The Virtual Console is a service created by Nintendo for their Wii, 3DS and Wii U platforms, that digitally provides emulated classic games from older systems. The Wii and 3DS do not share the same library of games however, with the Wii offering titles from the Arcades, NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine, NeoGeo, Commodore 64 and (in Japan) the MSX, and the 3DS currently offering NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Sega Game Gear titles. The Wii U currently supports NES, SNES and GBA titles while future N64 support was announced in April 2013 and future Nintendo DS support was announced in February 2014.
Wii Virtual Console
Nintendo's Wii virtual console service allows users to download classic games from both Nintendo's, and other publishers back catalogs. All of the games are emulated, meaning that usually, they are exactly the same as the original release. One game has been modified to take advantage of the Wii hardware, Pokémon Snap was changed to allow players to take in-game pictures and send them to friends via the Wii Message Board. New games are added every Monday in the United States and Friday in Europe.
Some games are updated to fix problems in the emulation of the game. So far four games have required an update. Users who have previously downloaded the game can download the update free of charge. These four games are Military Madness, Star Fox 64, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, (in North America and Europe), and Mario Kart 64 (in Europe and Australia).
Games are purchased using Nintendo points (formerly Wii Points) which can either be bought over the Wii Shop Channel using a credit card, or from stores, on a Nintendo Points Card, which has a code to be redeemed on the Shop Channel. In America, its only available for 2000 points, but in other countries, there's an array of cards available (highest up to 5000 points)
Some games (categorized as Import titles in the shop) have been made available on the Virtual Console in Europe and America, despite only being available in Japan originally. These games often cost 100 or 200 Nintendo Points more than their standard price. Among them are Sin & Punishment which made it outside of Japan for the first time ever via the VC and especially Europe received a lot of first time releases with such revered classics as Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy II (IV) and III (VI).
Games from the following consoles are sold on the Virtual Console, and usually sell for the Nintendo Points values shown.
3DS Virtual Console
The 3DS Virtual Console currently consists of titles from the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, however it also contains classic titles that have been remastered to utilize 3D. Rather than using 'Nintendo Points' to price software on the store, titles on the 3DS Virtual Console are priced in real currency. Like the Wii's Virtual Console, currency can be added the the user's account using a credit card, or a gift card.
Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles can be played either scaled to take up the height of the 3DS screen, or (if 'Select' is held when the game is launched) with a border resembling the system being emulated. This bordered view can be viewed in 3D, which gives the appearance of the Game Boy, or Game Boy Color screen being slightly indented. Original Game Boy titles also have the ability to switch color schemes, with a choice of black and white, or green and black (this can be changed at any point during emulation by holding L and R, then pressing Y). Emulation of either system also allows for a single save state.
Launching on June 6th, 2011 in North America, the 3DS Virtual Console initially had the following titles available:
Wii U Virtual Console
In a Nintendo Direct on January 23, 2013, Nintendo announced their detailed plan for the Virtual Console service on the Wii U. Starting that same day, a trial promotion would come into effect which would see a release of one new VC game per month until July for the special price of 30 cents for a period of 30 days per title. After that, the respective game would be sold for the regular price.
The full Virtual Console service is going to launch in Spring 2013 starting with NES and SNES titles. Users who already own Virtual Console titles that are being released on Wii U and have completed the Wii to Wii U transfer will have the chance to upgrade for a discounted price of $1/¥100/£0.99/€0.99 (NES) or $1.50/¥150/£1.49/€1.49 (SNES) instead of having to buy the games again for full price. Normal pricing will remain the same as it was on the original Wii Virtual Console.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata explained that all previously released Virtual Console games would not be available immediately on the Wii U VC since they have to bring the games over one by one to make them run on the Wii U hardware with the new features.
These new features include
In Japan, the Trial Promotion would also include a special Mother 2 (Earthbound) Festival celebration with Mother 2 being released on the VC for the first time. Creator Shigesato Itoi is going to be answering fan questions during on Miiverse for the duration of this festival.
Trial Schedule for Japan
Trial Schedule for North America
Trial Schedule for Europe and Australia
The Virtual Console proper launched after the big Spring system update for the Wii U. Since that was pushed out with slight regional delays, the Wii U VC launch was spread across two days: April 26, 2013 in North America and April 27, 2013 in Japan and Europe/Australia.
Launch VC Games for Japan:
Launch VC Games for North America:
Launch VC Games for Europe/Australia
PAL 50Hz vs. NTSC 60Hz on Wii U VC
All launch games on the Virtual Console service in PAL territories were issued as either Japanese or North American NTSC versions running at 60Hz which is notable since that was not the case on the original Wii Virtual Console where PAL gamers could only buy the PAL versions originally made for technical limitations of television sets from that region. However, the only titles released in 60Hz as imports are titles that received no localization for European languages. For example, Kirby's Adventure was released as its original PAL version since that version has partially localized text. Those PAL versions have been slightly altered to correct the aspect ratio (removing the much hated black "PAL bars") along with the original changes for PAL territories made during development of their original versions.
Game Boy Advance Support
Starting April 3, 2014 the Wii U Virtual Console is supporting Game Boy Advance games as well. This marks the first time those games will be rereleased since their original debut on the handheld system. Nintendo has partnered with famed emulation specialists M2 to bring GBA Virtual Console to fruition. Worth noting is that some of the early Game Boy Advance games were artificially brightened since the handheld initially lacked a backlit screen. The Virtual Console versions of these games have had their brightness corrected to account for that. This gamma correction can be noticeable on the GamePad but if the TV has been set up correctly, players will likely not notice anything.
Along with a brand new set of classics to revisit, the GBA VC comes with a bunch of new features unique to the GBA titles. Most notably, the digital manuals included with every game on Wii U reach a whole new level of fancy in that GBA titles come with full color (where available) scans of their original manuals that can be called up instantly during gameplay on the GamePad's touch screen while the game continues on the TV.
On top of that, the emulator supports a screen-smoothening filter that can be activated by either pushing in the right stick or selecting the option in the settings menu. Two resolutions are also available: an upscaled 1620×1080 option that fills the screen and a setting for "original resolution" which upscales the original GBA resolution of 240×160 to 1440×960 pixels.