Emulation in 2021

SteveGrabowski

Diamond Member
Oct 20, 2014
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I'm a bit floored there isn't much talk of emulation here. I know I can't be the only old fart here who enjoys old school gaming but doesn't have his original hardware anymore. I have been playing the hell out of the old NES/SNES era Dragon Quest games lately, partly because I loved Dragon Quest XI S and partly as Japanese reading practice. Love these 16-bit era JRPG.

So how are you guys emulating games these days? I have an SNES Classic that I hacked to be able to dual boot into the NES Classic kernel too, and it's pretty decent. The emulators Nintendo made for these two systems feel way more accurate than any of the Retroarch stuff I used previously on a Raspberry Pi 3B. Good enough that I could for once play Super Mario World running the whole time like I did when I had a real SNES in the 90s without constantly dying. But it's not great for say Mega Man games, they still feel too difficult on the NES Classic, too many cheap deaths while games used to feel pretty fair when I played them on real NES decades ago.

I have recently started messing around with MESEN on my PC for NES / Famicom / Famicom Disk System / Nintendo VS System emulation and with a wired Retrobit Saturn USB pad it feels more responsive than my SNES Classic booted into the NES Classic kernel does. Good enough that I was finally able to beat VS Super Mario Bros on it without using save states yesterday. [As an aside, don't even think of getting the official Switch port of VS Super Mario Bros, the control is horrific making the game unplayable.] So Mesen seems pretty decent for NES emulation and I'll probably try Mesen-S and Higan for SNES emulation.

Wondering if there is a really high quality PC Engine emulator though, as I completely missed that console being it wasn't very popular in the US (here the TurboGrafx16). Have been kind of tempted to buy a MiSTer fpga kit largely for PC Engine since it's supposed to have really good cores for NES, SNES, Master System, Genesis, PC Engine, PC Engine CD, Neo Geo, GBA, Game Boy Color, Wonder Swan, etc, a lot of old computers like C64, Amiga, 486, Apple ][E as well as some arcade cores like System 16, Capcom CPS-1 and CPS-2, etc. And there is hope of having PS1 and Saturn on it too, as there is a Saturn core for MiSTer being worked on that has a lot of progress so far and a PS1 core in development also. Price is kind of high though, $180 for the DE-10 Nano board, $70 for the 128MB SDRAM module needed for Neo Geo (other systems you can get away with the $30 32MB SDRAM module), then if you want the analog out board it's another $50 and then another $50 for the neat and tidy USB hub board then $30 to $70 for a case.

Anyone have a MiSTer and think it's worth the price? Or is it a lot to pay for minimal gains over PC emulation? Or are the gains vs emulation on a modern PC more than minimal?
 
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purbeast0

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Sep 13, 2001
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For console games I have a RetroPi setup in my home theater. I don't play anything in the PSX generation or past that though. It's more retro gaming.

For arcade games I have a Pi2JAMMA in my KI2 cabinet running natively on the JAMMA harness connected to the CRT. I have 3 emulators on there and usually one of them will run the game I want to play just fine.

I also bought one of these when it was on sale for $100:


And I quickly returned it. It was awful. It had terrible input lag, there was sound glitches all over, and most of the games ran like crap. If it didn't have the terrible input lag, I would have maybe considered but probably not due to the sound. Like on MK2 it would flat out not play some sound effects. It was really bad.
 

SteveGrabowski

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Oct 20, 2014
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I also bought one of these when it was on sale for $100:


And I quickly returned it. It was awful. It had terrible input lag, there was sound glitches all over, and most of the games ran like crap. If it didn't have the terrible input lag, I would have maybe considered but probably not due to the sound. Like on MK2 it would flat out not play some sound effects. It was really bad.
Not surprising, AtGames has a terrible reputation with their Genesis clone systems having garbage sound. I remember when Sega announced their Genesis Mini and everyone was hyped until they said AtGames would be making it, then the whole internet started crapping on the system until Sega delayed it a year and handed the Genesis Mini over to M2 instead.
 

KentState

Diamond Member
Oct 19, 2001
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I've tried emulation of various platforms, but I have too many current games that are sitting on the shelf. The thought of going back 40 years and playing everything that I missed up to this point just overwhelms me. Even the Wii U games that I recently dumped from disc I own emulate well, but still have the feeling of being way behind. Heck, I pretty much missed all the Zelda games between the SNES and Wii U.
 

