Adventures in Emulation

     Once upon a time (back in the mid-00’s), I found myself in possession of an Xbox. This wasn’t just any old Xbox though, this thing was packed to the brim with all sorts of games from several systems: NES, SNES, TurboGrafx16, etc. There were even a few Xbox games crammed into it. This was the first time I’d ever had so many games available to me at once and it. Was. Glorious! Games, especially decent ones, used to be frickin’ expensive. And there were no such things as digital download services that periodically have crazy sales and offer retro games for chump change. And I didn’t have my own computer anyway.

     I didn’t realize it then, but I had just experienced my first brush with the wondrous world of emulation. I remember being kinda sad when I had to give up that Xbox; I was gonna miss all those games. Over the next decade or so, thoughts of all those games I would never get to play again never fully left my mind. I would also think about all those games I missed out on as a kid. Then Youtube came on the scene. All I could do was watch other people play them. How I envied those Youtubers. I didn’t have heaps of cash for antique games and systems, so I just let it go . . .

     . . .until about the middle of May of this year. I had been on Steam for about four months by then and loving it. As I mentioned before, I had taken to plumbing its depths, searching for tittles released during previous generations of gaming. I’d already found pretty much all of the Sonic games, Jet Set Radio, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. Wish I could’ve found more though. And then it hit me: Why didn’t I just figure out how to use emulation software so I could possibly play all the stuff I wasn’t able to find. I mean, I had already grown accustomed to playing video games on my laptop.

     When it came to learning to effectively use this type of technology, the struggle was real.

  • Sorting out the functional emulators from the straight-up garbage
  • Finding functional ROMs (games)
  • Tinkering with all those damned configurations
  • Endlessly obsessing and wracking my brain over what to download next and for what system
  • The copious amounts of trail and error
  • The hours and hours I poured into the whole endeavor
  • And all the constant testing

It was enough to give me a headache.

     After all that nonsense, I can now successfully emulate the following systems: NES, SNES, Sega Genesis and Saturn, Gameboy/Color/Advance, Nintendo DS, Game Cube (sort of), and the TurboGrafx16 (aka the PC Engine/CD). I am having a kick-ass time playing all these games I’m now able to get my hands on. I’m truly enjoying taking a look at all those games I missed out growing up and the ones I played the crap out of on that special Xbox. I have even dove head-first into a bunch of obscure titles that no one talks about anymore.

     Everything is going swimmingly so far, however there have been a few . . .problem children:

  • The Nintendo Game Cube. I’ve read that the dolphin software (practically the only emulation programs for the system) is difficult to run in general. It does make me feel a bit better about my total failure to get this thing running faster than 30-ish FPS and at about 50% speed. Only two of the ROMs I’ve downloaded are decently playable with only sporadic lag.
  • The PS1 and the PS2. The stupid emulation programs I’ve been able to find for these systems will only run at about 50% speed on my laptop. I can’t figure out how to configure those many plug-in thingies to remedy this.
  • The TurboGrafx16/PC Engine. There was only one emulation program for this system on I couldn’t make heads or tails of it because it was in Japanese. But on the bright side, I was able to find another one that worked perfectly . . . for exactly five minutes. I decided to tackle this issue from a different angle: downloading an emulator the PC Engine CD instead. It was a complete success and now I can play all the TurboGrafx16 games my heart desires. Still makes me scratch my head.

     As with my delayed arrival to the Steam-y World of PC Gaming, I often wonder why I didn’t just bite the bullet and go for it sooner. Oh, well. Let the (literal) games begin! Whoo!