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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nintendo myths that need to die: Virtual Console edition

by Steve


Virtual Console logo


The Wii's Virtual Console was a major selling point for a lot of people. The idea of playing classic games from a multitude of different platforms on one console was very tantalizing and seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, it now appears it was too good to be true. Instead of giving us great game after great game, the big N offered a ton of mediocre titles, with a gem thrown in every now and then. Now the trickle of Virtual Console releases has almost completely stopped, and Wii owners have been trying to come up with answers as to why some very big names are still not available on the service. I have chosen a few titles to focus on, and will examine some of the explanations Nintendo fans have come up with to explain their absence. As you will see, these explanations are nothing but myths.


Nintendo can't release Donkey Kong 64 because it was developed by Rare


This one makes no sense. Donkey Kong is the franchise that introduced Mario and gave rise to the Nintendo empire. It was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and is wholly owned by the Big N. Sure, Rare revived the series and created a ton of new characters, but they developed the games under license from Nintendo. When you are licensed to use a property, you have permission to use the brand, characters, and everything that it entails, but you do so under guidelines set by the owner of the IP, and you acknowledge that you own no rights to said IP unless specified in writing. The entire Donkey Kong series is property of Nintendo. The fact that the Big N was able to re-release the Donkey Kong Country games on the Virtual Console and even resurrect the series with Donkey Kong Country Returns is all the proof you need. Still not convinced? Rare has actually tweeted on the subject, reaffirming that Donkey Kong 64 "belongs to Nintendo." End of story.

Box art for Donkey Kong 64
PROPERTY OF NINTENDO

Nintendo can't release Donkey Kong 64 because it contains Jetpac, a Rare IP


Now this one has some weight to it, but it is still false. If you aren't familiar with Donkey Kong 64, or Jetpac for that matter, let me fill you in. Jetpac is a game that was developed by Rare and published in 1983, back when the company was still known as Ultimate Play the Game. You would play as a generic character named Jetman, who would fly from planet to planet via a rocket-powered backpack while contending with aliens. When Rare was granted a license (there's that word again) to create Donkey Kong 64, they included Jetpac as a mini-game. When Donkey Kong 64 did not appear on the Virtual Console, speculation about the reason for its absence began raging, and naturally, Jetpac became the center of attention. As an IP that is wholly owned by Rare, who in turn are owned by Microsoft, it was the most logical choice. Nintendo fans are correct that there are legal issues that would have to be dealt with, but only if the game were included in the Virtual Console release.

Screenshot of the video game Jetpac
Jetpac could be replaced with something else.

The fact of the matter is, Jetpac doesn't really need to be in Donkey Kong 64. All Nintendo would have to do is remove Jetpac from the game, throw something else in to take its place, and DK 64 would be good to go. Rare themselves have even suggested replacement games from Nintendo's own library. I am aware that Nintendo does not like to alter the code of their old games, but they have done so before. Look at the Virtual Console version of Animal Crossing. The original version had a bunch of classic NES games that were fully playable, making it appeal to a wider audience. Before making the title available for Wii owners to download, Nintendo removed all of the old classics so people would have to buy and download them individually. That is a clear example of the company making changes to an old game, and I don't see why they couldn't do the same with Donkey Kong 64.

Donkey Kong 64 screenshot
Rare themselves are wondering why this game isn't on the Virtual Console.

Donkey Kong 64 needed the Expansion Pak to run. Games that required the Expansion Pak can't be run on the Virtual Console.


The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask required the Expansion Pak too. It's on the Virtual Console. Not an issue.

Donkey Kong 64 is a massive game. The Wii doesn't have enough storage space.


Donkey Kong 64 is 256 megabits in size, which is just 32 MB. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is also 32 MB in size and it's on the Virtual Console. The Wii has 512 MB of storage space, which is enough to hold quite a few N64 games. Size is not the problem. As far I can tell, the only thing standing between Donkey Kong 64 and the Virtual Console is Nintendo itself.

Same ROM size as DK 64 and required the Expansion Pak too. Not issues.

The Wii can't handle games that used the Super FX chip. The Super FX chip is too hard to emulate.


