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Everything you ever wanted to know about Emulators but were afraid to ask!

[ Article by Henry Kong, 13/5/01 -- Page 1, 2 ]

Games emulators are great fun. It's not only the tons of money that they will save you from purchasing games, but that they bring back retro, classic gameplay to today's Pocket PC's. On top of these obvious advantages, there are no repair bills, no need to hunt for hard-to-get spare parts or take additional shelf space.

Emulators contributed much pleasure to my life. They motivated me to surf the web (for retro gaming), go into PDA's (the first Palm Pilot comes with 4 nice retro games, remember?) and upgrade to the
iPAQ (the only PDA that does justice to emulators). In this write-up, I will focus on many of the emulators that are now up and running on PPC's. Most of them are up to speed with sound and all the other good stuff. I have used the iPAQ as the benchmark for these programs since it is the fastest and most compatible PPC currently available. All comments are purely my personal preferences.

As you can see from the below screenshots, these emulators and their many ROMs are squeezing the juice out of my new 512 MB CF, leaving barely 50 MB free. On the second screenshot are 15 of my favorite emulators. On the top row are the three early consoles, Atari VCS, Colem (Colour Emulator, a.k.a. PocketColeco) and NEC's PCEngine.

On the second row are computer emulators, the Commodore C64, Apple ][, Apple //e and MS DOS. On the rest of the screen are the Nintendo offerings: Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Pocket Game Boy and Palm Game Boy. Also displayed are Game Gear/Sega Master System, Pocket NeoGeo and MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) in both the Large Built and Normal Build. All these emulators are available from Mike's great gaming site, PocketGamer.org (see the Emulation section).


The Atari VCS emulator is now at version 7 and works great - sound and all. On the iPAQ, it is a tad too fast, even with frameskip set to 1. The Atari's graphics are blocky but colourful, excellent gameplay with lots of skill levels and options. Some of my favorite games are Circus, Breakout and Fishing (above) although the computer fisherman is too good for me.


The Colour Emulator or Colem (a.k.a. PocketColeco) is Atari's competitor. It offers better graphics, nicer games but could not catch up with the abundance of software that Atari VCS commands, especially popular games like Pac-Man. This is one of the newer emulators for PPC's, but already running to speed with sound. In my emails with the programmer, Stuart Russell, at my suggestion he is working on an Aero version. I love games like Carnival, Frogger and the excellent Galaxian.


NEC's PCEngine is a great console that was miles ahead of anything in its day. Later, a hand-held version was released by NEC. Many games were specially commissioned and rewritten for this machine including Lode Runner. The PCE emulator is complete and plays very well on the iPAQ. It boasts of some of the nicest pinball games like Alien Crush, great ports of arcade games like Columns and Invaders.


Now on to computer emulators, Come Back 64, the Commodore C64 emulator is a tad too nippy for the iPAQ. Since most of the ROMs on the web are pirated copies, there is often a tedious 'greetings' display before the games are displayed. This can be switched off by hitting the virtual space bar. Not every game works well, but these are amongst the many that run good: AutoBahn, Bandits, Pacman, Moon Cresta.


Many of us can remember the Apple ][ computer, floppy disks and all. This emulator, like all the above is running to speed with sound and all. I was happy to see my all-time favorite game, Dung Beetles running perfectly on this emulator. What a gem!


The Apple //e is a nicer upgrade of the famous Apple ][. This is another new emulator which works great right from the start. Games like Midnight Mission, Serpentine and Lode Runner plays great. The ROMs are rather small, and easy to download at FTP sites. Certainly one of my most played emulators.

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Many thanks to Henry Kong for this article. Be sure to check out his excellent website on the 3 C's: Computer, Church & Cuisine. Don't miss his Windows CE section for plenty more Pocket PC related stuff!

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