Game Emulation: Current Issue, Issue
33, Volume 2, for September, 2011. New Issue
published every month, and updated throughout the month. Next issue
due online October 2011.
091511-2215 - Passinault:
Off to a good start for the September 2011 issue of Frontier
Pop, which is about video game emulation. Should finish the issue
this weekend, as it will not be a large one.
INTRODUCTION BY EDITOR AND PUBLISHER C. A. PASSINAULT
everyone! With last month’s issue of Frontier Pop (August
2011: The Next Level) covering a lot of territory, and
being HUGE, this month will be a lot smaller.
I have a lot going on this month with the first Tampa Shootouts modeling
photography event, increasing business in photography bookings, and
the construction and launch of several new web sites. I had some rather
controversial topics picked out for this month and the following month,
but those will be pushed back. I also have a indie film review special
in the works, and that probably won’t go online until December;
it will be a great Christmas indeed for some Tampa filmmakers!
up: The October 2011 issue of Frontier Pop, which will be online in
two weeks (on time, for a change) will cover a controversial topic.
It will be about slander being used as a form of discrimination. The
November 2011 issue will, perhaps, be the most controversial thing
that I ever write. It will be about gays.
So, with some rather heavy subjects coming up this fall, and all of
the other things going on, I decided to curl up in front of the computer
for one night (or two, in this case) and write about video
game emulation, a subject that I’ve been wanting
to write about in Frontier Pop since last year. Actually, I also ran
into someone at a Walmart the other day, as I was in the electronics
section pricing things and lamenting about how screwed up Nintendo’s
pricing was (the 3DS is now $20.00 more than the DSi, and the 3DS
is completely compatible with the DSi. Why anyone would buy a DSi
now is beyond me, and Nintendo needs to drop the price of that console
at least $40.00 for a $60.00 gap, or even more). I began discussing
the different video game consoles and classic retro games, and how
you could play the classics on any computer. That’s when I became
inspired to write about emulators, as we were talking about them,
and I promised that I would put all of the information on Frontier
Pop (I also like how easy it is to remember the name of this web site.
Who needs cards when you have a name this cool?!).
So, this will be a fun issue. Here we go!
Emulators: What is an emulator?
An emulator is a software program which effectively turns your computer
into the console or arcade hardware that it is emulating. Old computers
like the Apple II and even pre-windows DOS can be emulated on any
There are emulators for Apple computers, too, but I don’t know
anything about them, as I do not have any Apple computers. Eventually,
I will have both Windows PC’s and Apple computers, and I will
then learn those emulators for the Apple, but for now, it’s
all PC, baby! There are also emulators for tablet computers like the
iPad, BUT I strongly recommend that you skip those because you’ll
have to jailbreak the iPad, voiding your warrantee, AND touch controls
are no substitute for a solid D-Pad and buttons.
Computer specs when it came to emulators was an issue 10 years ago
when computers were not that powerful, but not today. Not that I know
anything about power, though, as much of my gear is old (I am NOT
a PC gamer, don't play computer games, and therefore, don't need cutting-edge
hardware, yet). My main computer is a laptop running Windows XP, Service
Pack 3, with 500 Megs of RAM, an 80 Gig hard drive, and an Athlon
processor clocking in at 700 MHZ. I know that those specs are pathetic
these days, but remember that I bought my laptop brand new back in
2005. I take really good care of my gear, and my things tend to last
(a reason that all of my video game consoles in my huge collection,
including my Atari 7800, NES, Super NES, both Atari Jaguars, Jaguar
CD, original GBA, 3DO, and everything else is in perfect condition.
I spent 6 months in 1994 alone finding a NES in perfect condition.