Tell that to the homebrewers and hackers who have managed to develop SNES emulators for just about everything that has a processor. They have been running pirated versions of Star Fox and Stunt Race FX for years. They've even got Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island to work, and that uses the Super FX 2, a stronger and more complicated version of the chip. Believe me, there is nothing to this one.

If it has a processor, you can probably play this game on it.

The Super FX chips were designed by a third-party company, and there are legal issues that prevent them from re-releasing SNES games that utilized them.


I have seen this claim all over the place but not one person has provided an authoritative source to back it up. Yes, the Super FX and Super FX 2 chips were designed by a third-party company. Argonaut Games, to be precise. The company is now defunct, it's dead. They disappeared in 2004. Nintendo re-released Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, and again in 2006, after Argonaut had ceased to exist. Need more proof? The Game Boy Advance version of Yoshi's Island was just re-released again in 2011 for the 3DS Virtual Console. Like I said, the game used the Super FX 2 chip. If there are legal issues, how did they re-release the game multiple times after Argonaut was out of the picture? I am aware that the GBA port isn't identical to the SNES ROM, but they were still able to re-release the game and get the same graphical effects. Trust me. If Nintendo wanted to, they could re-release the original Star Fox and many other titles that were powered by the Super FX chips. Legal issues? I think not.


Screenshot of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
This game has been re-released two times since Argonaut's collapse.

Conclusion


Every time a company fails to deliver and no reason is given, wild speculation ensues, resulting in myths that become accepted as fact. I have owned every one of Nintendo's consoles and I own a Nintendo-centric website, yet I do not allow my admiration for the company to blind me. Face it. When it comes to the Virtual Console, the Big N is either asleep at the wheel or deaf to the cries of gamers. Wake up, Nintendo. You're losing money and fans.

Feedback


If you think any of my arguments are flawed and/or wrong, please provide a credible source and I will make changes to this article if necessary.

Sources

"Rare doesn't know why Donkey Kong 64 isn't out on the VC yet" -nintendoeverything.com
"Rare reaffirms that Donkey Kong 64 belongs to Nintendo" -nintendoeverything.com
"Argonaut Games" -IGN.com


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Screenshots of Star Fox and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island courtesy of The Video Game Museum - vgmuseum.com
Virtual Console logo, Donkey Kong 64 box art, and screenshot of The Legend of Zelda: Major'as Mask downloaded from Wikipedia
Donkey Kong 64 screenshot downloaded from mariowiki.com
Images used under Attribution-ShareAlike Unported 3.0 license.

31 comments:

  1. So do you think that the Wii U platform will have what it needs to allow the Donkey Kong 64 game?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only possible problem is that Rare's old classic Jetpac is featured in the game, but I seriously doubt that's an issue. All Nintendo would have to do is replace it with something else. Rare's own staff members have even suggested Nintendo do so, and they are also wondering why the game hasn't been re-released yet. As far as I can tell, there is nothing preventing Nintendo from releasing Donkey Kong 64 on the Virtual Console for the Wii or Wii U.

      Delete
  2. I'm not very happy that they removed the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. Why for? Because Rare made it? Bullshit!!

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    1. I have no idea why they removed those games from the Virtual Console, and I seriously doubt it has anything to do with Rare. I wish they would give us some kind of explanation.

      Delete
    2. The ONLY times that they removed games from the VC were due to the developers/rights holders.

      Irem got out of the console games business and all of their games disappeared. EA comes out with a new version of SimCity that they want to sell, and the SNES version disappears from the VC. Rights changed hands between publishers on Ninja Turtles games, the NES game disappears. I can't figure out anything else that this could be than some sort of contractual issue (contract renewal?) between Nintendo and Rare/Microsoft.

      Delete
  3. I like all of your reasons and hope that DK 64 comes this year as one of the Wii's last legs (the other being earthbound)before its life is over.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Nintendo should definitely re-release Donkey Kong 64 at some point, and it would be a great title to help renew interest in the Virtual Console. Here's hoping they'll finally make it available this year.

