Smoothing, Resolution & Manuals: A Guide to the GBA Virtual Console


The Virtual Console, since its inception in 2007, has been a great way for new players to experience classic games, and with the Wii U it added even further features. As many will know, the standard features include suspension of the game when you exit and come back. The 3DS and Wii U Virtual Consoles also introduced save states, allowing you to restart at a point you created, which is very handy if you get stuck. Whereas players have also been able to reassign controller inputs in the way that they wish on Wii U.

With the NES, SNES, MSX & PC Engine games on the Wii U Virtual Console this is the extent of the emulation, but, with the Game Boy Advance (GBA) games now on the Virtual Console, there are a few new features that are noteworthy and are beneficial to the platform.

Gamma Reduction
One thing of which many people may not be aware is that with the early releases of the GBA titles on that platform games were artificially brightened in order to compensate for the handheld’s screen which, before the release of the GBA SP, had no lighting whatsoever. The Wii U’s Virtual Console releases of these titles have them all altered in order to compensate for this over brightening.

While many may be angered by this, if your TV is set up properly, you won’t notice that this is even in place, but with the GamePad, it will seem noticeably darker.


Screen Smoothing
Hidden away in the game’s Virtual Console settings menu is the option to smooth the screen. The GBA’s resolution was originally 240×160 which means it is blown up considerably when brought to the TV and the individual pixel placement is incredibly noticeable. As such, when you activate this feature, things will be smoothed.

All diagonal lines will look less blocky and curves will look curved. This makes the games a bit more pleasing to the eye and seem a bit more updated. However, this does not fit all games. For games like Metroid Fusion and Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island, it takes the edge off and doesn’t detriment the graphics at all, but for games like WarioWare Inc., it takes away from the aesthetic, but it’s a purely subjective thing.

This option also doesn’t need you to delve into the Virtual Console menu to activate it, as you can activate it in real-time by pressing down the Right Stick.


As stated before, the original GameBoy Advance resolution is 240×160. Due to this, the upscale of the games to 1080 has a bit of an issue.

The game doesn’t take up the whole screen, but rather a block of 1620×1080 is an increase of a factor of 6.75 the size as the original. Due to this, it’s not an exact upscale of the game. While there’s no blurring issues with this, many would like to play with the original resolution.

This is possible within the Virtual Console settings menu. In it, it provides an option for Original Resolution, which runs on the TV screen. Due to the fact that would be a tiny little box on a huge screen, the Virtual Console runs it a different way. Instead, it upscales it to the largest whole factor it can on the screen: 1440×960 making it 6×6 pixels for every 1 original pixel.

This doesn’t affect the resolution on the GamePad, and it isn’t possible to run a toggle in real time for this.


When the trailers for the GBA titles came on the official Japanese site last week, many people noticed a small ? icon on the GamePad screen, to the side of the gameplay. Many questioned what this was, and now we know.

If you touch that icon, you can bring up the game’s manual onto the GamePad. Unlike previous Wii U manuals, however, these are full detailed scans of the original manual for the GBA game. You have the ability to scroll through the pages using the touchscreen on the GamePad and allow you to zoom if you do so wish.

But, that’s not all. Not only can you look at it on the GamePad, you can have it running on the GamePad, and navigate around it, while still playing the game on the TV screen.

Comments 5
  1. Watching the CVG stream yesterday I noticed the startup show the GameBoy Player logo, would it be a strach to assume this implies some form of Gamecube emulation is running on the Wii U? because Gamecube games on Virtual Console would be something I tottaly didn’t expect to happen with how things have been going on VC.

    Although it seems weird to emulate a GC emulating a GBA, but the GBPlayer logo striked me as odd…

  2. @Henrique

    There is really no reason to do that, for instance the gamecube does not need to be emulated to run on a Wii U, the hardware is pretty much the same with extra bits.
    Additionally the GB Player is hardware based not software based, the GC only runs the display, controls, etc.
    If you are curious though, Nintendo has had a GBA emulator for the GC since 2003, for demo purposes, the compatibility and accuracy is not perfect and is incredibly hacky to get “core-heavy” games fullspeed.

    Considering M2 helped make the emu suggests the 3DS’ GBA games are not running on emulation.
    People think otherwise because the 3DS lacks almost all GBA hardware and personally I’m not clear on this but I would imagine the 10 games are flawless but I’ve never seen them in real life only in poor quality videos.

    PS: The gamepad is 854×480, that allows a 3x scale for GBA games (720×480) no need to change the size unlike for TVs.

  3. @Henrique many GBA games have that logo as part of their startup, regardless of what system you’re playing them on. No Cube emulation is happening.

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