UPDATE: As of July 18, Nintendo has re-released Earthbound on Wii U stateside. Now how is that for a slice of fried gold?
Can you believe that come this November, Nintendo’s Wii Virtual Console service will have been around for six years? Since then, it’s gained a plethora of digital versions of our favorite, classic titles.
The amount of classic titles that one can purchase digitally on the Wii Shop Channel is staggering, but you’re nuts if you think that there aren’t any other titles that could be re-released on it. Nintendo’s Virtual Console offerings every week have been disappointingly sparse for the past few years, and they really shouldn’t be, because there are oodles of titles still missing in North America, Japan and Europe.
In the vein of my previous article in which I point out some games that Playstation Network is still missing, I now present to you the top ten NES, SNES, Genesis, and N64 games that are still noticeably absent from Nintendo’s Wii Virtual Console. Apologies in advance to the Master System, Turbografx-16, and Neo Geo fans out there.
Nintendo, I’ll give your consumers a reason to flock out and buy several Wii Points cards again.
10. Breath of Fire
You didn’t think I’d skip out on adding a Breath of Fire game to my list, would you? It was my first RPG, after all.
Breath of Fire is a classic SNES RPG in which blue-haired, shape-shifting Ryu and his seven anthropomorphic companions venture forth to rescue Ryu’s sister and stop the oppressive Dark Dragon Clan. Its story and turn-based combat are as traditional as it gets, but it was a great first attempt at JRPGs for Capcom.
The game’s visuals were colorful, battles were handled in a neat isometric perspective, and the main character eventually got the ability to change into a freaking dragon and wreck enemies left and right. It also happened to have a wonderfully orchestra-infused soundtrack, composed by several members of Capcom’s Alph Lyla team.
With Breath of Fire world maps featured much more interactivity in the form of fishing, flying, swimming and hunting, even if the random encounter rates were through the roof.
Although its superior sequel Breath of Fire II has been on the Virtual Console since 2007, it’s a bit strange to not see its predecessor alongside it.
Why it’s not on the Virtual Console yet: Chalk this up to pesky licensing issues. Although Capcom developed and published the game in Japan, the company had Squaresoft, the American branch of Square, handle all publishing and localizing duties for its overseas release.
While this didn’t stop Capcom from re-releasing Breath of Fire on Game Boy Advance in the U.S. with the same (admittedly poor) translation, I can see that the SNES version would need to either have its opening logos and credits altered or come to an agreement with Square-Enix to split the profits. The former act would require a bit of cost and labor, and I highly doubt two big-name game publishers would agree to any sort of licensing agreement for a digital title.
If they can’t re-release it on Virtual Console, re-release the GBA version or remake the game entirely, I say!
9. Bionic Commando
Easily one of the best and most creative platformers on the NES, Capcom’s Bionic Commando challenged a typical platforming convention players had taken for granted: jumping.
Rather than getting around obstacles by jumping, the game required players to master Nathan “Radd” Spencer’s bionic arm to grapple and swing around the environment. It made for an insanely fun mechanic that changed the way gamers maneuvered in a 2D environment.
Combine that satisfying swinging mechanic with a memorable soundtrack, bright and colorful visuals, a hilariously Engrish-y translation, and a challenge typical of 80s NES games, and you’ve got yourself one of the best offerings for the NES. If only it had a damn password system though!
Why it’s not on the Virtual Console yet: You only have one company to thank for not allowing this game a re-release: Nintendo.
Former Capcom producer Ben Judd, who had worked on both Bionic Commando Rearmed and the 3D sequel Bionic Commando had said in an interview that a re-release “couldn’t happen.” Capcom’s Christian Svensson explained further on the Capcom-Unity forums in 2008, saying that the matter is something fans have to take up with Nintendo, not Capcom.
For whatever reason, Nintendo had refused to work with Capcom in bringing this NES classic back. Some speculate that Nintendo’s refusal had something to do with the fact that the Rearmed remake was slated for an XBLA/PSN release at the time. Releasing the NES version would be seen as promoting games for the competitions’ platforms. This reasoning, if true, doesn’t make it any less disappointing for fans of the classic.
While the original Japanese version may have a harder time seeing a re-release thanks to its references to Nazism, these were removed (save for Hitler’s head violently exploding) in the North American release.
