Scratch that. The Wii’s Virtual Console IS amazing. And it’s still waiting for you.
Wii come not to bury the Virtual Console, but to praise it!
The Wii Shop Channel, which lets you purchase and download games to play on the Virtual Console, may be shutting down, but no one is going to brick your system and prevent you from playing what you already own. And there’s still time to fill the old unit up with classic games you may not find anywhere else.
The Wii’s groundbreaking Virtual Console is home to around 200 classic games, many of which are no longer available save for expensive vintage editions or now-rare re-releases made for hardware that can be just as hard to find as the games themselves.
With the recent news that the Wii Shop Channel is winding down all its services in the next year or so, it’s worth taking a hard look at what’s going to be taken off the market — in some cases, maybe for good.
It’s often said that you don’t realize how much a thing is worth until it’s gone. With these games, if you’ve got an old Wii sitting around, that doesn’t have to be the case this time.
Aside from the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo 64, you can get games from the Sega Master System and Genesis, the TurboGrafx-16 and TurboGrafx-CD, the Neo Geo, and even a few arcade titles. (Some Commodore 64 games were once made available, before being pulled from the service — but fear not, a throwback system for the C64 is in the works.)
I know I plan to dust off the Shop Channel to purchase and download at least Final Fantasy III, which is available on the new Super NES Classic Edition mini system, and Final Fantasy II, which is not. Without access to my original SNES, it’s currently my best bet for playing those Square Enix RPGs, unless I track down rare Nintendo DS cartridges or PlayStation One discs. (Final Fantasy II and III were known in Japan as FF IV and VI, respectively, as the original NES/Famicom FF II and III there didn’t come to these shores until later.)
On the Wii service, you’ll find just a couple of the 21 games on the SNES Classic’s menu on the Virtual Console (FFIII and Secret of Mana) along with the NES’ original Final Fantasy and SNES gems like Chrono Trigger, ActRaiser and all three Super Star Wars titles.
I never played Mana or Chrono the first time around, so I think they just got added to my list as well …
(A quick word to the wise: You won’t find the never-before-released Star Fox 2 anywhere else but the SNES Classic, unless someone rips the ROM to a SNES cartridge and puts it on eBay for- … oh wait, it’s already happened. Just don’t expect to find it on the Shop Channel.)
And this is just the Virtual Console we’re talking about here, folks — the home for pre-Wii Nintendo systems (NES, SNES and N64), plus other systems like TurboGrafx and Genesis (hello, Phantasy Star I-IV!). We haven’t even scratched the surface of WiiWare, the games created by independent publishers just for the Wii. This can be seen as the precursor to the thriving “Nindies” scene we have today, but many won’t be available elsewhere.
Why is this all such a big deal? Many of the games on Wii’s Virtual Console are from third-party publishers, so Nintendo just can’t unilaterally decide to make them available on other platforms like the Wii U and 3DS eShops or the new Switch, which doesn’t even have a proper Virtual Console yet and isn’t likely to for some time. These couple hundred games represent a significant chunk of video game history, which is a lot more fragile and fleeting than you might, at first, think.
So, let’s save some games. For posterity!
Whatever you decide to do, just remember that 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?