My Super NES, the first console that I actually bought, is still in
brand new condition, and I bought that in 1992). I have a newer computer
in the studio which is twice that spec, and an older computer in the
studio with the same specs. Most emulators can run at full speed on
a computer with as little as 128 Megs of RAM and a clock speed of
400 MHZ (I know, because I have years of experience running emulators
on a variety of different machines. My friend Kristen's computer back
in 1999 was a 400 MHZ Gateway tower, and it ran MAME great!), as they
do not require the hardware power that a Windows PC game would.
I would go out and buy an old used computer for emulation (for between
$40.00 to $90.00), and not bother with it on my new computers with
important files on them. I would also not download any video game
ROM that I did not own in my collection. There are technical and legal
risks with emulation.
Emulation is not perfect, and it is not risk-free. You assume all
risks and potential liability if you start messing around with emulators
or download game ROMs that you do not have the right to download.
Although 99% of the time everything is awesome, you have to tinker
with some emulators and tweak them to get them to work right. Fortunately,
this is not difficult.
I’ve been using emulators for over 13 years, ever since I bought
my first PC, which ran Windows 98, had a 4 Gig hard drive, and 32
Megs of RAM. In all that time, I’ve had four or five big problems.
By far, the worst was two years ago when I was playing E.T. for the
Atari 2600 on my computer using an emulator called Stella (Yes, I
was playing what is considered to be the worst video game ever made,
although I disagree with the bad rap that the game has. I like it,
and it is NOT a bad game; I’ve played games on the Playstation,
the Jaguar, the 3DO, and the Super NES which were worse!). Somehow,
the emulator crashed, and my computer froze, sticking on this one
loud sound that I could not turn off. So, I did a hard reboot by turning
the computer off. This corrupted my boot sector on my hard drive (how
that happened, I have no idea), rendering my computer a paperweight;
I had to redo the entire thing and lost a few files along the way.
I was not a happy camper! Another time, and this had nothing to do
with emulators, but with a commercial video game console, I plugged
my new 1000 series Playstation Portable into one of my older computers.
This corrupted my USB drivers, and I ended up having to redo the entire
computer by reinstalling the O.S. and the drivers. I didn’t
lose files that time, but it took a couple of days to backup files
and to redo the computer. So, see, any time that you change something
on your computer or install something, wether it is a mainstream product
or not, you take a risk.
issues of emulators
Emulators themselves are legal. The games themselves, as ROM files
which the emulators run, are copyrighted by the game companies, however,
and may not be legal.
I am not, in any way, suggesting that you download and play any ROMS.
The way that I see it, I am ok because I am a video game collector.
The game makers, which own the legal rights to the games, also use
emulation when they sell their classic games. This means that the
games being run are ports of the originals, and not translations or
remakes. This makes the games the same legal property, because it
is the same exact code, or copyrighted work.
I buy, and have bought, a LOT of games; far more than most buy. I
may have the largest private video game collection in Florida, and
I'm pretty sure that I have that distinction in the Tampa Bay market.
I have thousands upon thousands of video games, all legitimately bought
at full price, as well as dozens of video game consoles. I play emulators
for convenience, as I can bring along most of the games that I already
own on a laptop and play them whenever I want to.
Do I really own most of the games that I play on emulator? Yes I do!
Are they the actual games, and not translations or other versions?
Yes, again! Take Castlevania for the NES. I own it as a cartridge
for the NES, which I have, too. I own it on the Virtual Console on
the Wii, which is emulated legally (and, I might add, ownership of
that version is an issue if something happens to the Wii, which is
a fact that I have issues with, and it’s an issue which I have
with all downloadable games. If I have to get another Wii, it will
be a pain in the butt to get the game downloaded to the new Wii without
paying for it all over again. It's even worse that I bought over 50
games for the Virtual Console, about $400.00 worth, which are all
on my Wii. It is a hassle being legit). I also own it on my NES/ Famicom
emulator. All three play perfectly. Which ones do I play? Well, the
emulator version is the one that I play the most, as it is on three
of my computers, followed by the Wii version, which I like because
the system keeps a record of when I play and how much I play, as well
as allowing me to resume whenever I want to. I never play the cart
version for the NES, and have not done so for years, as it is a pain
to set up, and it is a part of my collection.