It’s been four years since its denial, surely Nintendo could have a change of heart in the future?
8. Castlevania Bloodlines
Konami has done a pretty good job of making sure that Castlevania got its fair share of representation on Virtual Console, with the first four games, in addition to Rondo of Blood, being readily available for any aspiring vampire hunter to purchase.
Nevertheless, they’re forgetting about one particularly awesome Castlevania game that has remained a Sega Genesis exclusive since its release in 1994.
Castlevania Bloodlines served as a sidestory to the Castlevania series, which connected the plot of the series to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Players can assume the role of two characters: John Morris, who is a descendant of both the Belmont family and the novel’s Quincy Morris and wields the Vampire Killer whip, and Eric Lecarde, who punctures demons with a spear.
The game played much like other classic Castlevanias, with a few neat tricks, including multiple pathways depending on which character you use and some interesting mini-boss battles. It also has special effects that showed off the Genesis’ capabilities, including water reflection and swaying tower physics.
Why it’s not on the Virtual Console yet: The game’s absence from the Virtual Console is pretty disappointing, to say the least. I was a Super Nintendo kid in the 90s, so I never got to fully experience the fun gameplay that this one had to offer.
The game’s content held up to its subtitle: the Japanese and North American releases for Bloodlines were particularly bloody. Some enemies sprayed blood upon dying, and the title screen featured blood dripping into a large red pool. If Eric Lecarde is defeated, his spear ends up impaling his body. The game’s European version was censored heavily as a result, with all depictions of blood removed or replaced and the game’s subtitle changed to The New Generation.
Despite this, I don’t think the game’s violent content has much to do with it being held back – the ratings system takes care of that nowadays, so all I can really say is “what gives, Konami?”
7. Secret of Evermore
This action RPG may not have been the Secret of Mana successor that North Americans were hoping for, but it still has one of the more interesting premises of the entire SNES library. Secret of Evermore is notable in that it was developed and published entirely by an American team at Squaresoft.
Players controlled a teenage boy who, along with his dog are transported into the world of Evermore, which contains four differing areas that correspond to a specific era of real-world history. In the beginning, the player starts out in a prehistoric setting, and eventually makes it through Egyptian, Roman, medieval, and futuristic areas. SoE’s music, which marked Jeremy Soule’s (of Elder Scrolls and KOTOR fame) debut into game composing, was one of the most atmospheric soundtracks to appear in a SNES title.
Although the game is played solo, the main character’s dog tags along and interestingly shape-shifts into different breeds depending on the time period you enter. Spellcasting was done in a unique way, in that it required you to learn alchemic formulas and gather the right amount of ingredients in order to cast them.
Why it’s not on the Virtual Console yet: One possible issue may have to do with the game’s bugs, of which there are a few noticeable, albeit non-game-breaking ones.
Regardless, I refuse to believe that there’s any legal issue that’s truly holding this game back from seeing a re-release. Square Enix doesn’t really acknowledge the title’s existence these days. Aside from a light-hearted jab by Mega64 from a few years ago, there’s little talk regarding this underrated gem.
“My brain feels burnt… where am I? Who am I?” It’s with these opening words that we meet amnesiac data courier Jake Armitage and set out on a cyberpunk adventure filled with mystery, shady people, and drek-talking orcs (‘Drek’ being Shadowslang for ‘shit’).
Shadowrun was an action RPG very much ahead of its time. It had a grittiness to it that one didn’t readily find on the SNES in the early 90s. This, on top of the catchy, moody music, interesting “keyword” dialogue mechanics, and frequent gun battles made it one of the most stand-out games on the system.
The Genesis also received its own Shadowrun title, developed by a completely different studio. Although this one was more open-ended and adhered to the Shadowrun pen-and-paper game a lot more than the SNES version did, I still largely prefer to do my shadowrunning on the latter. Nevertheless, I’d love to see both games on the Virtual Console.
Why they’re not on the Virtual Console yet: The SNES version of Shadowrun was originally made by the now-defunct companies Beam Software and Data East. Likewise, the Genesis version’s developer BlueSky Software is also a corpsicle.
The question of who exactly owns the rights to the SNES and Genesis games is confusing. Both Topps and Microsoft have registered trademarks to the Shadowrun name, and Harebrained Schemes somehow got licensing for their kickstarted Shadowrun Returns project.
