14 January, 2014

The Wii U 50Hz Virtual Console Hall of Shame

Click here to jump to the list

2nd July, 2018 Update:
I now consider this list complete. The Wii U is no longer receiving much support and there hasn't been a Virtual Console release since the beginning of February (and it's been even longer since a 50Hz one). Should something change I will update the list accordingly.

Nintendo’s Virtual Console service launched with the original Wii in 2006, allowing owners to play games from previous systems (both Nintendo’s own and former rivals). There were some problems but the one that caused the most ire from gamers was unique to Europe and Oceania: 50Hz. There’s a good Nintendo Life article here explaining the problem, but the short version is that games ran slower than their Japanese/North American 60Hz equivalents and in some cases had squished visuals with black borders along the top and bottom of the screen. Not all games were affected: PC Engine games and most imports would run in 60Hz whilst other games had been PAL-optimised at the time of their original release. However a huge chunk of the available library was unoptimised 50Hz.

In 2011 the service arrived on 3DS and to the delight of the PAL regions the games were the 60Hz versions. Finally Nintendo had seen sense. Hooray! Correct speed gaming for all. So when Nintendo announced the Virtual Console was coming to Wii U, people’s main thoughts were not about the speed the games would be running at but the new features such as Miiverse integration and the fact that (for a limited time) the initial releases would be priced at a mere 30p/30c.

Then the first game (Balloon Fight) arrived and…


Yes. 50Hz. Really. A game that was available to 3DS owners in its original 60Hz form was for some reason available to Wii U owners as a slower 50Hz release. Gamers were not pleased and took to forums to complain much as they had when the Virtual Console first appeared back in 2006. However something that was not available in 2006, but was in 2013 was Nintendo’s own social network: Miiverse. If Satoru Shibata or anyone else from Nintendo of Europe popped into the Balloon Fight community expecting to find delighted gamers, the reality was anything but. Floods of complaints were posted and not just on that first day, but the day after and the day after that… in fact gamers kept up the protest until it was announced that the second game to be released (F-Zero) would be 60Hz.

However that is not the end of the story. Whilst the majority of Wii U Virtual Console releases are 60Hz, if a game has language options and/or received some optimisation at the time of its original 50Hz release Nintendo sometimes release that version instead. Balloon Fight was eventually updated to a optimised 50Hz version rather than the 60Hz release, presumably so the game’s save data could be kept.
Even with optimised 50Hz there are issues. Putting aside the fact that the degree of optimisation can vary, the Wii U can only output at 60Hz. To get around this 50Hz games have to occasionally repeat frames. NeoGAF forum user “Robin64” explains it better in this post.

How much of a problem 50Hz is will vary from gamer-to-gamer. It will also vary game-to-game. If you were playing a turn-based strategy game is that extra bit of speed essential? Ideally Nintendo would make both versions available but is currently unwilling to do so.

Which brings us to The List. Hopefully someone will find it useful. I’ll keep updating it, even if that just involves changing the “correct as of…” date each week. Originally you could make sure a game was the 60Hz version by going to the eShop listing. If it was, the shop description would include a line at the end saying “This is the US version of the game” or “This is the Japanese version of the game”. Beginning in October, 2014 this information is not always provided. This information was never provided for Game Boy Advance or DS games, but due to their handheld origins they are not affected and so (barring any emulation issues) will play correctly.
I’ve kept things simple, listing them in alphabetical order, followed by some notes on any optimisation (taken from the eShop listing if available). Where available I've placed a link to comparison videos people have made.

The List
NOTE: As standard the aspect ratio (black border problem) for 50Hz releases is corrected. As this is usually done for each release it is not mentioned in the notes - though if a game does still have black borders, that is noted.

