The Wii Virtual Console

Don't you sometimes wish you had a time machine to the golden past? The Wii Virtual Console provides something like that.

Gaming didn't begin yesterday. In one form or another it's been around for 20 years. True, early games like Pong were crude. But the sophistication grew by leaps and bounds very quickly. Many of them were extremely clever and fun. Sometimes the graphics were outstanding, sometimes they were so-so. But the gaming experience was often top notch, even compared to today's ultra-exciting games.

The Wii Virtual Console opens up hundreds of those legacy games via a section of the Wii Shop channel. It's a simple matter to connect to this Nintendo Internet web site (Wii Shop is right on the menu), then navigate to VC. Once you do, you'll find a huge library of games from the past. Many of them have been updated to play even better on the Wii.

The options stretch all the way back to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). They travel to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the Nintendo 64, and up to many GameCube offerings. The company has even made licensing arrangements with favorites from Sega, Genesis, and TurboGrafx to provide the largest possible assortment.

Some of them are fun for the sake of nostalgia, like the early Mario games. Others will challenge even the most skilled gamer who is used to the complex, high action games of today. There are games in between suitable for gamers of all skill levels.

Most of them can be played using an inexpensive Wii accessory called the Classic Controller. It offers the traditional-style control via a D-pad, thumb sticks, and several buttons. But the GameCube controller, which can easily be plugged into the Wii console, can also be used and offers a wide range of classic-style play options.

Many legacy games offer a new experience when they're played using the now-standard Wii controllers: the Wiimote and the Nunchuk. With their 3D motion-control and point-click features they provide a whole new way to enjoy the classic games from past Nintendo gaming consoles.

Any game downloaded from the Virtual Console site is stored in the Wii's built-in 512MB internal flash storage system, where they are immediately available for play. But any games not in use can be transferred easily to an SD card. The console unit houses an SD slot for 2GB cards.

There are some limitations, though.

Games can't be directly played from the SD card, but have to be loaded back into internal storage before use. They also can't be transferred to another user's Wii system which would violate the copyright. Each VC game is 'locked' onto a particular console. If your Wii becomes inoperable, though, Nintendo customer service has a means of allowing you to use your purchased VC games on a repaired or new Wii. All you need are the serial numbers.

Downloading games from the Virtual Console is an easy-to-use, low-cost way to open up your library of options to include hundreds of games from the distant and recent past. Millions of Wii users have done so and, if the gaming forum comments are a good indication, they're really happy they did.

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