Since the Nintendo Wii’s arrival, the Wii Shopping Channel has been chugging out some of the best gaming titles of yesteryear on a weekly basis. Many of those titles have come from former rival Sega, as gamers have been given the opportunity to play their old Genesis favorites. Of course, Sega didn’t stay a first-party superpower because of the Genesis alone. Sega evolved just like its main competitors, Nintendo and Sony, and released newer, more powerful consoles.
Monday, April 16 saw the release of one of Sega’s best titles from the late 90’s. The original Virtua Fighter was an amazing fighting game that established a new universe of characters and a unique gameplay style. Rather than focus on outrageous special moves, Virtua Fighter’s appeal came in shining the spotlight on more realistic fighting maneuvers. More strategy was required and gamers ate the concept up with a spoon. But while Virtua Fighter sowed the seeds for a great fighting franchise, the sequel put the series on a whole other plain. Virtua Fighter 2 not only implemented the heralded gameplay style of the original, but it also brought gamers the first 3D fighting game for a home console.
The graphics were spectacular, with each character and environment rendered in outstanding detail. While the game was amazing in itself, Virtua Fighter 2 would never have achieved the success it did without such graphical eye candy. It wouldn’t have been possible without Sega’s next-generation console known as the Sega Saturn, a 32-bit powerhouse that went neck and neck with the Nintendo 64 and the first Sony Playstation for video gaming superiority in the late 90’s. That’s why it was such a disappointment that the Virtua Fighter 2 that hit the Wii Shopping Channel on April 16 was the Sega Genesis version.
Now even long-time gamers will struggle to recall a Sega Genesis version of Virtua Fighter 2 even existing. There’s a reason for that. The Sega Genesis port of Virtua Fighter 2 was so atrocious and visually ugly that it was completely swept under the rug in hopes that no one would ever speak of it again. But unfortunately, the eyesore known as Virtua Fighter 2 for the Sega Genesis was released for thousands of Wii owners to potentially download. And woe to those who took the bait it in hopes of the amazing 3D fighter they once knew and loved. The Sega Genesis version not only handled far clumsier than the Saturn version, but the entire 3D graphics engine was scrapped in order for the game to fit within the confines of a Genesis cartridge. Gone were the beautiful 3D models. Gamers would say hello to ugly 2D sprites that did nothing more than sully the reputation of a great fighting game.
When players look at Virtua Fighter 2 among the list of downloadable titles on the Wii Shopping Channel, a myriad of thoughts run through their minds. The top one probably being, why not offer the Saturn version? It’s certainly a valid question. Especially in light of a recent announcement that Neo Geo titles would soon be hitting the Virtual Console, as well.
The Wii has shown itself capable of offering perfect emulations of games ranging from 8-bit NES classics to 64-bit Nintendo 64 wonders. Sega Genesis titles are a novel offering, but what’s stopping Sega from offering up their Saturn library? Or even their Sega 32x library?
One thing to consider is whether the Wii is capable of emulating the Saturn’s hardware. It’s a tricky question to answer and only the most technical-minded could answer this question clearly. But if the Wii has already shown itself capable of emulating previous Nintendo hardware, Genesis hardware, and Turbo-Grafx 16 hardware, anything should be possible.
Gamers might not care for the technical jargon. The recent release of Virtua Fighter 2 has most gamers wondering exactly what a boon the addition of Saturn titles could be for the Wii Shopping Channel. What if players could get the real Virtua Fighter 2 experience? Or imagine if they could take flight again in Panzer Dragoon Saga? How about if players could experience a different kind of toy story with Clockwork Knight 2? Or what if players could re-visit the off-the-wall world of Bug? Players have already gotten to play around with the Genesis version of Sonic 3D Blast on an old Gamecube consolation, but what if they could experience the genuine article with the Saturn version?
The Saturn boasts a number of titles that’ll keep old Sega diehards happy for a long time. But there’s also a huge marketing opportunity within the Saturn library that Nintendo may be missing. It’s in the form of another creation from the Sonic Team.
Earlier this year, gamers were left salivating by the announcement that Sega would begin development on the long-awaited sequel to Nights, a 1996 cult phenomenon that offered total freedom of flight for the first time. While Sonic offered breakneck speed, Nights gave gamers the chance to fly wherever they wanted. It was unlike anything on the market at the time. And gamers clamored for a sequel for many years. Their pleas were finally answered when Nights: Journey Into Dreams was announced for a late 2007/early 2008 release.
Nintendo would be remiss if they didn’t take advantage of this buzz. Hardcore fans will be on edge for the new Nights. Why not offer them something to whet their appetite in the form of the original Nights for the Virtual Console. While the Saturn had several great titles, none had the wide appeal of the original Nights. A well-timed Virtual Console release could not only provide a huge financial boost, but also remind gamers of what made them fall in love with Nights in the first place before running off to buy the sequel.
Perhaps Nintendo is waiting for the right moment. Maybe they have a grand plan for later-generation Sega titles. Or maybe the Wii simply isn’t capable of emulating Saturn hardware. If the latter is not true, then maybe it is time Nintendo considers bringing some of Sega’s best 3D titles to the table. Old Sega fans would come out of the woodwork and newer fans could discover a great generation of games for the first time.
The only thing Nintendo would have to lose is inferior versions of games like Virtua Fighter 2.