Making the transition over to the 3DS from the Wii, the 3DS Virtual Console will be the home of retro (or old, depending on your perspective) Nintendo games from past system. With both Game Boy and Game Boy Colour games being available initially, with the potential for other games from other handhelds and consoles to join the service later on, the Virtual Console store will let you try, and buy classic Nintendo games from days gone by.
On show at the Amsterdam event were Super Mario Land, and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. As these are were Game Boy, and Game Boy Colour games respectively, the bottom screen isn't used for the gameplay, but is instead used to display a handy control list - although we're not sure if that was for demo purposes only.
We have fond memories of the original Super Mario Land, as it was actually the first ever Nintendo game we owned, on our first ever Nintendo console, the original, chunky Game Boy. If you've ever played a game on the original Game Boy before, you'll know what a hassle it could sometimes be. Without a backlight on the system, which sported a monochromatic screen, the only real adjustment you had was the contrast, so it was often a real game to actually get the games to a state where you could see them to play. Playing on the 3DS, then, is something of a revelation, as the large, backlit screen makes seeing the game as lot easier. While we are disappointed that the console doesn't attempt to colour the game in, like the Game Boy Colour did, so you're effectively left playing in black and white (or rather, shades of greeny-grey), it doesn't affect the gameplay. As a classic Mario platformer, this is one game everyone should look into picking up when the Virtual Console launches.
Zelda: Link's Awakening, on the other hand, was the Game Boy Colour version of the game, and as such, sported a full pallet of 56 colours, as was the cutting edge for Nintendo technology at the time. If you've played Link's more recent DS adventures, this isn't actually anything too different - it's a role playing game, played from the top down perspective, with a similar emphasis on solving puzzles in dungeons, and generally adventuring around the world. Like Super Mario Land, this could be controlled using either the Circle Pad, or the +Control Pad, and strangely, it actually felt better using the Circle Pad, even though you could still only move in four directions. While playing Link's Awakening, we noticed that the little "3D" light, that glows when you're using a game that supports 3D, was turned off, meaning that neither of the Virtual Console games on show had 3D support. We were a little bit disappointed, as Nintendo have mentioned before that they plan on retro-fitting 3D to 3DS Virtual Console games, so perhaps we'll have to wait till a later date to see how that'll work.
While pricing schemes have yet to be announced, and the 3DS Virtual Console isn't even set to arrive until May, we're already looking forward to the prospect of downloading an entire library of classic Nintendo games. For people like us, it's a great chance to play through some old favourites again, while for others who're newer to the Nintendo party, it's a brilliant chance to discover some great games for the first time, at a budget price. May can't come soon enough.