With the news that Nintendo will once again be using the inferior 50Hz mode for Virtual Console games released on the Wii-U, the question really has to be asked: In 2013, how on earth is this the case?
50Hz PAL has been the bane of European gamers for decades.
A lifetime of slower conversions with gigantic borders at the top and bottom, not only did we have to spend the whole of the 80’s and 90’s being denied excellent games that were available in Japan, the ones we did get were often converted in a way that meant we never got the full experience.
Imagine if the European versions of Call of Duty were limited to 50 frames per second (instead of the standard 60), but not only that, the game itself was physically slowed down by 17% to achieve that effect. Oh and the game wouldn’t run in 720p, it would run at 605p with a thick border at the top and bottom. Only in Europe of course: the US and Japan would get the full game.
This would be considered totally unacceptable for a new game; so why is it okay to do this with downloads of old games? The faster, border-free versions are there working on all the Japanese consoles. Maybe a few titles might never have been converted in English at that speed, but any game ever released in America will be.
Is it because our TVs aren’t compatible? No: most TVs bought since the late 90’s are capable of accepting both PAL and NTSC signals. Even so, the transition has been slow and painful for European gamers. By the time the PS2 era came around, some games had hidden options that would switch the game, but many still did not.
An example of how a PAL 50hz border would affect Call of Duty Black Ops 2
Unbelievably it took until the 360 and PS3 for all games to be available in both PAL and NTSC for those using standard definition sets. Of course High Definition is universal and leaves the problem to the past. Or not, sadly.
Nintendo still stuck with giving us slower PAL versions of games on the Wii Virtual Console. Some full price games weren’t even compatible. Alright, alright, maybe we can let that slide as most people used a standard definition connection…
Wii-U, however, is a high definition console, so there is surely no legitimate reason why we should be forced to put up with inferior versions of games. Especially when, thanks to exchange rates, we usually pay more for them than in the US or Japan.
The 3DS Virtual Console games are all 60hz, so why on earth can the Wii-U versions not be? Given you have a controller with a screen to play them on, the issue of TV compatibility is completely redundant.
It is a reminder of the attitudes that led many European gamers to feel as if we were the unwanted second cousin of Japan and the US.
People are angry, and rightly so. For all their many brilliant actions, Nintendo have usually been the worst offender against Europe, and this woeful shambles means that even in 2013, we cannot be rid of the curse of PAL 50hz.
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Rob is an advertising strategist and author of 'The Ad Pit' blog. Rob has been playing games for 25 years - which makes him feel very old. He used to have a victory ratio of 40:1 in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, but that was a long time ago! #dogyears