Wii U Virtual Consoles (Japan)

Gamers have been asking for it since the Wii U launched, upon the disappointment of discovering they cannot play Wii Virtual Console games on the Wii U GamePad: when will Virtual Console games be integrated with the Wii U? The answer? This spring (at least in Japan). But it will cost you.

In today’s Nintendo Direct video, Mr. Iwata announced there would be two Wii system updates this year to address a host of features — including (finally!) long load times when launching software and returning to the Mii Plaza.

The spring update will also include Wii U integration for Virtual Console games. In addition to GamePad play, Virtual Console games will include all of the Miiverse features we have come to expect from Wii U and eShop titles, plus a host of new Miiverse features also being rolled out this year.

That news is so wonderful, it sounds too good to be true! It almost is. There are a few downsides to Nintendo’s approach.

(Come on, you knew that was coming.)

The list of titles currently only includes Famicom and Super Famicom games in Japan. (Presumably NES and Super NES in the US and elsewhere.) For now, at least, we’re out of luck when it comes to anything more recent from Nintendo, let alone games from competitor consoles.

Also, this “upgrade” isn’t free. The system update is free, of course, but Wii Virtual Console games won’t just appear on your Wii U’s menu afterward. For any titles you have purchased from the Wii Shop using your Wii U and/or transferred from an existing Wii, you will have to pay an upgrade price to utilize the new Wii U features. In Japan, this will cost 100 yen for Famicom games, and 150 yen for Super Famicom games. (No word on US pricing, but that translates to roughly $1 and $1.50.)

The upside to this news is that if you don’t own any Virtual Console games, or (like me) you never transferred your Wii identity, you can still get these games for the same price on the eShop as they are listed in the Wii Shop. Good news for new buyers, but what about everyone else?

Something to even the playing field a bit for those who don’t own a DSi or 3DS: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games will eventually be made available for Wii U download. Existing eShoppers will have noticed that all of the 3DS eShop titles are visible from the Wii U, but cannot be downloaded. No timing or prices have been announced, but this is slated to happen for the Wii U this year.

That hopefully means it’s only a matter of time before DS games are available as downloads on the eShop as well. A 3DS can play such games natively, of course, but there may need to be some fancy updates for compatibility using the Wii U GamePad to act as the DS touch screen. If Nintendo has already figured out how it wants to handle upscaling to SD and HD displays for Game Boy titles on the Wii U, that’s all that’s left before we can all start playing Ouendan (or more likely Elite Beat Agents) on our TVs.

In Japan, and in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the Family Computer (progenitor of the NES), Nintendo is offering Demo copies of the following Famicom and Super Famicom titles from now until July, for the cool price of 30 yen each:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Fire Emblem
  • Mother 2 (Earthbound)
  • Kirby’s Star
  • Super Metroid
  • Yoshi’s Egg
  • Donkey Kong

No word on a similar program for the US or other territories. The first demo tittles were made available in Japan following the Nintendo Direct presentation.

(Like it? Hate it? Think it’s worth it for just the price of Miiverse integration alone? How much will this upgrade set you back? Leave a comment below!)