Renews the age-old purpose

I’ve been nose-to-the-grindstone capturing video for the final Retronauts DVD segment in my free time this past week, and it’s been rough. Besides the general soul-weariness a man experiences after marathoning too many early, badly designed NES games, I’ve also been dealing with the realities of trying to coax max performance out of 30-year-old hardware designed to be disposable entertainment. I’m pretty sure the RAM adapter for my Famicom Disk System has succumbed to age, since it’s begun glitching on startup and invariably freezes after about 10-15 minutes of play. Then again, maybe the problem has to do with the pricey modded NES system I bought for the purpose, since its Famicom slot has been pretty cranky all around this week. Whatever the case, it’s really made this whole process quite demoralizing.

I keep asking myself, “Why in god’s name am I putting myself through all this trouble?”

And then, this afternoon, as I was rounding up footage, I ended up getting a very clear side-by-side comparison of high-end direct video capture from NES hardware…


…to the Wii U Virtual Console footage I was originally planning to work with…


Yeah, OK. I guess I can suffer a little longer. On one hand, I kind of wish I’d never been kicked down the rabbit hole of modded consoles and upscalers… but on the other, I’m horrified to realize just how truly terrible NES games look on Wii U. Man.

Oh, that reminds me. Could someone please ask Nintendo to have someone who isn’t a lifelong cataract-sufferer curate their classic masterpieces on Virtual Console?

5 thoughts on “Renews the age-old purpose

  1. This is both not anywhere near of as big of an issue as it seems and not entirely the Wii U’s fault. 24bpp PC RGB uses a value range of 0-255 for brightness of each color component (therefore spanning the entire range of a byte), whereas for historical reasons NTSC TV RGB uses a range of 16-235, where 16 means “black,” 235 means “white,” and anything outside that range is clamped to “black” or “white,” where “black” or “white” means that that component is fully off or on.

    So if you take an NTSC RGB signal and display it on a monitor that expects PC RGB, or run it through a capture card that you haven’t configured correctly, you get a washed out image as the device in question interprets what is intended to be black as dark grey, and white as light grey. But that same signal displayed on a TV that expects an NTSC range looks perfectly fine.

    I ran into this problem myself, playing Splatoon on an older computer monitor that only supported PC RGB, and being surprised by just how washed out the supposedly bright and colorful game looked. Later I purchased a newer monitor which had an option to use the NTSC RGB range for certain inputs and everything was fine.

    I say not *entirely* their fault, however, because Nintendo could have included an option to use the PC RGB range in the system settings, as (IIRC) Sony did with the PS3. I hope they include such an option with the NX, both because the NTSC range conversion throws away some precision that would be nice to have back when using a PC monitor, and because it can give a negative impression of the console to people using capture cards or computer monitors such as yourself who weren’t familiar with this particular bit of technical baggage.

    PS: long time fan of yours, keep it up my man

  2. The NES Virtual Console screen shot shows an obvious problem to anyone who’s even taken a moments glance at the difference between RGB vs. NTSC levels.

    The R,G,B 0,0,0 value has been boosted, and the R,G,B 255,255,255 level has been cut.

    I tried a quick level adjustment, but the normal cutting 16 from each end wasn’t enough. Also the histogram wasn’t centered. A gamma correction centers the histogram, and then a linear stretch, cutting the unused values values from each end, makes the colors fall pretty much in line with your hardware output.

    So it should be an easy fix for Nintendo, just a bit of regular level adjustment. They must just not care.

    • It’s not just the terrible color — the scaling is so soft and smudgy it turns everything into a fuzzy mess. Nintendo really just didn’t care about VC on Wii U.

      • I don’t mind the soft scaling so much. I never saw pixels with the RF output on the NES/SMS. Everything sort of blended together with their neighbors.

        But yeah, that’s an easy fix too. Use “nearest neighbor”, and stick to integer scaling values. They’ve actually put more work into the calculation by using linear scaling, and likely allowing factional values.

  3. Jeremy,

    I’ve been a fan of your writing for nearly a decade now. I’ve bought your self-published books. You have now asked an excellent question, why won’t Nintendo hire someone to curate their masterpieces.

    Please e-mail me. I have a very clever idea.

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