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Impressions: Balloon Fight & Wii U Virtual Console

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct gave us some insight on the future of Wii U, notably the introduction of the Wii U’s Virtual Console. While not officially out until July, Nintendo is carrying out a promotion to celebrate the Famicom’s 30th anniversary by releasing one NES or SNES game every thirty days, for only thirty days and for only thirty cents until the July launch of the system’s Virtual Console.

January’s release is Balloon Fight from the NES. For those unfamiliar, Balloon Fight is an arcade-like experience with three modes. The single player mode has your balloon-equipped character flapping around to ram into enemies in order to clear various stages. Each hit takes one of your balloons and you lose a life when both your balloons pop. The multiplayer mode adds co-op to the experience, but has a competitive edge since you each have a different score counter. Lastly the Balloon Trip mode has you avoiding dangerous obstacles within a never-ending scrolling level.

Like the Wii and 3DS Virtual Console before it, the Wii U versions of these games are slightly enhanced over what you normally would experience on their original console. NES games like Balloon Fight can use the Gamepad, the Wii U Pro Controller, the Wii Remote and the Wii Classic Controller, though when SNES games get added to the library, the Wii Remote alone will not be compatible. Players are also able to customize the controls to however they prefer ala fighting games. Lastly, the Virtual Console menu returns with the ability to reset the game and create save states but unlike the Wii and 3DS, you use ZR and not the home button to access it (you can change that where you customize your other buttons).

New to Virtual Console users is the ability to play the games off the Gamepad. Balloon Fight streams on both screens simultaneously like New Super Mario Bros. U or Scribblenauts Unlimited and, at anytime, players can switch controllers and use their preferred controller on their preferred screen. For example, if someone else is using the TV, you can play off the Gamepad with a Pro Controller or a Wii Remote. 

One issue Nintendo addressed during the Nintendo Direct was the lengthy load times when loading games and the 35MB Balloon Fight was no exception, taking about 15 seconds to get to the main menu of the game. Hopefully Nintendo’s Spring and Summer performance updates alleviate the issue because it’s incredibly slow, especially compared to the 3DS or Wii.

Balloon Fight is only the beginning to this Famicom 30th anniversary promotion. Following it will be F-Zero (SNES) in February, Punch Out! Featuring Mr. Dream (NES) in March, Kirby’s Adventure (NES) in April, Super Metroid (SNES) in May, Yoshi (NES) in June and Donkey Kong (NES) in July. When the Virtual Console officially launches in July, Wii U owners can buy NES, SNES and Game Boy Advance games off the eShop, though its unknown if all the games currently in the Wii’s Virtual Console will be available all at once or if they’ll trickle down weekly. Also unknown is if Nintendo will add the current Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, Master System, Turbografx, etc. lineup from the Wii, or add more consoles to their digital arsenal other than the GameBoy Advance, such as GameCube, Wii, or Dreamcast.


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