Game Notes
Balloon Fight (NES) Optimised 50Hz
Originally released unoptimised
60Hz/50Hz comparison video on YouTube.
“run[s] at a similar speed to the US version”.
[Donkey Kong Country 2:] Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES) Optimised 50Hz
“offer[s] gameplay and music speed similar to the US version. Demos and animations may run at PAL speed”.
Donkey Kong 64 (N64) No information is provided on the eShop listing, but this is the 50Hz version."[Kongs] move as fast as in the NTSC versions. Everything besides movement (cutscenes, menus, enemies, ...) is slower"- from the Donkey Kong 64 Speedrun Wiki
Harvest Moon (SNES) “play[s] music at a speed similar to the US version”.
Kirby’s Adventure (NES) Optimised 50Hz
“offer[s] gameplay and music speed similar to the US version. Demos and animations may run at PAL speed”.
The Legend of The Mystical Ninja (SNES) “play[s] music at a speed similar to the US version".
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) “play[s] music at a speed similar to the US version”.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64) No information is provided on the eShop listing, but this is the slower 50Hz version.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) “This is the European version of the game”.
Paper Mario (N64) “play[s] music at a speed similar to the US version”.
Pokémon Snap (N64) No information is provided on the eShop listing, but this is a optimised 50Hz version, offering gameplay and music at a similar speed to the US release.
Pop'n Twinbee (SNES) “play[s] music at a speed similar to the Japanese version”.
Pop'n Twinbee: Rainbow Bell Adventures (SNES) “play[s] music at a speed similar to the Japanese version”.
Street Gangs (NES)“This is the European version of the game”.
Super Metroid (SNES)Optimised 50Hz
“offer[s] gameplay and music speed similar to the US version. Demos and animations may run at PAL speed”.
Ufouria: The Saga (NES) No information is provided on the eShop listing, but this is the slower 50Hz version. Music plays at a similar speed to the Japanese release. Black borders are still present.


No Nickname Left said...

Thanks for your effort! Many are unaware of how nintendo still doesn't give us all the ntsc versions and I had a hard time finding anything as conclusive as your blog

Dave Frear said...

Glad to be of service.
Things are a lot better than they were for the original Wii VC, but it's annoying that there isn't an option to download NTSC versions for all titles.

No Nickname Left said...

Since you seem to be very knowledgeable about Nintendo's VC games, let me ask you something. What's the deal with the huge control stick deadzone when playing n64 titles for example. They just released Mario 64 for the Wii U a few days ago and the deadzone is as bad as ever, like the outer 33% are all max input. I know it's an emulator issue, some speedrunners made an adapter to play Zelda OOT with. How come nobody is up in arms about that, it bothers me a hell of a lot. Thanks in advance

Dave Frear said...

I'm afraid I have to give a rubbish "I don't know" to that. Could be greater sensitivity on newer controllers mean that when playing older titles the dead and max zones are larger... but the more I think about it, the more I realise I don't have a clue.

Wii U-wise are you using a Pro controller? I've seen reports of input lag on Mario 64 with it, so it wouldn't surprise me if there were additional problems too.

No Nickname Left said...

Like more than the tablet? There's a pretty neat trick to check the delay of that thing, I just found out about it. All you need to do is press the Home-Button and go to Miiverse, then use the Y-Button to cycle through images of both screens. Mine is 1-2 frames behind my monitor, which itself has 5ms of input lag (verified that myself). I much prefer the classic controller pro.

By the way, these are the speedrunners I was talking about: http://forums.zeldaspeedruns.com/index.php?topic=1018.0
Siglemic and Cosmo both mention the vc deadzone, but that's like all I can find on the issue.

Dave Frear said...

"Like more than the tablet?"
Yes. A few people have mentioned a noticeable delay that's not present when using the gamepad - though it's a bit strange if it only happens with Mario 64.

Interesting link (re: deadzone).

No Nickname Left said...

I don't own a Wii U Pro controller either, only tried them once and didn't like them. As for controller lag though, I was too hasty in my judgement. While it is true that the tablet displays images 1-2 frames after a monitor does, this only goes for receiving. Today I tested the Wii U tablet against my classic controller pro when looking at the monitor, the results were unexpected. As far as sending the input to the console, the tablet is actually faster than the pro controller, therefore the optimal setting would be tablet and monitor. I guess it's about the different technologies put to work in these applications, the wii remote and the wii u pro controller both use bluetooth as opposed to the tablet, which uses some new proprietary wireless stuff from Nintendo and Broadcom. I don't know if the Wii U Pro controller introduces any additional lag beyond that, but from what I have gathered, it would lose to the tablet either way.

