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Nintendo’s Missed Virtual Console Opportunities

by Kyle Hilliard on Dec 15, 2013 at 01:15 PM

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Nintendo has one of video games’ most impressive backlogs, but it is missing a lot of golden opportunities with its Virtual Console.

Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 was Mario’s first 3D platforming adventure, and set a standard for the genre for years to come, but ahead of the release of Super Mario 3D World, it was not available on the Wii U’s Virtual Console.

It is currently available on the Wii’s Virtual Console, but Nintendo really missed an opportunity to pull off some expert cross-promotion by neither making it available to purchase on the Wii U, or as a reserve bonus for Super Mario 3D World. In Nintendo’s recent Super Mario 3D World Iwata Asks questionnaire, the development team stated that multiplayer akin to Super Mario 3D World was a scrapped feature for Super Mario 64, so the games share an important legacy.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A Link Between Worlds was announced as a sequel to A Link to the Past, but the game that inspired it is not readily available on the Wii U or the 3DS. Again, it is available on the Wii’s Virtual Console, and Nintendo did offer the game as a freebie to Club Nintendo players before the launch of the game, but I would have loved to play the game on my GamePad, or better yet, my 3DS.

Nintendo’s handheld is fully capable of playing Game Boy Advance games, and even released a few as an apology to early-3DS adopters, but that’s it. The Game Boy Advance port of A Link to the Past is great, and I would have loved a chance to play it on the handheld to ramp up for A Link Between Worlds, but Nintendo missed the chance.

Some retailers did offer The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons as a pre-order bonus for reserving A Link Between Worlds, and I thank it for that, but not offering A Link to the Past just seems like an oversight.

Perhaps it’s too much of me to ask for previous Nintendo games in exchange for showing commitment to buy future ones, but we know that Nintendo is open to the idea. As a pre-order bonus for The Wind Waker, Nintendo offered debatably the best bonus of all time by giving players a GameCube disc containing Ocarina of Time and the previously unreleased Master Quest.

Pokémon X & Y and pretty much any other Pokémon game

No Pokémon game has released on the 3DS virtual console. Not Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, or Crystal. When I see screenshots of old Pokémon games on popular meme sites like Reddit, it is nearly always from a pirated version played on an emulator on a mobile phone. People don’t revel in pirating Pokémon games and jail breaking their phones to play them – there is just no other way to get them. The only legal option is to buy a Game Boy Color, track down an old cartridge, and hope that the internal battery necessary for saves hasn’t passed away (a common problem for old Pokémon cartridges).

Players have a lot of nostalgia for the original Pokémon games, but Nintendo appears to have little interest in bringing those games to the Virtual Console, and I can’t figure out why.

The Successes

To Nintendo’s credit, it has brought some great games to the Virtual Console quickly. Earthbound was a game many were requesting for years. Nintendo took its sweet time re-releasing the game, but it was widely embraced, and Nintendo supported the game well, making it easy to access the original strategy guide that was included with the game when it released in 1995 online.

Super Metroid was available early in the Wii U’s life, and for only $0.30 if you purchased it at the right time. There’s no reason to complain about that (although it would have been cool to have the game’s map on the GamePad while you played on the large screen). In fact the whole $0.30 Virtual Console games promotion was a pretty fantastic deal. Also, Mega Man X is available, and I will never tire of that game.

My main complaint about the Virtual Console, is that Nintendo is slowly trickling out releases and seems reticent to offer consumers the chance to buy its old games. There might be a master plan that I am simply unaware of with Nintendo offering many of its games all at once, but for now, I just really want to play Link to the Past on the GamePad while my family watches TV and I am surprised that the option doesn't exist.