Tuesday, 7 September 2010

PCSX2 0.9.7 review

Since in my last PS2 emulator review I didn't go into much detail about the actual PCSX2 itself, more its history, I thought that I would do a review of the newest version of the PCSX2, version 0.9.7.

This version is still in Beta, and even has a disclaimer when you first run the emulator. I have found some bugs, but as I said, it is still beta so they are expected.

In this revision, the entire GUI appears to have been rewitten with a more intuitive and better looking feel to it. Here are a few side by side comparison screenies to show the difference between version 0.9.6 and 0.9.7, which should give you an idea of how much improvement has been made. Version 0.9.6 on left, version 0.9.7 on right.

Main GUI

Console output screen
Plugin selection screen

As you can see from the screeshots, the overall look of the emulator has improved greatly, but the question is, has the performance? For me, the answer is yes, most games seem to run noticably faster, such as "Shadow Of The Colossus" for example, in 0.9.6, it ran at roughly 30FPS in most parts of the game, in 0.9.7 i get about 40FPS, with speed hacks enabled in both versions.

With the new revision have come new plugins, well, more up to date versions anyway. I can't say much about this as I haven't had much time to experiment but it seems that they have fixed some bugs from the previous versions, especially the GSdx plugin and the LilPad plugin. In this new version, you usually need to update your directX to use the GSdx plugin, but this doesn't seem to be much of a problem, especially not since it improves the performance.

My opinion
The new version of thr PCSX2 definately looks the part, and it seems that the internals of the emulator have also improved. The PCSX2 team have done a great job of rewiting their emulator and I hope that the full version of this revision will be released soon, along with the source code, which isn't released yet.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Game Boy Advanced emulator review

The Game Boy Advanced is a great handheld console, and in my opinion, second to only the Nintendo DS. This is no wonder though, as the Game Boy Advanced uses a 32 bit RISC CPU, the ARM7TDMI which is a pretty robust CPU for a handheld console. The Game Boy Advance is roughly comparable to the Snes, except all in the palm of your hand, although obviously the capabilities of the GBA are limited compared to full size consoles that plugin in to a TV. The only real drawback that I find with the GBA is the screen resolution, which is 240x160 pixels, not all that far removed from older consoles like the Nes, but non the less, smaller.


Sometimes called VBA, this emulator is close to my heart, as it is open source, something I find very appealing. It was originally written by the author, "Forgotten", but has been passed onto other authors since then and has been forked into various projects. The emulator itself is very useful to emulator developers as it features a good debugger and tile viewer, as well as various other debugging functions.

The compatibilty rate of the games is very high as far as I can see, I haven't yet seen a single bug in any game I've played, let alone any game not playing. Sound is supported and sounds high quality.

Anyway, i haven't got much to say other than this emulator is awesome and deserves to be played. Games I would recommend are Contra Advanced and Mario Kart - Super Circuit, these games are my favourites.

Hope you enjoy this fantastic emulator
Here's 100 GBA games :)

PS2 emulator review

The PS2 is probably my favourite console of all time, mainly due to it's incredible library of timeless games, but also because, to me atleast, it was the console that won the war between Nintendo (Gamecube/Gamecube), Microsoft (Xbox) and Sony (PS2) and indeed started the next generation console war which Sony is arguably still winning.

I still remember when I first got a PS2, I felt privilaged, infact, I was... I was the envy of my older brother who used to repeatedly come into my room to steal it from me, causing me no end of distress. Admitidely, the PS2 was very expensive when it first came out, but to me, it was worth every penny.

Anyway, enough about me, let's get to the review. As the PS2 is my favourite console, it stands to reason that a PS2 emulator would be my favourite emulator, which is correct. This leads me on to the PCSX2, by far my favourite emulator for PC. This review will check out the PCSX2.

This review will not give detailed tutorials on how to use the PCSX2, as that would be reinventing the wheel, instead, I'll give my view on this amazing software.

History of the PCSX2
The PCSX2 was created by the PCSX team, the very same that brought you the PCSX (Playstation emulator). When the emulator was first publically released, framerate was between 2 to 15 FPS, depending on the game and the PC specs. Since its release in April 2006, it has made drastic inprovements, probably partially due to the fact that it is open source, allowing the entire emu scene offer their contributions.

To date, the PCSX2 is capable if running many games at full speed or even faster! In my experience a few games that run very well are the Final Fantasy series, but you will have to try for yourself. FFX is my favourite game on the PS2 so this couldn't be better for me.

The PCSX2 is one of, if the the most intensive emulators out there for the PC. Most games are playable but alot of games will be slow if your PC is not up to scratch, check the PCSX2 site or the forums for official requirements.

The PS2 is an extremely difficult machine to emulate, it has many different chips, and all of these must be emulated, so I give the PCSX2 team huge credit for creating such a masterpiece, and indeed, one of the most advanced emulators ever created.

