Feature: Forwards or Backwards?

I guess it all started with the DS. I bought the system at launch and immediately started to try to enjoy Super Mario 64 with the thumb 'nub' and the D-Pad. Although both were cumbersome, it was the idea that I could play one of the best games ever on the go which sold the system for me. What I didn't realise though was that the GBA slot would be my most used feature until the DS built up a real library of it's own. And so as I sit here with a 3DS that plays host to amazing DS games, repetition has occurred once again.

So it was interesting when the the rumour mill started noting that Nintendo's next console would be backwards compatible with the Wii. For one I've decided not to believe anything related to this until I see the console actually running Wii software. Why? Because I bought a PS3 under the illusion that it would eventually play PS2 games. I know: naive.
But backwards compatibility is a huge deal to me. You see, when Wii launched, I was still picking up Gamecube games and had already built up a large library of titles. I therefore managed to get hold of software at the end of the Gamecube's lifetime that complemented Wii Sports, Red Steel and Twilight Princess. Pikmin 2, Beyond Good & Evil, Tomb Raider Legend, Lego Star Wars 2...All were great games that were a joy to play on Wii.


Yet for Nintendo's next console backwards compatibility should present a greater selling point It's common knowledge that a lot of third party Gamecube games were ports of PS2/X-box titles, yet with Wii, the system has a software library which it can truly call it's own. Many gamers may have never owned a Wii, such is the strength of all 3 platforms software libraries, therefore missing out on many first and third party games. If Nintendo's new console is to upscale these old games into HD and emulate them through hardware as effortlessly as the Wii emulated the Gamecube, there is no reason Nintendo shouldn't push the Wii's unique back catalogue to those who missed out the first time. Who knows, titles like Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid: Other M, Smash Bros. Brawl and many third party games from Little King's Story to Muramasa (and beyond) could be enjoyed by a whole new generation of gamers.

System seller?

Backwards compatibility is a bonus for the industry, strengthening a new console from the off and adding value to both old and new systems right out of the gate. If Nintendo's new console was to emulate both Wii and the Gamecube as well as continue with the Virtual Console, it would also launch right out of the gate with more choice than a Chinese Buffet and Nintendo's full history of home consoles. Powerful stuff indeed. It may also put pressure on both Sony and Microsoft to enable their future consoles to be backwards compatible from a hardware point of view.

So, backwards compatibility is arguably a Trojan horse, one that offers a wealth of content and an opportunity to engage previous and new consumers alike. But should systems move forwards? Should Nintendo focus on a new system that relies on it's own hardware only? Should any previous software just be downloadable?

Feel free to comment below.

Mark Lee
- N-Europe Staff Writer

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