Blarggg said...

Is it even possible to convert 50Hz games into 60Hz? Or are you just pissed off that we're not getting the US versions? I see a lot of people on Miiverse complaining now that SM64 is only in English, so Nintendo loses either way.

Dave Frear said...

"Is it even possible to convert 50Hz games into 60Hz?"
If you force PAL region NES games to 60Hz they will play at the correct speed - although the music will be too fast. This was actually done for the North American VC release of Ufouria as it was never released there back in the day.

SNES games fare better as forcing them to 60Hz does not speed up the music, but there are a few games that will not play correctly (featuring some graphical glitches).

Additionally if a game had some optimisation for its original release, then forcing to 60Hz will cause trouble such as the player's character moving too fast.

So... not ideal.

"Or are you just pissed off that we're not getting the US versions? I see a lot of people on Miiverse complaining now that SM64 is only in English, so Nintendo loses either way."
The best option would be to offer a choice. I wouldn't want someone to miss out on a game because it was only available in English.

Robin said...

Street Gangs is this week's download and the description page states "This is the European version of the game". It does make sense, I guess, if it was the US one it would be River City Ransom.

What's odd is that Street Gangs hit 3DS VC about 2 years, and I can't imagine they put a 50Hz game on the 3DS..

Dave Frear said...

3DS Street Gangs as well as Mario & Yoshi on both 3DS and Wii U are the 60Hz versions but with the European title screens replacing the originals.

I'm not sure what's happening with tomorrows "Street Gangs" on the Wii U eShop. The Download info they sent out to websites stated it was the US version, but--like you say--the webpage states it's the EU version. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Dave Frear said...

Dave Frear said...
"Actually I'm not sure that's true for 3DS Street Gangs. I'll look into it."

OK. I was thrown because whilst it seemed to play just fine, it has the "Infogrames" version of the presents screen that wasn't in the US version (although here it is on a black background rather than a coloured one).

I thought it might be the PAL version forced to 60Hz, but it seems that the Presents card was pasted in along with the "Street Gangs" title screen. How do I know? Well I triggered the hidden easter egg and it displayed fine. In the PAL version the portraits are replaced with bits of the title screen.

Robin said...

A slight kick in the teeth, amiibo Touch and Play comes out in Europe this week. Tap amiibo on to the GamePad for demos.

All the games on there are the US 60Hz versions, including Super Metroid, Link to the Past, and Kirby's Adventure.

Not cool.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this, as a fellow European this helps a lot. Kirby sale is this week and I have been buying a lot of the past games, but won't be buying Kirby's Adventure until/unless they change it.

I can't believe this is still a problem in this day and age. At least it's a very small amount and quite a few of them have been optimized. Still, it isn't exactly hard to just put out different versions.

Robin said...

Paper Mario is this week's VC download, and is confirmed to be the 50Hz version. Boooo.

Anonymous said...

Can I ask where you got your confirmation from? I believe you, but I'm... really bummed. I was looking forward to Paper Mario. Won't be buying that version.

Robin said...

The Downloads PR is released every Monday morning, which is then posted right away to NeoGAF.

For Paper Mario it says:

Paper Mario €9.99 / £8.99 - This is the European version of the game, which was originally optimised by the developer to play music at a speed similar to the US version. Gameplay, demos and animations run at PAL speed. The aspect ratio has been corrected for this release.

Anonymous said...

Is... is this ever going to end? Because when Nintendo releases their next home console, I'm thinking of just importing a US system. It seems we are forever to get inferior products.

Dave Frear said...

It does look like Nintendo will be forever dumping 50Hz on us.
I suppose if we're now getting the bulk of VC releases in 60Hz (although that's not apparent based on recent releases), *maybe* they'll give us a choice on the next console.

I'm not holding my breath though.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin said...

Heads up, chaps, another 50Hz game incoming.

This time, Ocarina of Time (which is out on May 2nd) is the European version where "aspect ratio has been corrected for this release."