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Everybody Hertz

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.

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 - PAL 50 Border Example

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

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  1. It is an odd thing to do, and I can only think of three reasons why Nintendo Europe keep doing it:
    1. Lazyness and/or cost cutting.
    2. An order from on high that all games must run in the same mode as they did years ago for a sense of misplaced authenticity.
    3. Some kind of rights issue with thinking they have to release an identical ROM. 
    None of these are acceptable, especially when you compare these to the Xbox Live Arcade titles that have so much work done to them. 
    I think I know why Nintendo do this, as well as adding nothing new to the games- I bet, with one of their upcoming consoles they will start releasing ‘enhanced’ versions, much like XBL Arcade titles, in HD, with online play etc, and they simply want to rinse as much cash out of these untouched titles as possible, which also explains why they are going to start drip feeding these old titles yet again.

    • @Simon Burns George Lucas isn’t working for Nintendo now is he?

  2. Yeah, the only logical reason would be some kind of rights issue, but this is still a ridiculous reason to do it. If we pay for 20 year old games, it is hardly right that we can’t even get the full game!

    • @RobMortimerVA One thing I will say though, is that when I have played these old games in 60Htz, it just hasn’t felt… right. I know its because I grew up in a world of games being 17% slower and more jerky than they should be, but there should at least be the option of playing 50Htz, even if just for an old stick in the mud like me 🙂

  3. On a seperate note, I am now addicted to Balloon Trip all over again

  4. I wonder why do they have different systems. It makes developing harder.

    • @ small business blog never thought of it like that…a pain all round then!

      • @Luke Martin VA  @ small business blog All down to different countries choosing different systems in the days before consoles or international broadcasting was ever a consideration!

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