      Delete
  4. Great article! I just wanna say that the main reason I wanted to get the Wii was for the virtual console. But as you mentioned the VC receives very little attention, and so instead Sony got my money and I bought the PS3. Now with the Wii U out still the VC is my primary purchasing point. And right now I refuse to buy it unless Yoshi's Island is released on the VC (either for the Wii U or the 3DS). I would rather it sooner than later but I have a feeling I will be giving my money to Sony or maybe even Microsoft again.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The Virtual Console was a selling point for a lot of gamers, but unfortunately, Nintendo really dropped the ball. I focused on a few classics in this article, but there are plenty more that should have been re-released by now. Hopefully they'll do a better job with the Wii U Virtual Console.

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  5. Nintendo has focused it's sights already on Wii U, and I don't think very many Wii owners were connected to Wi-Fi and even bothered with Virtual Console, so maybe Nintendo just gave up. I think some other games like DK64 you could've picked on could be Mario Party and Mario Party 3. Number 2 is on Virtual Console, but why not number 1 or 3? Many people think the first Mario Party never saw release because it gave people blisters from rotating the joysticks, but i gotta say, Nintendo's modern joysticks are much more comfortable than the N64's, and you know Nintendo has given up on Virtual Console when the perfectly fine Mario Party 3 isn't even on VC yet. Great article!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I focused on these titles because they seem to be the ones that players want the most, but you're absolutely right. There are a lot of other great games that are still nowhere in sight and it's a complete mystery as to why they aren't available. The Wii U Virtual Console is going to be launching soon, and if they were to re-release some of these games on the new service, I'm sure a lot more people would be interested in their new console.

      Delete
  6. There's no DK64 for Wii because it contains the code of the arcade version of Donkey Kong, the programming of which is not owned by Nintendo (but rather some other Japanese company). They somehow made it slip in the original DK64 (even though at that time they had no right to release the arcade version either), but they're not going to invoke all that trouble again.

    For more info: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/134790/the_secret_history_of_donkey_kong.php

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting. If you look at page 3 of that article, it says that Nintendo and Ikegami (the company who owned the rights to the code) settled the matter out of court for an undisclosed sum, meaning Nintendo successfully bought the rights to it.

      Also, if you look in the comments section of that article, the issue was addressed by Travis Fahs, the author of the article himself. When one user asked how Nintendo and Rare were able to put the arcade version of Donkey Kong into Donkey Kong 64, Mr. Fahs replied:

      "That was well after the 1990 settlement that resolved the issues between Ikegami and Nintendo."

      Thanks for the article just the same. Very interesting.

      Delete
  7. No mention about the BS excuse of music copyright people kept making about EarthBound? Seems like a pretty obvious one :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are tons of myths that try to explain why this game or that game isn't on the Virtual Console. If I had tried to address every single myth, this article would have been so long most people wouldn't have read the whole thing.

      Delete
  8. EarthBound IS coming to the virtual console on wii u in the west though. Even in Europe & Australia
    http://earthboundcentral.com/2013/04/earthbound-on-virtual-console-coming/
    http://www.nintendo.com.au/index.php?action=news&nid=2847&pageID=6
    EarthBound: Available since March as one of the NES 30th Anniversary Virtual Console games in Japan, the game is set to release in Australia and New Zealand on Wii U Virtual Console, with a launch date to be announced at a later date. The original game was created by Shigesato Itoi for the Super NES, but was never released in Australia or New Zealand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, Nintendo confirmed that it's coming to the West. If you take a look at this recent post about the Wii U Virtual Console, you can see that it was mentioned right here on our site.

