Virtual Console (バーチャルコンソール Bācharu Konsōru) is a service provided by Nintendo on the Wii Shop Channel and later the Nintendo eShop, allowing users to purchase digital downloads of games released on previous consoles. Games released on Virtual Console are emulated to present them in their original format as best as possible, while adding some new emulation features.
The Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console service launched on June 6, 2011 alongside the Nintendo eShop with Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles. The service later expanded into Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Gear titles in 2012, and PC Engine titles in 2013 exclusively in Japan. In 2016, Super Nintendo Entertainment System titles started to be released exclusively for New Nintendo 3DS systems, because of the newer hardware's enhanced CPU which "enables Super NES games to run on the system with quality results". Although ten Game Boy Advance titles were given out as free downloads to early adopters as part of the Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors Program, these titles were never released on the Nintendo 3DS Nintendo eShop proper and do not have any of the standard Virtual Console features.
When playing Virtual Console titles on Nintendo 3DS, by tapping the touch screen players can access the Virtual Console menu. This allows players to reset the game or create a restore point, which saves that point in the game and can be loaded at any time. Restore points can be enabled and disabled at any time by pressing Start, X, and R on the Virtual Console menu. By closing the game and returning to the HOME Menu, the game will be suspended at that point, though if the console is shut off while playing the game will reset when loaded up again. When playing NES games, players can switch controller inputs by holding down L and R and pressing Y, though some games use Download Play for multiplayer features.
When playing Game Boy or Game Boy Color games, players can add a Game Boy or Game Boy Color border by holding down Start or Select when starting a game, which will pop out when the 3D slider is turned up, and displays the game at its native resolution. In addition, when playing original Game Boy games, players can adjust the screen to be the same green monochrome as the Game Boy by holding down L and R and pressing Y, and can do the same to switch back. Although most games do not support Link Cable multiplayer, some games, such as the Pokémon games, support wireless features for multiplayer.
In addition to the standard features, Super Nintendo games on New Nintendo 3DS have a "Pixel-Perfect Mode", which displays the game in its proper resolution rather than full-screen, as well as being able to enable whether or not to send gameplay information to Nintendo.
The Wii U Virtual Console service launched proper on April 23, 2013, with a selection of NES and SNES titles. Before the launch of the service, between January 23, 2013 and July, users could download select titles each month for the price of $.30 as part of the Virtual Console Trial Campaign, celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the launch of the Famicom. The service would later expand to include Game Boy Advance titles in April 2013, and in April 2015 both Nintendo 64 and Nintendo DS titles. In Japan only, MSX and TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine titles began to be added in December 2013, while TurboGrafx-16 titles began to be released in other regions in 2014. Wii Virtual Console games can be transferred to the Wii U and played in Wii Mode, or upgraded to the Wii U version by purchasing that version of the game at a discount price.
While the North American and Japanese releases are their respective region's version of the game, European Virtual Console releases on Wii U are either the North American or Japanese NTSC releases, rather than the slower PAL versions.
All Wii U Virtual Console titles support Off-TV Play using the Wii U GamePad, and have their own Miiverse communities. Many of the emulator features of the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console have been carried over to the Wii U Virtual Console. Pressing a select button depending on the controller or tapping the Wii U GamePad screen brings up the Virtual Console Menu, which allows players to create and load a single restore point, reset the game, and map the controller inputs to the original game's inputs. In addition, when playing Nintendo DS games, the player is also able to select from several different screen layouts. Finally, also similar to the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console, games that are closed by returning to the HOME Menu are suspended, while turning the console off resets the game to the title screen when next loaded.
Like with the Wii Virtual Console, while multiplayer is natively supported on home console games, most games do not support features accessible through the original console's accessories, and Nintendo DS games do not support online play. However, Nintendo 64 games that support the Rumble Pak use the controllers' built-in rumble. In addition, Nintendo DS games that use the system's built-in microphone can use the Wii U GamePad's built-in microphone or the Wii U Microphone accessory.
When loading the manuals for Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, and Game Boy Advance games, the player is able to look through digital scans of the game's original instruction manual. The exception to this is EarthBound, which allows players to look through scans of the guide that came with copies of the original release.
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