Any long-term gamer who was paying attention to the Wii's launch back in 2006 likely had one very specific feature call to them amid the hype surrounding motion control, blue ocean strategies, and a console promising a "revolution"—the Virtual Console.
Yes, inside the Wii, that underpowered box focused on redefining the way would play games for the foreseeable future, lived a digital history lesson in the form of a storefront that promised to provide classic gaming experiences from many historic Nintendo consoles, as well as many others. It was a strange pairing of old and new, but it was a then-novel way to offer up retro content in a way that is now-assumed to be a feature in most consoles.
And yet, as with so many of Nintendo's innovations, strange policies and limitations have, over time, turned this selling point into a pain point.
With the launch of the 3DS and Wii U, it quickly became apparent that Nintendo was ill-prepared to properly manage digital rights ownership across devices; and we now live in a world where Nintendo has three unique Virtual Console stores that vary in game selection, console selection, and emulation features. To make matters worse, there is (almost) no connection between any of them.
It's high time Nintendo fixed this and unified its Virtual Console.
Having existed the longest, the original Wii's VC has the best library—and, yes, I know you can play those on the Wii U's Wii mode—but it's frustrating to have to wait for them to re-port them to Wii U. For reference, the Wii has 398 games, while the Wii U has 178 games at the time of this writing. While I can appreciate that the Wii U VC has some additional emulation features, such as suspend points, it seems like poor planning to not have made the porting process faster or easier so that the Wii U could have launched with the full VC library offered on the Wii.
If you haven't upgraded to a Wii U, here's the experience: let's say you owned Metroid on Wii. If you transferred your Wii's data and games to the Wii U, you would be able to play the game by launching "Wii Mode" and launching the game. However, when Nintendo released Metroid for the Wii U proper, you had to pay an extra $1.00 to download the "upgraded" version (SNES games cost $1.50 to upgrade).
Let's say, though, that you also bought a 3DS and linked that system's eShop to the same Nintendo Network ID as your Wii U (on which you now own two versions of Metroid ). Guess what, the 3DS also has Metroid ! So you might be thinking, "Maybe I can pay a little for a a portable version, even if it's a downgrade or something."
If you want to bring Samus on the go, you'll just have to re-buy the game completely for $4.99. The 3DS has no idea you already own this game on either of your home consoles, nor does it care. This whole problem is made worse by the fact that most of these retro games are best-played on a mobile device versus a 50" HDTV.
Here's a perfect example.
I didn't become a Zelda fan until around Minish Cap on GBA (growing up, I preferred JRPGs, so Zelda's action/puzzle approach didn't resonate with me at the time). Now, though, I love the series, yet I had never gone back to play A Link to the Past. So, when A Link Between Worlds came out on 3DS and was essentially billed as a sequel to the SNES classic, I wanted to get the original game on VC to get the full impact of the new entry.
The only thing was: A Link to the Past is only available on the Wii & Wii U VCs, so my only option was to play this game on a home console. For me, it's a much bigger ordeal to monopolize the TV to play a game, just in general, so I often prefer handheld gaming these days. And, while I can at least use the Wii U's GamePad, that limits the number of rooms in which I can play the game—and I'm definitely not playing it if I'm traveling.
So, while I did download it, I'm progressing far more slowly in the game because it's just so much easier for me to whip out my 3DS to play Fire Emblem: Awakening , even though I see the icon for A Link Between Worlds calling to me on my 3DS home screen. I want to get to this game, but Nintendo's not making it easy for me to get to it the way I want to, even though I've paid good money to do so. It just seems wrong that I have to play an older game on a more complex, stationary piece of hardware in order to play a newer, more advanced game on a less-advanced, but portable, piece of hardware.
Something isn't right with that picture.
I can only hope that Nintendo is planning on working with DeNA to solve this issue. They either need an answer to Sony's Cross-Buy system or, if the NX turns out to be the handheld/console convergence device everyone seems to hope it will be, finally deliver a single, unified VC that gives gamers the freedom they want.