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Wii U Virtual Console: how it works

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.