CP5670

Diamond Member
Jun 24, 2004
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I have numerous emulators and VMs set up for different platforms, everything I ever used in the past. For consoles I have MAME, ZSNES, ePSXe and PCX2, and for computers I have Basilisk/Mini Vmac (Mac System 7.6), Sheepshaver (Mac OS 8.1), Dosbox (including Windows 3.1), ScummVM (scumm games) and VMWare (98 and XP). I spent a lot of effort setting up all this and configuring it 10-20 years ago, so it would have all my old games and desktop appearance.

I don't load them very often anymore but it's fun to have around. The Mac 7.6 setup in particular has tons of great old classics, and the Mac versions of games back then often had better graphics and sound than the DOS versions.
 

SteveGrabowski

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Oct 20, 2014
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I have numerous emulators and VMs set up for different platforms, everything I ever used in the past. For consoles I have MAME, ZSNES, ePSXe and PCX2, and for computers I have Basilisk/Mini Vmac (Mac System 7.6), Sheepshaver (Mac OS 8.1), Dosbox (including Windows 3.1), ScummVM (scumm games) and VMWare (98 and XP). I spent a lot of effort setting up all this and configuring it 10-20 years ago, so it would have all my old games and desktop appearance.

I don't load them very often anymore but it's fun to have around. The Mac 7.6 setup in particular has tons of great old classics, and the Mac versions of games back then often had better graphics and sound than the DOS versions.
I gotta be the only one who never has any luck with PCSX2. No matter what version I try I always get little annoying bugs like textures missing or the minimap not rendering right or sound bugs. I don't think it's my system being too weak for it either as heavy duty emulators like Cemu and RPCS3 work better for me. I hated all the little immersion breaking bugs in PCSX2 so much I bought a real PS2 instead. Still looks decent on a modern TV when using the component cables.
 

Dranoche

Senior member
Jul 6, 2009
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Mednafen is probably your best option for PC Engine. higan/bsnes are certainly the best for SNES but may have an extra frame or two of input lag over less accurate options. SNES9x is a lot better in terms of accuracy than it used to be, and is the next best thing if you're running into performance issues with the others. Haven't used Mesen S yet so can't comment on that one.

The MiSTer seems really cool. I don't think the hardware is that expensive when compared to putting together original hardware or setting up a dedicated PC for emulation. I had looked at building a small PC just for emulation to keep hooked up to my PVM, either by outputting a 15kHz signal using CRT Emudriver or using scan converters. But it wasn't a priority and I put it off, and then COVID hit and parts disappeared. The goal was something very small and quiet. An i3 from the last few years can generally handle PS2 generation and older with ease. I have an old passively cooled Radeon card I was going to use. Will probably end up with a MiSTer eventually to cover most of what I don't have original hardware for. I've gone to using Everdrives or optical drive emulators with original hardware for most older stuff.

As far as the current state of emulation, N64/PS1/Saturn and older are in pretty good shape with a lot of options across multiple platforms. Emulation for the Dreamcast/PS2/Xbox/Gamecube generation is probably in the worst shape compared to other console generations. Two years ago getting an Xbox game to the start menu was a big achievement. They've come a long ways in the last year or two, but a lot of games are still just "playable", not necessarily without issues. I don't think there's much going on with the Dreamcast. PCSX2 and Dolphin have been around for a long time and are in relatively better shape, but there are still plenty of issues. Emulators for 3D consoles can be tedious to set up, often requiring specific settings or plugins for every game. I usually lose interest at that point and start looking at ways I can throw money at the problem.
 
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CP5670

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Jun 24, 2004
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I gotta be the only one who never has any luck with PCSX2. No matter what version I try I always get little annoying bugs like textures missing or the minimap not rendering right or sound bugs. I don't think it's my system being too weak for it either as heavy duty emulators like Cemu and RPCS3 work better for me. I hated all the little immersion breaking bugs in PCSX2 so much I bought a real PS2 instead. Still looks decent on a modern TV when using the component cables.
I think I only used it for one game, the PS2 version of Splinter Cell Double Agent (which had a lot of content cut from the PC version), and it worked fine. I've always been more of a PC gamer, but in some cases the console versions of games were significantly different. A few late 90s games actually run better and with fewer problems in a console emulator than the native PC/Windows versions.
 

