’s Adventure had the red-and-black death sequence altered due to seizure reduction statutes.

Mario Kart 64 (and other 1997/1998-era N64 games) can’t use the Memory Pak to store ghost data, even though the Wii is perfectly capable of replicating it.

Meanwhile, hundreds of games are off-limits. A lot of good NES and SNES games were commercial licensed properties. Various examples include...

DuckTales for the NES. Despite being a good game in the days (when licensed games were actually pretty good), it isn’t expected to come onto the VC due to the fact that Disney did (and still does) own the property. DuckTales also covers a larger branch of games.

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is missing. Although the title they have for the VC is admittedly a real NES game (Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream), Mike Tyson’s version will not be seen. I mean, Nintendo lost the license back in the 1980s when Tyson lost his championship, and that was BEFORE Tyson pulled all the stunts in the 1990s (like ear-biting, for instance).

EarthBound, because Nintendo likes spiting EB fans.

Earthworm Jim is another big problem because they ported the Genesis version, which has terrible play control compared to SNES.

Banjo-Kazooie because Microsoft owns Rare, and Banjo-Kazooie is on THEIR system.

The fifth complaint I have is the lack of titles. Nintendo only releases three titles every week (of dubious quality) but somehow Japan has managed to get nearly 200 more games than North America. The systems are lacking, too. There’s Commodore-64 games finally available but you actually can’t use a real USB keyboard when playing Commodore games, an on-screen keyboard comes up.

The sixth complaint is that there’s no other way to play old Nintendo NES games legally. Nintendo never ported to the computers nor released a compatibility system to play them. Emulators with ROMs are technically illegal, but they provide a superb way of playing them to Virtual Console. You can play any game you want without waiting for the mystery games that are released every week. I mean, the App Store on the iPhone was newer than the Wii yet there are now tens of thousands of applications there. And I bet that when the Wii is dead and gone, many console games will be left in the cold.

The seventh complaint is that Nintendo only listens to themselves. Who cares if the fans demand Game X and Nintendo decides to release Game Y? Nintendo will get money either way. I can write about why I hate the Virtual Console and get a million hits but Nintendo won’t ever care. I would normally suggest writing Nintendo a heartfelt letter about their policies and why they should change it, but that’s been done.

It has never worked. The only way to bypass the system (legally) is to keep using that N64/SNES/NES and snap up games at the local pawn shop or flea market. The way to (illegally) bypass the system is just to download ROMs, use your favorite USB joystick, and have fun.

Thanks for reading!

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