Nintendo fans currently find themselves living in an era of gaming where they can easily obtain classics like EarthBound, Final Fantasy VI, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Wario Land 4, and many more thanks to the wonder that is the company’s Virtual Console service. Countless games that are either hard to find and/or prohibitively expensive to purchase from secondary market vendors are available for download, allowing multiple generations of gamers to replay titles of their past, discover games that they’ve only ever been able to read about, or a little bit of both. Yet, for all the good that Virtual Console does, for all the growth that fans have seen from the service over the years, there are still some serious hurdles facing it that we’d love to see resolved in 2016.
Stop the Double-Dipping
I currently own Super Mario Bros. 3 on my Wii, Wii U, and 3DS. Though I love the convenience of being able to play the game across multiple platforms, sadly I had to buy all three digital copies at full price each and every time. For Nintendo, the allure of charging players repeatedly for the same game is obvious: it makes the company money hand over fist. Unfortunately, it’s an unfair proposition for loyal fans who commit to buying Nintendo consoles with each and every new release of hardware, and sometimes even new iterations of the same systems (like with the case of 3DS to New 3DS, for example). To call on consumers to keep repurchasing the same 8-bit, 26 year old piece of software, no matter how beloved it is, is getting ridiculous.
The so-called compromise Nintendo has made for those who want to experience their Wii Virtual Console titles on Wii U without having to jump through the hoops of the system’s cumbersome “Wii Mode” has been to charge them between $1 and $2 per game to gain access on the newer console. The excuse has been that the company needs to individually update these pieces of software for Wii U, introducing new features to them, as well, like save states. Assuming the effort Nintendo is making to bring Wii Virtual Console games to Wii U is genuinely worth a small fee, I can get behind that, but the fact remains that there needs to be some kind of accommodation made for players who are buying copies of the same game on the company’s respective handheld home console.
Sony, for years, has allowed its users to download PSOne classics across multiple PlayStation devices without any sort of additional fee. Bought Final Fantasy Tactics on a PlayStation Portable? That player can then switch on his PlayStation 3 and download it there, too. Sony has been doing this since the days of slumming it in last place of the previous console generation, making Nintendo’s excuse for double-dipping into consumers’ wallets less acceptable. Now, far be it for me or anyone else to tell Nintendo how to run its business, but customers want to be treated fairly, and the Virtual Console situation is currently blatantly unfair.
The most logical solution seems to be one of two things. Either Nintendo starts offering a flat fee to own a single game across all compatible platforms, or players who buy a copy of a game on one console should receive a discounted price for that same title on the other system. Buy The Legend of Zelda on Wii U? It can be Sue’s for a paltry $1 if she then goes on to buy the game on her 3DS. If the cheaper pricing can be done for Wii Virtual Console customers, I don’t see why something similar isn’t being adopted for Wii U and 3DS owners. Honestly, Nintendo knows perhaps better than anyone how desirable its back catalog of software is, and will continue to exploit it from now until the next millennium. I’m not suggesting that the company shouldn’t be able to use oldies like Super Mario Bros. to turn a quick profit, but keep it reasonable. Right now, double-charging charging fans $4 and $5 a pop simply because they’d like to be able to play certain titles at home and on the go just isn’t right.
Share the Love
Nintendo 3DS has two screens, but Nintendo DS software is not offered for download on the device. Wii U is the exclusive home to Super Nintendo games, despite the fact that a 3DS can easily play that system’s software. I won’t beat around the bush any longer: every type of Virtual Console game needs to be available on both Nintendo’s home and handheld consoles. As we compiled our end of year awards, one of the categories Nintendojo looked at was the slate of Virtual Console games that came out over the past twelve months. I couldn’t help but look at the fantastic assortment of Game Boy Advance titles currently calling Wii U home and think to myself, “Why in the world would Nintendo deny its flagship handheld some of the most premier, memorable portable games the company has ever made?”
Metroid Fusion, The Minish Cap, Mega Man Battle Network, and many more games besides are currently being arbitrarily kept away from the system that, frankly, it makes most sense for them to be on. Really, who at Nintendo decided that the home console should be the destination for Game Boy Advance and DS software? It just doesn’t make any sense, no matter what angle the situation is looked at from. Granted, having the likes of Golden Sun in any way, shape, or form is better than no Golden Sun at all, but as I said before, Nintendo needs to take a step back and ask itself if what it’s doing is reasonable (psst! It isn’t!).
Considering how much Nintendo likes to monetize its old software through repeat sales, I can’t even come up with an excuse from the standpoint of pure greed for the company to not be offering all of its Virtual Console games across Wii U and 3DS. If a PlayStation Portable could run PSOne games, there isn’t any technological limitation that I can conjure up that should limit a 3DS, which packs a hefty amount of processing-muscle, from playing SNES titles. From the perspective of a fan, though I stand by my point that Wii U feels like an illogical home for portable games, there’s no denying that the large screen of the GamePad is like playing the biggest, most awesome Game Boy Advance of all time. With that in mind– how cool would it be to play Game Boy Color titles on it, too?
The Trickle Needs to Stop
Once more acknowledging that Nintendo claims it takes some effort to get Wii Virtual Console titles running on Wii U, I still can’t help but feel like there are too many games that are only available on the older system. Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger, and more are ready to be purchased from the Wii Shop Channel, yet there’s nary a whiff of them coming to the eShop. Why? As was the case with the service when it launched on Wii, the mind-numbingly slow pace of releasing games on Virtual Console, whether for Wii U or 3DS, is unbearable. It took forever to get the service on Wii U, which was itself an odd move, but the fact that years into the system’s lifetime there are still gaping holes in its library like there are is inexcusable.
These are the three biggest, most glaring problems Nintendo has going when it comes to Virtual Console. Throw in the fact that the company really needs to get Sega and SNK Playmore back on board supporting the service with their own classic pieces of software, and technically Nintendo has four problems to address, but the previous three are the more pressing issues. It’s been wonderful seeing Nintendo continue to embrace Virtual Console and keep its history alive and well, but the time has come to finally iron out these kinks that the company keeps ignoring and allowing to fester. Bring us EarthBound on 3DS! Bring us Oracle of Ages on Wii U! Bring us the games we want, on the systems we want them on, at a price that’s fair!