SteveGrabowski

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Oct 20, 2014
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As far as the current state of emulation, N64/PS1/Saturn and older are in pretty good shape with a lot of options across multiple platforms. Emulation for the Dreamcast/PS2/Xbox/Gamecube generation is probably in the worst shape compared to other console generations. Two years ago getting an Xbox game to the start menu was a big achievement. They've come a long ways in the last year or two, but a lot of games are still just "playable", not necessarily without issues. I don't think there's much going on with the Dreamcast. PCSX2 and Dolphin have been around for a long time and are in relatively better shape, but there are still plenty of issues. Emulators for 3D consoles can be tedious to set up, often requiring specific settings or plugins for every game. I usually lose interest at that point and start looking at ways I can throw money at the problem.
Really? Dolphin has a lot of problems? I haven't used it a lot in the last couple of years but remember it being awesome years ago. Are there many high profile Gamecube games it doesn't run well? Don't care much about Wii on Dolphin since that's one system I'd absolutely want to run original hardware just for the control given how crappy bluetooth controllers have been on my PC (to the point now I only game now on a wired DualSense or a wired Saturn USB pad on PC).
 

shortylickens

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Jul 15, 2003
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I was looking around and noticed they remade Final Fantasy 1 and Final Fantasy 4 on the PSP, and they both look awesome, but they never made any other games for the PSP.
Meanwhile the alleged modern remakes we got on Steam look terrible. I have no idea why they did that.
 

SteveGrabowski

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I was looking around and noticed they remade Final Fantasy 1 and Final Fantasy 4 on the PSP, and they both look awesome, but they never made any other games for the PSP.
Meanwhile the alleged modern remakes we got on Steam look terrible. I have no idea why they did that.
The fonts are so ugly in the pixel remasters. I think by far the best looking Final Fantasy 1 though was the one on the Wonderswan Color. It had that nice 16-bit look without being too polished so it still looked like an SNES era JRPG despite releasing around 2000.


The super clean backgrounds in the pixel remasters look weird IMO with the 16-bit inspired character sprites.

I don't think there is any beating the Super Famicom original for Final Fantasy IV though. Especially the music.
 

shortylickens

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Jul 15, 2003
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The fonts are so ugly in the pixel remasters. I think by far the best looking Final Fantasy 1 though was the one on the Wonderswan Color. It had that nice 16-bit look without being too polished so it still looked like an SNES era JRPG despite releasing around 2000.


The super clean backgrounds in the pixel remasters look weird IMO with the 16-bit inspired character sprites.

I don't think there is any beating the Super Famicom original for Final Fantasy IV though. Especially the music.
thats basically the same as the GBA version.
 

Dranoche

Senior member
Jul 6, 2009
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The PSP remake of FF1 looked great, but I didn't find out about it until long after release. I think there were hard copies available in the US, but digitally it wasn't offered. I tried to figure out how to get a copy from the EU Playstation store on my Vita. That alone isn't difficult, but maintaining separate US and EU libraries on a single device is a pain. The developer explanation for the Pixel Remasters was that it was supposed to evoke how we remembered it. I think they should have used something similar to the PSP version as a base level and then offered a handful of scaling and TV/monitor filters like those available in SNES9x so you can pick something to your liking.

Really? Dolphin has a lot of problems? I haven't used it a lot in the last couple of years but remember it being awesome years ago. Are there many high profile Gamecube games it doesn't run well? Don't care much about Wii on Dolphin since that's one system I'd absolutely want to run original hardware just for the control given how crappy bluetooth controllers have been on my PC (to the point now I only game now on a wired DualSense or a wired Saturn USB pad on PC).
Dolphin is great but I haven't touched it in a while. I would say just a couple years ago but it's probably a lot longer. Just checked compatibility and it looks like they've made a lot of progress. I remember a lot of games weren't getting past the start menu or weren't stable, and had constant graphical and audio issues. Looks like almost everything is fully playable with minor issues now.
 

DAPUNISHER

Super Moderator and Elite Member
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Aug 22, 2001
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I emulate OG XBOX, 360, PS2, and PS3 on PC.

But for consoles, the series S looks to be a really good deal for emulation. You can even avoid dev mode, and play the java based web stuff through Edge for Xbox now.

 

VirtualLarry

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Aug 25, 2001
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But for consoles, the series S looks to be a really good deal for emulation. You can even avoid dev mode, and play the java based web stuff through Edge for Xbox now.
That means, that you could use them for (web-based) mining, too. Hmm....
 

nakedfrog

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Apr 3, 2001
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I have a PC in my living room, so I just use whatever emulator is good. I've been running emulators since the late 90s, so it's not really something I'm itching to chat about :D
 

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