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Is Nintendo's Virtual Console Broken?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 23, 2009   |   Episode 167 (Show Archive)  


I doubt that Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew) was excited about playing 25 year old NES games on her Wii!
When Nintendo first announced the Virtual Console I couldn't have been more excited. The idea of being able to download some of my favorite NES, Genesis and Super NES games all from an iTunes-style online service was enough to make me want to invest in a first-generation Wii. For the first two years I can remember getting up bright and early to every Monday just to find out what games Nintendo uploaded to their servers. And even though I knew there would be some clunkers here and there, I couldn't wait to see what the Virtual Console had in store for us next.

But lately I'm not as excited about the Virtual Console. I find myself apathetic to the Monday announcements, usually sleeping in and not getting around to checking the press release until hours after my

Trust me, not even a triumphant return of the Virtual Console is going to make sad Samus smile!
breakfast. I just don't care anymore, and lately it's starting to concern me. Do I need a heavy prescription of anti-depressants, or is Nintendo's Virtual Console broken?

It's not hard to see where this recent malaise comes from. Over the last few weeks I've been forced to play Final Fight 2 (more of the same), the arcade version of Rygar (not as good as the NES game), Altered Beast (bad on every platform), the horrendous Crash 'n' the Boys (totally outdated) and The Last Ninja 2 (impossible to play Commodore

Fact: Nobody has ever recommended Altered Beast!
64 game). Of the last month and a half I've only been able to recommend one game, the original Final Fantasy ... and even that is better on other game consoles. I'm stuck playing mediocre games while I sit at my computer praying for something good. I used to hope for a genuine classic, but these days I'll settle for something that doesn't completely suck.

How did things get this bad? Obviously there have been good games released this year (Phantasy Star, Revenge of Shinobi, Pulseman, Boulder Dash, etc.), but even this year's best pales in comparison to the highs of 2007 and 2008. It's all led me to wonder why Nintendo has dropped the ball on what should be a no-brainer.

Based on my count, Nintendo has uploaded 48 games to the Virtual Console since the first of the year. With only a few weeks left in the year, it looks like Nintendo is going to average just over one game per

Phantasy Star is one of this year's very best Virtual Console games!
week. With so few titles it's easy to get disillusioned, especially when we're talking about game consoles with literally hundreds of games to choose from. Instead of seeing vast quantities of amazing retro releases, I'm seeing a few choice titles couched between utter crap. It's enough to make me want another company to step in and show Nintendo what they're doing wrong.

When I first decided to commit my opinion to paper (or whatever the internet is made out of) I was convinced that the problem was the games themselves. After all, it's been weeks since I've been excited about a Virtual Console release. But then I started to crunch the numbers and stumbled on

I made a bunch of charts to explain my findings, but none of them were as effective as this completely unfair Genesis advertisement!
a shocking statistic. Believe it or not, I've actually given more retro games a "Go" rating (the highest rating in my weekly This Week in Defunct Games column), at least if you look at the percentage. It was enough to make me want to pull out a pie chart.

According to my half-assed (but totally reliable) research, I have given 23 games the "Go" rating, which means that a whopping 48% of the game's reviewed in my weekly column have been worth buying. When I looked at last year's numbers I realized that I had only given 39% of the Virtual Console games released before November a must-buy rating. Of course, the sampling size was considerably larger (75 games versus 48) and by this time I had recommended 29 games.

The numbers come more in line when we look at the two other ratings, "Caution" and "Stop". This year I have given 13 games a "Caution" rating, which translates to 27% (compared to last year's 25 games/33%). I saw something similar with the "Stop" rating, which I awarded to 12 games this year and 21 last year, or 25% and 28% respectively. These are curious numbers, no matter how you look at it.


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