The likelihood of seeing these two phenomenal games on the service is slim at best, which really makes me want to yell more obscenities in Shadowslang.
Both are incredibly rare to find on their respective systems. Those not lucky enough to still have a functioning 16-bit system and cartridge are sadly missing out.
Where do I even begin with Snatcher? Hideo Kojima’s second creation has seen a bevy of different remakes throughout the years, but the one North Americans are most familiar with is its Sega CD release.
Released in 1994, Snatcher was a rare gem amidst a sea of incredibly mediocre Sega CD titles. It was a fascinating first-person adventure that mixed noir with cyberpunk, and threw in a few shooting sequences in which players could optionally use a light gun to defend against homicidal snatchers (the game’s version of replicants).
From the brief time I’ve spent with the game, I was sucked into an engaging world with plenty of twists and turns right from the get-go. After that jazzy intro, I knew I was in for something special.
Why it’s not on the Virtual Console yet: Anyone who’s played the first twenty minutes of Snatcher will see the obvious lifting of elements from movies like Blade Runner and The Terminator. I mean, the freaking snatchers themselves look like recolored endoskeletons! No amount of editing (which was done extensively to the Western version) could change that.
While that alone could have raised red flags at Konami’s legal department, the game also utilized voice acting, so there’s bound to be licensing issues there. I sure hope Konami can work something out – who wants to pay hundreds of dollars for the original game on eBay?
The game received a limited printing and flopped due to Sega’s lack of faith in its CD peripheral, but it would most certainly flourish as a digital download. Titles like Phoenix Wright prove that adventure games of this sort are sought after in North America.
4. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
“PURAAAASSIIIMMAAAAA!!!!” Anyone who gets that Goemon reference will know just how lovably quirky Konami’s N64 action-adventure was.
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon is stooped in Japanese culture, featuring a load of quirky Japanese jokes and puns, musical numbers that parody 80s and 90s anime intros, medieval Japanese structures, and giant, destructive robots.
And that’s not to mention the completely inane plot, which involves Goemon and crew trying to foil the plans of a dancing troupe from using their spaceship’s lasers to transform Japan into a giant stage and its citizens to loyal dancers.
I swear I didn’t make any of that up.
Sporting four playable characters, each with their own unique abilities, Mystical Ninja provided a grand, humorous adventure with a big world filled with many a town and dungeon, giant mech battles to keep things fresh and interesting, and a delightful soundtrack. A few particularly difficult moments and its persistent camera issues (commonplace for 3D games at the time) aren’t enough to sully what in my mind is still a timeless classic.
Why it’s not on the Virtual Console yet: Two more releases in the form of an N64 sequel and a Game Boy spin-off followed this title, but even then the Goemon series has been absent from the West since the late nineties, and it’s a pity.
There’s no solid reason why this one has been noticeably missing from Wii’s Virtual Console. Know this Konami: I’d fork over 1000 Wii points for this one in an instant – who knows how much longer the save on my N64’s controller pak can hold out?
3. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Nintendo has done a pretty good job of getting a bunch of of its big SNES hits on the Virtual Console, but the absence of Yoshi’s Island is inexcusable.
I’m going to be stubborn and say that the Yoshi’s Island GBA version given to 3DS ambassadors doesn’t count. Not only is Yoshi’s classic “bo-beep-bo” utterance replaced by the helium-induced Yoshi’s Story voice, but the port featured some awkward slowdown, particularly in the acid trip-induced “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy” level.
The game pushed the SNES’ power its limit using a Super FX2 chip that allowed for advanced techniques for the aging system like sprite-scaling and polygon-rendering. That, along with the joyous music, ingenious level design, and gameplay mechanics easily made it one of the best platformers of the 16-bit era.
Why it’s not on the Virtual Console yet: Some have the audacity to say that the game’s use of the Super FX2 chip is what’s halting the game’s re-release. I highly doubt that Nintendo’s utilizing an emulator for its Virtual Console that can’t handle 17-year old technology.
Not releasing this one is a bit odd, considering the 4-million copies the game sold when it first came out in 1995. It’s one of the most requested Virtual Console games out there, so you have to wonder what’s holding Nintendo back. If anything, why would they keep the GBA version of Yoshi’s Island a 3DS ambassador exclusive when it could be sold on the eShop?
