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Now that Super Mario Odyssey is a hit, it’s time for Nintendo to dish out Virtual Console

by Ron Duwell | November 5, 2017November 5, 2017 12:00 pm PST

Nintendo did a fabulous job marketing the Nintendo Switch in 2017, sticking to a healthy stream of games that lead into one of the most anticipated titles of the year, Super Mario Odyssey. That game is now out, and Nintendo’s gamble has paid off in full. The Nintendo Switch is flying off shelves faster than Nintendo can stock it, and the handheld console also sports the two best-reviewed games of 2017 in Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Clearly, the Nintendo Switch is the console to beat this holiday season, and it hasn’t even lived up to its full potential just yet. That’s what 2018 is going to be for.

In its path to releasing Super Mario Odyssey into the holiday market, Nintendo showed hints of brilliance in areas that it often exceeds at outside of its primary franchises. With Arms, it showed it can create a new series that can resonate with both old and new fans, and Splatoon 2 proved that its younger squad of developers has the gumption to follow up a fan-favorite with a solid sophomore hit.

The Switch also displays areas in which Nintendo is improving in the ever-evolving modern market around it. The surprise hit of the year, Mario + Rabbids: Battle Kingdom, emerged from the company’s evolving cooperation with third-party publishers and willingness to allow other AAA developers to have access to its beloved franchises. Indie games, too, have contributed heavily to the success of the Nintendo Switch, with favorites like Shovel KnightStardew Valley, and even niche games like Kamiko scoring extra praise, mostly thanks to the Switch’s accessibility and portability.

Nintendo has already dethroned the PS Vita as indie gaming’s “go to” handheld platform, and the gap between the two consoles will only expand as the Vita’s technology ages.

So, with both the completion of a vastly successful 2017 marketing push and signals of improvement from Nintendo, it’s time for the company to finally excel in one area that it has often fallen short: Virtual Console. The Nintendo Switch is the perfect console for classic gaming, and Nintendo has a handful of new options like portability and subscription based-services that were not available during its first few attempts at a retro gaming platform.

Nintendo is swimming in profits, has become the apple of gamers’ eyes again, and it owns a clean slate heading into 2018. That means it has the perfect chance to finally get this right. But what exactly should Virtual Console on the Nintendo Switch be?

Single payments or a subscription-based system?

Nintendo has only hinted about how it will approach classic games on the Switch, and that hint comes to us from the sole release of the original Mario Bros. arcade. Since landing on the Switch in September, the game has consistently remained in the “Best Sellers” section on the eShop, showing that in spite of the growing popularity of subscription-based services, gamers are still willing to drop  $8 for a piece of software that is over 30-years-old.

However, Nintendo’s classic arcade line-up isn’t all that impressive, especially when put next to its retro console offerings, and it won’t be able to maintain the flow of releases in the same fashion that Hamster has done with its stream of SNK classics. The mysterious release of Mario Bros., which also has yet to be followed up with another Nintendo arcade game, only raises the question if Nintendo is testing the waters for console games to be released in the same fashion.

In other words, not all that different from previous generations. Will we see a steady flow of NES, SNES, and N64… or even GameCube games slip their way onto the Switch in the same fashion? Part of me wants to believe that this will be the case. I have a huge collection of games from every console and handheld generation on my Wii U, which is just begging to be retired, and my Nintendo 3DS that would play perfectly on the Switch, and if given a chance to transfer them cheaply once again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

I prefer the permanence of single payment games on my Switch, and sometimes, just knowing my classic favorites are always there is enough for me to make a purchase.

However, I also realize that Nintendo can’t keep up this model forever, or else it will just continue to give away games after each generation shift. A subscription-based system in which $7-$10 a month gets you access to a huge library of Nintendo classics is something I’d also happily shell out for. Nintendo would have to allow players to download the games since the portability of the Switch won’t allow for a constant Wi-Fi connection, but that’s a small issue for Nintendo to consider.

Either way, you’ll likely be paying a reasonable amount of money for all of your classic favorites. Nobody ever said that your hobbies would be cheap, but for the convenience and the comfort of playing my all-time favorites on the Switch, I’d happily toss in a few extra dollar bills.

No more sub-par emulation

To date, Nintendo’s dedicated emulators for the different iterations of Virtual Console have been received with mediocre to bad response. Complaints range from a severe lack of options, especially compared to unofficial emulators found for free on the net, and images being darker or muddier than they should be.

I’m still haunted by images of Bonk! when TurboGrafx games came to the Wii. Yikes!

All that took a sudden change for the better on the Wii U when the retro gaming wizards at M2 took over Game Boy Advance emulation duties for Nintendo. The fruits of their effort were like night and day compared to what Nintendo had offered up until that point, and the Game Boy Advance games beamed through Wii U screens with crisp pixels, perfect screen resolutions, and the brightest, most accurate colors imaginable.

Sure, the options were still a little dry, but my goodness, the differences in quality are amazing when left in the hands of those who know what they are doing.

Please, Nintendo, do whatever it takes to land M2 again to handle emulation for the Switch. Especially if I end up paying a subscription for Virtual Console, I want nothing but the best this time around. The unprecedented potential of the Switch as a retro-gaming platform demands it!

And while we’re on the topic of Game Boy Advance, Nintendo… you know where this is going.

It’s only a matter of when…

After Nintendo failed to reveal the Switch’s Virtual Console plans in the months leading up to the release and then at E3, I knew we weren’t going to be getting Virtual Console in 2017. Clearly, 2017 was intended to be the year for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey to shine, and nothing, not even Nintendo’s classic masterpieces, were going to get in their way.

With its two major launch window blockbusters out of the way, I get the feeling Nintendo isn’t going to hold back on Virtual Console much longer. It’s had plenty of time to gauge consumer interest in the console, watch the response of its major releases, witness enthusiasm for retro gaming with the NES and SNES Classic Editions, make calculated business decisions, and hopefully sink some effort into making it a better service than it would have been in March or in the summer.

I’d be very surprised if Virtual Console isn’t one of the console’s premiere features heading into its second year.

And if it’s not, and Chrono Trigger on the Switch remains an elusive dream into 2019, hey… at least I have Project: Octopath Traveler to fill in that 16-bit retro RPG gap.

Hey there beautiful!


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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