The Neo Geo games that I play are a trickier proposition, as I do
not own a Neo Geo. Back when Neo Geo systems sold in stores, I could
not afford paying $600.00 for one, and certainly could not afford
to dish out $200.00 to $300.00 per game. I wanted one, though. So
did a lot of other gamers. My friend Frank was luckier, as he worked
for a video game store, Blockbuster Games at the Tampa Bay Center
mall (which was the best mall in the Tampa Bay area back in the early
1990's, before it closed, was torn down, and the f-ing Tampa Bay Buccaneers
built that stupid football temple there. I hate football and sports,
but that's for another time. Anyway, TBC will always be my favorite
mall, and I'd pay hundreds for just one more day there in the early
90's). When they got rid of their Neo Geo games, he was first in line,
and walked away with a perfect collection for next to nothing; today,
his Neo Geo collection is worth over $10,000.00, and he isn’t
selling. One day, I'll have to try to buy it from him, and I would
pay $10,000.00 for a perfect Neo Geo collection.
That’s not to say that I don’t own Neo Geo games, as whenever
SNK Playmore releases a compilation game disc for modern consoles,
which are the original game code emulated, I buy them. I have Neo
Geo compilation games for the Playstation 2, the Xbox, and the Playstation
Portable. If I had an Xbox 360, which I will eventually, I would also
buy the Neo Geo games that I do not have, even though I have them
on emulator already. You see, I pay my fair share- and I do not play
emulators to avoid paying for games.
Then, of course, you have emulation for games that you have no other
way of playing because the companies didn’t bother releasing
them in the United States, or the games are so rare that they are
too expensive. We have no choice if we want to play the games. Sweet
Home for the Famicom, with an English patch, is one
game that I would have never been able to play (or read, as it is
a text-heavy game) if it were not for emulation. Sweet Home,
which was the father of Resident Evil, but for the 8 Bit
Famicom, is awesome, and I am happy to be able to play it (my friend
Rob went crazy over it, too). Too, Neo Turf Masters and some
of the Metal Slug games are too expensive for the Neo Geo
(although I do have those on compilations). One game that I urgently
want to get is Policenauts for the Sega
Saturn. Yes, I do own two Sega Saturns, which are in mint
condition, but Policenauts, which is a Japanese-only Hideo
Kojima game and an unofficial sequel to Snatcher (for the
Sega CD, which I have on an original CD now worth a lot of money,
as well as an ISO ROM image for my Sega CD emulator), is in Japanese,
and I can’t read it. So, once I obtain better computers, I am
going to get a Sega Saturn emulator and get the English-patched ROM
(which some fans translated because the game is so good that it was
worth the fans slaving for months and working for free to translate
it), online. I’m going to play that game, because if it is anything
like Snatcher, it will be awesome! I’ve been wanting
to play Policenauts since 1995, when I read (ironically,
while sitting in the food court at Tampa Bay Center crunching down
some Taco Bell tacos.... Mmmmmmm, that was a fun, and yummy, day!)
that it was being released in the United States in an English version
for the 3DO, the Sega Saturn, and the Playstation (I own all of those
consoles). I’m still mad about them not releasing it, as I would
have been the first to buy it.
There is also the argument, which I agree with because it makes sense,
that emulation is needed to preserve the history of video games, especially
with arcade games. So, that is pretty much it. I own most of the games
already that I play on emulators, and play them on emulator because
it is convenient. Other games I play because there is no other way
to play them, although, it should be noted, that even though I have
them on my emulators, I would buy them if their copyright owners would
make them available for sale.
You also have to realize that the reason that video game publishers
today have opened up their back catalogs and are selling compilations
of classic video games is that the emulation scene showed
them that there is a market for older games. Older,
classic games, too, demonstrate what makes games great- game play.