2. Soul Blazer series (Soul Blazer/Illusion of Gaia/Terranigma)
Those of you who never got to experience the wonder of Quintet and Enix’s Soul Blazer series have seriously missed out. While Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia (pictured), and Terranigma aren’t part of an official series, they all feature similar sound effects, cameos, and themes regarding human evolution, death and resurrection.
Besides, lumping them in as a series makes it easier for me to put more games in a Top Ten list.
With Soul Blazer, players assumed the role of a deity-turned-human sent to unseal trapped souls in order to rebuild a destroyed world (Actraiser, anyone?). Soul Blazer was a fun, if not repetitive action RPG.
Illusion of Gaia (or Illusion of Time) took things a step further by having a memorable cast of characters, a dramatic score, and an engaging (though highly linear) plot that incorporated dungeons based on ancient structures like the Incan ruins, Angkor Wat, and the Great Wall of China. The action received a bigger boost, allowing protagonist Will to learn new moves and the ability to transform into a sword-brandishing knight named Freedan or a blue spirit-like creature called Shadow.
Terranigma continued making improvements in the series’ action, with lone hero Ark utilizing a number of differing moves that kept combat exciting. It also marked a return to Soul Blazer’s style of world resurrection, adding a more in-depth system.
Although Europeans were lucky enough to get a SNES release for Terranigma, North Americans were not so lucky.
Why they’re not on the Virtual Console yet: While digitally-releasing Soul Blazer should pose no issues for Square Enix, Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma may require a bit more effort since both games were published by Nintendo overseas. Aside from that, I honestly don’t see any serious legal issues plaguing this one.
Can there really be any other title in this list’s number one spot? I think not. Earthbound, in my opinion, is one of the greatest SNES titles, nay, Nintendo-made titles ever created.
Conceived by popular Japanese writer Shigesato Itoi, it’s a humorous RPG that’s chock-full of pop culture references, hilarious dialogue, and parody.
Listen, I could keep going on and on about how amazing Earthbound is, but we’ve done that so many times before, and I’m sure you’re aware of the game’s splendor by now. If you’re not, then pay Starmen.net a visit and see why this title became such a cult classic.
Why it’s not on the Virtual Console yet: Diehard Mother fans have pleaded endlessly for a re-release of this game, but sadly it was not meant to be. Re-releasing Earthbound on the Virtual Console without making some changes would undoubtedly put Nintendo into some legal hot water, given the game’s flood of pop culture references and Beatles samples used in the music, among other things.
Oddly enough, the game isn’t even available on the Japanese Virtual Console, although the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros. Brawl featured a five-minute demo of the game (which was removed from the American version).
It’s notable to point out that none of the games mentioned on this list have appeared on the Japanese or European Virtual Consoles, either. The entire world is missing out on these games, and it’d be a crime not to revisit these classics and give them another go on the digital market.
Publishers may see little reason to release a whole lot of Virtual Console games now, given its lack of promotion these days. The upcoming release of the Wii U, however, could change that.
Since a Wii user’s Virtual Console games can carry over to the Wii U, Nintendo could champion a reawakening and retooling of the Virtual Console on its new platform which could give it more presentation on the Wii Shop Channel.
Chances are I haven’t listed your favorite NES, SNES, Genesis or N64 game. For that reason, I present a list of a few honorable mentions. That alone can give you a reason why the Virtual Console is far from finished. I most certainly haven’t forgotten about the Super Famicom games that never made it to Western shores. They too, would benefit from a home on our Wiis.
Did I not mention your favorite game? Well, I was probably thinking about it, but sound off in the comments!
- Battletoads (NES)
- Contra (NES)
- Dragon View (SNES)
- E.V.O. Search for Eden (SNES)
- Harvest Moon 64 (N64)
- The Lost Vikings (SNES)
- Lufia & the Fortress of Doom (SNES) / Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (SNES)
- Mega Man 6 & 7 / Mega Man X3 (NES/SNES)
- Mischief Makers (N64)
- Rocket Knight Adventures (Genesis)
- Star Fox (SNES)
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (N64)
- Sunset Riders (SNES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)
- The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang (SNES)