Nintendo Wii

How to make the most of the Wii Virtual Console – while you still can

Featured, Gaming, Nintendo, Technology, Top story, Wii, Wii U
Nintendo Wii
Nintendo Wii (available in white, black and red)

The Wii Shop Channel and all its wonders will close for good on Jan. 30, 2019. So why not use the time available to turn that dusty old Wii into the retro gaming console of your dreams, and spend the $80 and up it would cost to snag a Super NES Classic Edition on some timeless, unforgettable software instead?

With a little planning, the Wii Virtual Console can still help fill those holes in your gaming library, even as the Wii Shop Channel prepares to shut down.

The Wii’s Virtual Console was amazing.

First: the hardware
Wii Classic Controller accessory
Wii Classic Controller accessory

The Wii U, successor to Nintendo’s Wii, may not have been as innovative or popular, but it contains a legacy Wii emulator that lets you run old software, disc-based and digital — including the Wii Shop Channel, which stands apart from the Wii U’s eShop. So, if you don’t have a Wii, or can’t find one, the Wii U is a viable option.

Whether you are playing on an original Wii or the Wii U, you’ll need the proper controllers. You must have a Wii Remote to control the Wii U when it’s in Wii mode. If the game required the Wii Classic Controller (or the upgraded Classic Controller Pro), you’ll have to have one of those plugged into the Wiimote as well — a Wii U Pro Controller won’t work. You also can’t use the Wii U’s signature GamePad controls to play Wii games, although you can use Wii controllers to operate the Wii Menu displayed on the GamePad instead of a TV screen (if you really want to).

For anything newer than the NES, you’ll find most games need more than just the simple Wiimote turned sideways. A Classic Controller or two is a must.

On the money
Nintendo Wii U
Basic Wii U (white) with 8 GB of storage (Black units held 32 GB)

To buy anything from the Wii Shop Channel, don’t pick up a Nintendo eShop card — you’ll need some Wii Points. If you don’t remember, those have no cash value (and won’t be refunded), but you can still use a credit card to get 1,000 points for $10, 2,000 for $20, 3,000 for $30 and 5,000 for $50. If you bought a Wii Points card when those were a thing at video game retailers, you can still redeem them through March 25, 2018. (So it’s definitely worth checking to see if you have any old gifts lying around.) They were also sold as Nintendo Points cards and DSi Points cards, but they were all the same thing.

If you’re using a credit card, the Shop Channel is famously fussy about your details — but that’s as it should be.

What will the games cost?
  • NES and Sega Master System games, along with Virtual Console Arcade, are priced at 500 points (600 points if they were for the Famicom, Japan’s NES). Examples: Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Wonder Boy, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Space Harrier, Phantasy Star
  • TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine games are priced at 600 points. TurboGrafx-CD/PC-Engine CD-ROM games and Sega Genesis games are 800 points, as are Super NES/Super Famicom titles. Examples: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Super Metroid, F-Zero, Suoer Castlevania IV, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Gradius III, Super Star Wars, Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Pilotwings, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Phantasy Star II, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ys Book I & II
  • Neo Geo games run 900 points, while N64 games are 1,000. Example: Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
  • On the Shop Channel, WiiWare original titles range between 500 and 1,500 points in cost. Example: LostWinds, Protöthea, Mega Man 9, Mega Man 10, World of Goo, Gradius ReBirth
Storage hoards

You’ll have to store your Virtual Console game haul somewhere. The Wii only holds 512 MB total, but the console uses SD cards for expanded “external” storage. SD cards up to 2 GB in capacity are supported, as well as high-capacity SDHC cards up to 32 GB. You can play games directly off of a slotted SD card (this was not always the case.)

SD cards also will work for storing games and playing them from the Wii U’s Wii Channel Menu.

If you have a Wii and want to transfer its content to a Wii U, Nintendo has outlined a process for doing so (complete with a helpful video) — but before doing this, you should be warned that it’s a one-way, permanent procedure. Also, the option will no longer be available once the Wii Shop Channel shuts down; that’s partly because there’s a transfer utility that must be downloaded from the Wii Shop Channel.

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