Wii U Virtual Console Impressions: Bringing the VC to Next-Gen

If you’ve been following my work here at GenGAME, I’ve probably shoved my desires for a Wii U Virtual Console service in your face. Among the demanded features were Off-TV Play support, a customizable controller interface, and the ability to easily upgrade from Wii VC versions to Wii U versions without having to pony up for another full-price download. As it turns out, Nintendo’s taken all of these suggestions into consideration with the implementation of the Wii U Virtual Console.

Nintendo released NES’s Balloon Fight as part of a promotional campaign that lets players grab certain games for 30 cents, one game per month for the next few months to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Famicom (the Japanese NES), so I picked it up to try out the new service for myself.

Hop inside for my thoughts.

As with all previous Virtual Console services, the games haven’t changed – they’re the same games you know and love from your childhood or that are held in high regard by your peers and relatives. What has changed are the extra hardware features added by Wii U.

Chief among these new features is Off-TV Play. Virtual Console games will stream simultaneously to both your TV and the Wii U GamePad, with no latency. Games won’t be stretched to fit either your widescreen TV or the GamePad screen, so you’ll get to enjoy them in their original aspect ratios. It’ll be a much-wanted feature for people who have to share a crowded household and want to play games while others want to use other devices in the living room.

vc-controls-customizationTapping the GamePad screen brings up a Virtual Console menu much like the one on Nintendo 3DS. From there you can access other features, including a game reset option, the ability to create Restore Points (which is virtually identical to the same function on 3DS), and the ability to adjust controller settings, which allows you to both switch between controllers at will and customize the controller button settings.

These custom controls settings are locked to the software they’re adjusted for, meaning you can have different control setups for different games. No more getting stuck with the A and B buttons in the ABXY configuration when playing NES Mario! You’ll be able to adjust to the SNES control scheme if you so desire for greater comfort.

The service also appears to support two Wii U GamePads, although it’s not known whether you’ll be able to connect them at present or whether a future system update will be required. You’ll be able to move controllers around between Player 1 and Player 2 at will.

All in all, the service brings everything people expect from a legacy games service on Wii U. The main caveat for some will be the small fee required by Nintendo to upgrade from Wii Virtual Console games to Wii U versions. It’s a small fee – $1.00 for NES games and $1.50 for SNES games – but it wouldn’t be totally unreasonable to say that expecting consumers to pay money for games they already own and indeed that they already have licensed to their accounts and to their hardware might cause some backlash.

If you don’t already own the digital versions, they’ll go for the same prices they did on Wii: $5 for NES games and $8 for SNES games. It’s a pretty good deal when you factor in all the extra features.

However, when it comes to the software execution, the Wii U Virtual Console service is pretty spot-on when it comes to delivering the features and smooth interface that Nintendo fans have been waiting for. Depending on the size of your games library, updating your favorite titles to take advantage of the Wii U’s added features (once the update service becomes available) will likely be a worthy investment.