[Editor's note: pedrovay2003 takes a look at the old school games that all three major consoles offer as part of the ongoing Monthly Musings theme. -- CTZ]
It's no secret that downloadable games are popular right now. Each one of the three major consoles has a downloadable game service (well, the Wii will once WiiWare gets launched), but in addition to that, all three consoles also have downloadable games from the past. It's a given that consoles can't be completely backwards compatible, so downloadable versions of those older games can be quite convenient if it means you don't have to keep all of your old consoles. However, if it's not done right, downloadable games can just be a waste of time and money.
Let's take a look at the options, shall we?
GOOD IDEA: THE VIRTUAL CONSOLE (WII)
The Wii's Virtual Console is, in my opinion, the best service for backwards compatibility through downloads. See, all the games on the Virtual Console are fairly old and you'd be hard-pressed to find the original copies of those games anywhere. Some of them have become pretty rare too, like Super Mario Bros. 3. And some haven't even been released in every region, like Sin and Punishment. Some of these games are going for quite a bit on eBay too. I've seen boxed copies of Super Mario Bros. 3 go for over $50 which makes the $5 price tag not bad at all.
A lot of people complain that the Virtual Console is inferior to other services because there are no enhancements to any of the games like no online play, no updated graphics, and so on. But that's not what the VC is for! The VC was created to allow people new to videogames to experience all the stuff that people like me grew up with, and for people like me to relive our childhoods. The Xbox Originals and PS1 Downloads services are the same way -- Nothing is really added to enhance the experience. They're all exactly the same as they were when they were released in their original forms, which is a good thing. Nintendo has gotten backwards compatibility down to a science this generation, and the Virtual Console is no exception.
However, just because I feel the Virtual Console is the best out of the three services, it doesn't mean it's without its flaws. The Wii, as we all know, has a very small amount of internal memory (only 512MB). Sure, you can expand this memory with SD cards, but you can't actually play the games directly off of those cards. This means that if you really like the VC, you'll be filling your Wii's memory up quickly. My console, with all the downloaded games combined with the saves from all the games I've played, has barely any room left at all. It's true that if you link your Wii Shop Channel with your My Nintendo account you can redownload any games and channels you've purchased in the past, but constantly deleting and redownloading just because of a lack of space is very tedious, inconveniencing those who play lots of games and who have accumulated tons of save data. It's a good thing Virtual Console games are fairly small, and game saves for those VC games and retail games are even smaller at least.
BAD IDEA: XBOX ORIGINALS (XBOX 360)
As I typed the words "Xbox Originals" into this blog, I almost threw up on my keyboard. The Xbox Live Arcade is amazing, but Xbox Originals is probably the worst thing I've seen come out of this generation of gaming so far. Look at the X360, it's completely backwards compatible with almost every original Xbox title. Why would you download a game for $15 when you could just go to a local retailer that sells used games and grab the same game for less money? They don't even have to be used; my local Best Buy sells sealed copies of the original Halo (one of the Xbox Originals titles) for $10. No only that, but downloading these games instead of just buying original copies takes up huge amounts of hard drive space. You know what that means? When you're out of space, you'll have to drop money on a new hard drive, which is going to run you at least an extra $100. Pretty good way of making money, if you ask me.
Now, just to be fair, I should point out that not all the games you can download are a waste. Psychonauts is pretty rare now, so it'd be hard to find an actual hard copy, and if you did, it'd probably be pretty expensive. So this service would be excellent if only the really hard-to-find games were available, but as it is now, it's pointless. There's absolutely no reason to download any of those original games (except for Psychonauts) when you can still find them in their original forms and play them almost perfectly. As long as the Xbox 360 can play original Xbox games, there's no reason to download games that are still so current.
SOMEWHERE IN-BETWEEN: PS1 GAMES (PS3/PSP)