The Virtual Console (バーチャルコンソール Bācharu Konsōru?) (sometimes abbreviated as VC) is an online service for the Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS that allows players to purchase and download games originally released for past Nintendo game consoles. These titles are run in their original forms through software emulation, which in some cases, particularly Nintendo 64 titles, is unable to faithfully replicate certain graphical and technical features.
The Wii's library of past games currently consists of titles originating from the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Nintendo 64, as well as Sega's Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis, NEC's TurboGrafx-16 and TurboGrafx-CD, SNK's Neo Geo AES, Commodore 64 (Europe and North America only) and MSX (Japan only). Virtual Console Arcade allows players to download video arcade games. As of December 2007, over ten million Virtual Console titles have been downloaded. As of September 29, 2017, it has been announced that the Wii Shop Channel is to be discontinued in 2019, which the purchase of Wii Points ending in March 2018.
The Nintendo 3DS eShop allows players to download Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear, and a select few NES games. Certain games (though not released under the Virtual Console banner) have been released as "3D Classics", which have been optimized to make use of the 3DS's features such as its wide screen, and stereoscopic 3D. The 3DS Virtual Console introduced Restore/Load Points, allowing the player to save their progress at any point and load it at will, a feature more widely known as "save states".
The Wii U's eShop contains certain instances of a game having already been released on the Wii's VC which, if already owned, may be "unlocked" for playing outside of the Wii Channel for a small fee. The Wii U Virtual Console includes several improvements over the Wii version: Wii U VC games may be played on the GamePad via Off TV Play, buttons can be remapped at will, rumble is supported, and Restore/Load Points are supported. The Wii U eShop currently has NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS games available to download.
Games downloaded from the Virtual Console library can be stored in the Wii's built-in 512 MB flash memory.
Wii system software version 4.0 allows Virtual Console games to be saved and played from a removable SD card. Firmware updates prior to 4.0 can allow games to be transferred to SD cards only for backup purposes; they cannot be played from this external memory.
Virtual Console games are locked to the Wii on which they were purchased—-they cannot be transferred to another Wii via an SD card, although it is possible to purchase games in the Wii Shop Channel and send them as gifts to people on their Wii Friends list. This procedure does not work across regions and it has been reported that bought titles cannot be sent to users from other countries either, even if they are on the same region. In the event that a Wii is damaged and the Virtual Console games can no longer be played, Nintendo will provide support, providing the serial number or console email name can be provided.
On Wii, Virtual Console games can be played using three different controllers: The Wii Remote (turned on its side) can be used for the NES, Sega Master System, TurboGrafx-16, and some Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Neo Geo games, while the Classic Controller and a GameCube controller can be used for all Virtual Console games, with the exception of some TurboGrafx-16 games, which cannot play with a GameCube controller.
On Wii U, the player can use either the GamePad, the Wii Remote, the Classic Controller, the Wii Pro Controller, or the Wii U Pro Controller.
On Wii, all Virtual Console games have their buttons mapped to the respective buttons on the controllers. However, in certain circumstances, users can use X and Y instead of A and B if the original controller does not have X and Y buttons. In certain titles, such as Nintendo 64 games, there may be specific controls tailored to the Classic Controller or GameCube Controller. None of the Nintendo 64 titles released have been able to support the Rumble Pak feature of the N64 controller, resulting in the Stone of Agony being useless in the Virtual Console version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
On Wii U, controls can be remapped to fit the user's preferences with few limitations, and all games support Restore/Load Points (save states). In addition, Nintendo 64 games now support the rumble feature of the GamePad or Wii U Pro Controller.
Platforms: Wii, 3DS, Wii U
The Legend of Zelda was one of the original titles available for the Virtual Console in all regions. It was first available in North America on November 19, 2006; Japan on December 2, 2006; Australia on December 7, 2006; and Europe on December, 8, 2006. This version of The Legend of Zelda is not the original NES release, but instead the updated version featured in 2003's The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition compilation disc for the Nintendo GameCube. The core gameplay is identical to the original game, however it features the save screen and text changes made to the 2003 version, such as the opening intro text and copyright date.
It has also been released on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U's Virtual Consoles. It was one of the 10 NES games given to early 3DS adopters for free, as part of the "3DS Ambassador" program.
Platforms: Wii, 3DS, Wii U
The Adventure of Link was the third Zelda game available on the Virtual Console following. It was available in Japan on January 23, 2007; Australia and Europe on February 9, 2007; and North America on June 4, 2007. It was also the 100th Virtual Console title released in North America.
It was also released on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U's Virtual Consoles. It was one of the 10 NES games given to early 3DS adopters for free, as part of the "3DS Ambassador" program. When released to the public, Japan got the game on June 6, 2012, Australia and Europe go it on September 13, 2012, and the US got it on November 22, 2012.
A Link to the Past was the second Zelda game available on the Wii Virtual Console. It was available in Japan on December 2, 2006; North America on January 22, 2007; and Australia and Europe on March 23, 2007.
Link's Awakening DX was the first Zelda game to be made available on the Nintendo 3DS's Virtual Console feature. It was released on June 7, 2011.
The Oracle Series was made available on the 3DS eShop on May 30, 2013.
Platforms: Wii, Wii U
Ocarina of Time was the fourth Zelda game available on the Virtual Console for the Wii and is one of the most-downloaded Virtual Console titles. It was first available in Australia and Europe on February 23, 2007; North America on February 26, 2007; and Japan on February 27, 2007. None of the Nintendo 64 Virtual Console games feature force feedback, which was originally provided from a "Rumble Pak", resulting in the Stone of Agony being useless to the player.
In July 2015, the game was released on the Wii U's Virtual Console with several improvements over the Wii version. The game now supports Off-TV Play on the GamePad, controls can be remapped at will, and Restore Points are supported. In addition, the game restores the Stone of Agony's rumble feature.
Majora's Mask was the fifth Zelda game available on the Virtual Console for the Wii. It was released in Europe and Australia on April 3, 2009; in Japan on April 7, 2009; and in North America on May 18, 2009. The game can be downloaded for 1200 Nintendo Points in Japan and 1000 Nintendo Points in PAL territories and North America. It was the 300th game to be released on the North American Virtual Console. This was considered a big milestone for the Virtual Console, and this was mentioned in the updates section.
Platforms: 3DS, Wii U
The Minish Cap is the fourth Zelda game (counted as seventh total along with the other Wii VC titles) available on the Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS. It was released on December 15th, 2011 in Australia and December 16th, 2011 in Japan, North America, and Europe along with nine other Game Boy Advance titles, which were all released exclusively for the Ambassador Program for those who bought the Nintendo 3DS before the price dropped.
The Wii U version supports Off-TV Play, control remapping, and Restore Points.