You do not need great graphics when you have great game play,
and that is something that most modern video games need to learn.
I like game play in my games, which probably is why I am not a fan
of modern, cutting-edge games with 3D graphics.
So, yes, I play games on emulators, but I’d like to think that
I am entitled to do so. I am not a pirate, and I do not steal games.
I buy them, and have more games than just about anyone that I know,
or know of. Even Frank, my friend with the perfect Neo Geo collection.
Video game controllers for emulators
Remember when I said that emulators require tweaking and tinkering,
but that it is not difficult? Well, remember that video games, especially
the classic games which are often played on emulators, are all game
play. You are going to need a controller to play those games.
Most of the adjustments that are done to emulators are done in their
settings menu. You’re going to spend some time configuring controllers.
At any rate, I’ve used everything from Gravis gamepads to joysticks
to wired Xbox 360 controllers on my emulators, and everything in between.
The Xbox 360 controller, after you have installed the Windows driver
for it, is great for emulators, although the left analog stick is
the primary control interface, and my NES emulator maps to it and
cannot be remapped to the D-Pad on the controller (also, even if it
could, the D-Pad on the XBox 360 controller SUCKS, as it is built
on a "disc", and it is useless for fighting games. I love
my fighting games, so there you go!). As a result, it is a poor choice
for the NES, as analog sticks make D-Pad games play sloppy. Plus,
the 360 controller is not cheap.
I recently discovered a $10.00 controller which is based on the original
Playstation controller, the Steele Series 1GC controller.
When a friend at a video game store recommended it, I took one look
at it and thumbed my nose up at it. It was orange, with transparent
plastic, and looked like a cheap, gimmicky, crappy typical third-party
controller that I had learned to avoid in my console collecting days.
The low price made me nervous, too. Still, that was all that they
had, and I not only wanted multiple controllers for two player games,
but I wanted to play games on my NES emulator on a proper D-Pad. So,
I bought and tried one.
I was wrong about my initial impression, and was pleasantly surprised.
This controller is awesome, and it is perfect for emulators. Since
you will want to play your friends, and it is cheap, you will want
more than one, too.
favorite video game emulators (and games)
Here are some of my favorite video game emulators and games. Over
the years, these emulators have proven themselves reliable and safe,
in my opinion.
I do not have these emulators available yet, at least entirely, for
download here on Frontier Pop, as I am still working out technical
issues, but you can get them at ClassicGaming.Com,
as well as sites like MAME.Net.
Future articles on consoles and console reviews will also reference
these emulators, which is one thing that I wish that Retro Gamer magazine
did when they did articles on classic consoles. It would have saved
me a lot of time on trial and error!
I use two versions of MAME, the Multi Arcade
Machine Emulator, to play arcade
games, as different versions read different games. To date, I have
yet to see a single version of MAME read every arcade game ROM image.
Emulators are not perfect, though, and this is not a perfect world.
This runs newer arcade games, including some Neo Geo games. It runs
Elevator Action Returns, also, which is one of my favorite arcade
games of all time!
Yes, I realize that there are newer versions of MAME, and I will check
them out when I get the chance. These emulators are just the ones
that I use on my computers.
favorite arcade games on this emulator
Elevator Action Returns
Street Fighter Alpha 2
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
32 0.34 Beta 3
This was my first emulator, which I obtained back in 1998. It’s
great for old computers, too. MAME 32 0.34 runs a lot of older arcade
games that my other version of MAME cannot read.
favorite arcade games on this emulator
Time Pilot 84
Yie Ar Kung Fu (Needs sound sample set for audio. Mine works fine)
(Nintendo Entertainment System/ Famicom)
Nester is the emulator that I use for NES/ Famicom games.
NES (Super Nintendo/ Super Nintendo Entertainment System/ Super Famicom)
Advance (GBA / Atlantis)
Genesis (Sega CD, Mega CD, Mega Drive)
Geo (AES/ Advanced Entertainment System)
and game wish list
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