E3 06: Wii Virtual Console Hands-On

A big part of Nintendo's next-gen strategy is its back catalog of N64, SNES, and NES games; GameSpot takes a look at how they'll play on the Wii.

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One of the many Wii features touted by Nintendo has been the Virtual Console that allows Wii owners to download and play games from the company's extensive NES, SNES, and N64 game library using system emulation software. The library isn't limited to legacy Nintendo platform games, either. Nintendo has signed deals to bring Sega and Hudson Soft TurboGrafix 16 games over the Wii Virtual Console as well.

Nintendo's Wii Virtual Console demo station featured five signature games from the system's past: Super Mario Bros. from the NES, Super Mario World from the SNES, Super Mario 64 from the Nintendo 64, Sonic the Hedgehog from the Sega Genesis, and Bonk's Adventure from the TurboGrafix 16. The navigation menu only allowed us to scroll through the five title selection pages, so we didn't get a chance to select and download games to run.

The Wii Virtual Console stations used the gamepad Wii classic controller instead of the motion-sensing Wii-mote used with modern Wii games like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption or Super Mario Galaxy. We spent time playing all five games and didn't notice any differences between the Virtual Console versions and the originals, although we must admit that it's been about decade since we last played these games on their native systems. Games played in a letterbox on the widescreen booth display, but screens still looked sharp and vibrant.

The button settings were fairly intuitive for most games since the layout of the Wii classic controller can safely mimic the controllers of past consoles. Super Mario 64 had the least familiar mapping with player movement bound to the left analog stick, camera angle bound to the right analog stick, and the Z button bound to a tiny button stuck on top of the controller, just to the left of the right shoulder button. Hopefully, Nintendo will allow players to set their own button bindings in shipping Wii systems. The select and pause buttons function as expected, and players can press the home button in the center of the controller to open a quit game prompt to go back to the game-selection menu.

After seeing the Wii handle five flagship console games without a problem, it appears that the Virtual Console emulator is poised for a successful launch.

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