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Virtual Console Grumblings

posted on February 21st, 2007 by christian

Not too long ago, news broke that Nintendo was offering an updated version of the VC title Military Madness, free for download to those who had purchased it. The new version fixed some horrible emulation problems, and all was good. Though in fact it really wasn’t – while people were glad to see them issue a fix, many more were worried and angry that TG16 emulation is so far less than perfect.

Then the shitstorm began – it was discovered that Mariokart 64 did not support ghost data saves, and some future n64 games would not support rumble. Then Kid Icarus was released without the ability to use certain cheat passwords that were available in the original. Soon everyone was after Nintendo’s head, their logic being “we pay exorbitant amounts for these downloads, and they can’t even give us perfect versions? I want perfect damn you!!” This of course was followed by “experts” who spread wild theories about what went wrong, all of which they found off of blogs of people who may or may not know anything about emulation. There were also the usual amount of critics who lambasted Nintendo for not being able to emulate their own hardware.

So what’s going on here? Is Nintendo really screwing up as badly as its being made out to be? Thankfully enough people on the Internets have the common sense to point out a few important things:

1) The most popular Kid Icarus theory is that there was some problems emulating the memory mappers for the game, which caused the passwords to work improperly. Possible? Yes, but the same week we saw the release of Kirby, a late NES game with very complex mappers that is emulated perfectly. The truth is that we have no idea what is going on with Nintendo’s code, but so far there’s no proof of problems with NES emulation. The much more plausible theory behind Kid Icarus floating around right now is that Nintendo modified the game itself to remove those cheat codes, because they can cause some bugs and issues that can actually break and crash the game. furthermore, all save passwords generated by the game should work fine. If that’s the case then none of us should be cursing Nintendo. If a software engineer in a large firm refused to remove bugs from legacy code because he had some strange nostalgia kick he’d be fired. The game needed some fixing folks; get over it.

2) The comparison of Nintendo’s software with PC emulators is moot. PC emus have had years of work behind them, and surely didn’t work right from the start. Their efforts are immensely commendable, but emulation isn’t a 100% surefire thing just because you have all the old hardware and trade secrets. We have no clue how Nintendo’s emulators work when it comes to the N64 games, but its not hard to see that both rumble and ghost data are related to n64 controller expansions, and it could be the case that they are difficult to emulate properly. Don’t judge unless you have more solid info

3) Did we all forget they fixed Military Madness? Who’s to say they don’t have people looking into fixes for Mariokart and Starfox right now, and that we’ll see them down the pipleline? The Big N has a lot of talent and a lot of resources, and we’ve already got a precedent. Cool your jets and see what happens. On the other hand, Sony figured out a way to save PS2 and PS1 saves to the HDD, so I if Nintendo doesn’t fix it I’ll join you in the crackdown.

The moral of the story: Its nice to have good emulation of a classic game, but so far a lot of the problems are miniscule, if even truly problematic. Don’t flip out about perfect emulation because of nostalgia; do it because it may or may not deter the quality of the gameplay.

Oh, and let’s all take a chill pill.

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