What you need to play 
  • Like most modern consoles, the PS2 uses a BIOS that copyrighted by Sony, so downloading is illegal.You can however dump the BIOS from your own PS2 is relative ease. You need this file to use the PCSX2.
  • Games. You can either play the game directly from the Disk using the Gigahertz plugin, or you can rip these from your own disks using the DVD Decrypter, then play the games using the linuzappz plugin.
  • Plugins. Most plugins come with the PCSX2, but there are some others you may wih to download to get more speed or higher compatibility with games. 
  • Optional controller for ease of playing and more fun!
Many people complain of errors when trying to play games, the main problem is simply not running the PCSX2 as adminstrator. You should always run thr PCSX2 as admin or else your games won't run. You should also make sure you have selected all the correct plugins, for graphics, GSdx is fastest, but experiment with different plugins. ZZogl seems to support fullscreen by pressing Alt+Enter.

Playing the games
I have played quite a few games on the PCSX2, and even though alot run very slowly, some are playable to completion, like FFX, which i have gotten very far on the PCSX2 with. My PC specs are as follows.
  • CPU: AMD Athlon x4 620 @ (overclocked) 3.4GH/z
  • GPU: Nvideo Geforce 8800GTS
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3 @ 1333mhz
  • HDD: Sata 500GB
With these specs, I can enjoy the PCSX2 at full speed.
Remember though, if you want to play all the original games properly, at full speed, buy a PS2! This advice is straight from the PCSX2 team themselves.

What else can I say? The PCSX2 is awesome, I can hardly believe PS2 emulation is even possible, let alone so soon. The PCSX2 team have done a great job so appreciate their work and support them if you can by visting their site. Some people give the PCSX2 bad press for it's low framerate on some games, but this is out of ignorance of how difficult PS2 emulation really is.

Enjoy a video of FFX on the PCSX2


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

PS1 emulator review

The Playstation has quite a few different emulators out there, notibly the PCSX, ePSXe and pSX. I'll be reviewing the first PS1 emulator that I used, and one of the first emulators that I ever used, the ePSXe.

Background of the ePSXe

The ePSXe was written by three authors, going by the names "Calb", "_Demo_", and "Galtor". Before its release, it was developed in secret and was released on October 14, 2000, revolutionising the Playstation emulator scene with its high compatibility rate and speed compared to other emulators.

After the 1.6.0 release, rumours were going around that the source code had been lost due to a hard drive failure, however, on April 5, 2008 the authors stated that they had decided to carry on development of the ePSXe in the summer of 2007,  and version 1.7.0 was realsed on May 24, 2008.


Like many other high end emulators, like the PCSX2 and PJ64 for example, the ePSXe uses a plugin system which allows you to choose different plugins from different authors, further imporving the game compatibility rate and versatility of the emulator. Most games play fine, although any that have graphical glitches can usually be fixed by using alternate plugins, which can be downloaded from here. I believe that the emulator plugins are compatible with other emulators such as the PCSX and pSX.

What you need before playing the games.
  • Before you play the emulator, you must download a library called Zlib, which is a compression/decompression library used by the ePSXe. You need to download the dll file, "zlib1.dll" which can be obtained legally and easilly via your best friend, Google.
  • You also need the Playstation BIOS, which should be obtained legally, again, Google is your BFF. When this is obtained, you should put it in the BIOS directory.
  • Lastly, you need a game! The games should be ripped from the original disk, which are so cheap now so there's no excuse. The games themselves are simply image files, ePSXe supports various formats such as bin and iso, but most are iso files. This took me a while to figure out, but you can rip the games using ImgBurn, software like DVD decrypter won't work, as they only rip DVD's (duh...). You can also run the game directly from the disk for simplicity, so do that instead :)
  • Optionally, you can get a USB Playstation controller, which the ePSXe supports. They cost about £5 from Game or Gamestop.
Playing the games!
When you first start the emulator, a dialog box pops up taking you through a wizard to set up the various options, such as controller input and plugins, after you have configured this, you're ready to play. Just hit file and run iso if you're running an image from a hard disk, or you can click run cdrom if you're using the original disk.

I think this is a great emulator, all the games (ones that I've played that is) run nearly perfectly and the sound is very high quality. The only drawback for me is that it isn't open source, but that is no problem for most users of the emulators, besides, PCSX is open source, can't complain.

Anyway, if you're ever feeling nostaligic and you want to flah back to the times when you first got that PS1, this is definitely and emulator you should check out.

Enjoy playing those PS1 games :)

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Welcome to emulator reviews

Hey all.
This blog will be dedicated to reviewing all the great emulators out there, from the Gameboy, to the PS2, I will try to cover all the different areas out there and give my opinion.

I will try my best to keep this blog up to date, as well as my other blog. 

Visit emulation and coding blog here.

Enjoy ;)