      Wii U Virtual Console Coming Next Week - Wii U Only


      Delete
  9. As far as DK64, my only guess would be that they didn't want to release ALL the good games, leaving no surprises for the WiiU. This is of course purely speculation. However, I have a much more interesting theory as to why the Donkey Kong Country trilogy was removed. Remember the Mario All Stars 25th Anniversary compilation for the Wii? And the Kirby's Dream Collection for Wii? Both of which contained a number of retro games from each respective franchise? Perhaps, and this is again speculation, but perhaps Nintendo has a Donkey Kong Compilation in the works, and doesn't want to give consumers a cheap alternative that would devastate any sales the game might generate. Let's not forget that though the Wii is dead, the Wii environment is still very much alive on the Wii U, and could still affect sales of a Wii U DK compilation. And perhaps, if this compilation is being developed, it will also include DK64, and who knows, maybe even some added content from DKC Returns (as they did in Kirby's Dream Collection with regard to Kirby's Return To Dreamland)... What do you guys think? After all, the DKC trilogy and DK64 were some pretty popular games- if Kirby was enough to warrant a compilation, surely Donkey Kong is, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. If they are working on a Donkey Kong compilation, that would be a great explanation for why they removed the Donkey Kong Country trilogy from the Virtual Console. Before Nintendo re-released Animal Crossing on the service, they took out the collection of classic NES games so that gamers would have to purchase them individually. I think you could be right. And I must say I agree that the Donkey Kong franchise deserves a compilation. After all, the original arcade game introduced Mario to the world and solidified Nintendo's place in the industry.

      Delete
  10. I totally agree with this article. Sorry if its been said but reiterating then of a prime example would be both Diddy Kong Racing DS & Conkers BFD 64. Nintendo took out Banjo & Conker because Rare/Microsoft owns those, which is also related to why Conker's BFD hasn't been released for VC which some people would like to see. Its one of the more commonly talked about ones but I think it's an example of what DK64 ISN'T and is commonly mistaken for. People are just too anxious and I think the simple answer is it'll come out on the WiiU VC either as completely redone in HD or Nintendo ran out of time on the Wii, which leads once again to the WiiU VC

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I think you're right. If Nintendo does re-release Donkey Kong 64, it will most likely be on the Wii U Virtual Console. The Wii is a great system, but Nintendo has been pretty clear that they're done supporting it.

      Delete
  11. I completely agree with this article. I sure hope Yoshi's Island makes it to the Wii U virtual console and if it does then I'll buy a Wii U. Same for DK64.

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  12. "Nintendo re-released Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, and again in 2006, after Argonaut had ceased to exist. Need more proof? The Game Boy Advance version of Yoshi's Island was just re-released again in 2011 for the 3DS Virtual Console. Like I said, the game used the Super FX 2 chip."

    This is just wrong. The GBA wasn't emulating anything, it's a port! Everything that the Super FX2 chip could do for Yoshi's Island (sprite scaling and rotation, rudimentary polygons) was baked into Nintendo-patented GBA hardware, and thus has nothing to do with Argonaut. I do think that the Wii U is more likely to get the GBA port when the GBA finally gets added to the Virtual Console.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You seem to have misunderstood what I said. I said that the original version used the Super FX 2 chip, not the GBA version. And if you reread that paragraph you quoted in its entirety, you'll see that I specifically referred to the GBA version as a "port." Anyway, I'm glad you agree that Argonaut has nothing to do with anything. Unless someone can prove otherwise, the rumor about legal issues with the Super FX chip is nothing but a myth.

      Delete
    2. Your article was talking about emulating the Super FX games on the Virtual Console. The GBA ports aren't emulations and so are completely irrelevant. Nintendo was able to release them because they weren't emulating the Super FX. They used the GBA's native hardware.

      The Super FX architecture is owned by someone else (likely Synopsys), and Nintendo doesn't have the licensing rights. I have absolutely no idea how you think you've disproved anything. Your aggressive confidence is embarrassing because you don't seem to be aware of how silly you look.

      Delete
    3. Can you provide me with some proof that someone else actually owns the rights to the Super FX chip? And can you provide me with some proof that there are issues with the licensing rights? I keep hearing this stuff but nobody has ever provided me with any evidence. If you have some, please share it, and I'll revise the article.

      Even if there are licensing rights, I'm sure Nintendo could pay a fee to whoever the license holder is in exchange for the right to re-release the Super FX games again. For example, Nintendo and Square co-own the rights to Super Mario RPG, but the two companies were obviously able to come to some sort of a financial agreement as the game was re-released on the Virtual Console. If Nintendo and Square could reach an agreement, why couldn't Nintendo and whoever owns the rights to the Super FX chip do the same?

      I await your response. And thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  13. Mario party 3 MUST be on virtual consle for the Wii u. Cuz if they don't release it I will rage.

    ReplyDelete
  14. YOU ARE THE MAN!!!!

    ReplyDelete

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