Editorial: Emulate Me

Final Fantasy, coming to microwaves soon!
Square hates emulation. If a device could play Final Fantasy, no doubt it will inevitably get a port.

Where would gaming be today without emulation? Even home consoles use forms of emulation to play older games. It allows us to play classic games without having to dig out older consoles, or without disturbing rarer games that may be on display as part of a collection. Some of these games have never seen a modern release, or have never been made available in some western territories. Why then is it, that emulation is seen in a negative light by the majority of the video games industry?

Okay, obviously some companies would still like to profit from games that are available on a current generation system. Square Enix are notorious for releasing Final Fantasy for every piece of hardware imaginable, but what about games that they have chosen not to make available? Secret of Evermore did not receive much love back when it was released on the Super Nintendo, but as a teen gamer looking for the next Secret of Mana, I thought it was a worthwhile investment of my time. Today it would be financially prohibitive to track down both the game and a console to play it on, only for it to disappoint with how it looks on a massive television.

This is a problem with playing legitimate versions of games that are almost twenty years old, they look awful on the large, high definition screens we enjoy today. The games of yesteryear were often played on smaller sets in bedrooms rather than in the living room. Those same games are more at home today on mobile or handheld systems where the sprites do not show their age as much. Emulating games on a PC is almost as good, as the screen size can be adjusted until it reaches a resolution that looks good.

Speaking of emulation on handheld systems, the PSP was utilised for this very function by gamers worldwide from the moment it was released. Many systems need technical know-how to use homebrew software, or have complicated instructions written by members of the community whose primary language is not English. This was not the case with the PSP, as early versions of the firmware used on the system did not prevent the use on unsigned code on the device. Essentially, this allowed coders to write their own pieces of software for the device, including ports of many well known emulators from the PC. It should not surprise anyone then, that hardware sales of the device grew quicker than the software sold for use on it.

I played Chrono Trigger for the first time on a PSP.
The PSP was the place to run emulation software. Now we need a Vita hack too.

The difference in growth can also be explained by the fact that the same firmware enabled piracy on the system, meaning that some unscrupulous users bought the system without ever purchasing software to use on it. This is not what emulation is about, and while yes, some people may say there is very little difference between downloading the latest game or one that was released last century, there is a small detail that changes everything; a lot of us still own the games we are trying to emulate. It is not widely known, but in the UK, we are legally allowed to make backups of games that we own.

Using emulators to run these backups means that, not only can we take games with us that we would be unable to do otherwise, but we can also share our save data with other gamers across the world. Different sections of games can be handled by different people as they each pass a save game file from one to another. Perhaps high score data can be uploaded to the internet where anyone can download the save file and attempt to beat it. More interestingly, entire grinds can be skipped by downloading save files where the work has already been done.

This brings me to something I have been considering the past week. As many readers of the site may know, I have been trying to collect all the Pokémon. I am currently left with legendaries that I would otherwise be unable to get until Nintendo sees fit to make them available again. My quandary is this; should I hold on and wait until I can find the Pokémon myself, or should I try and find a save file already has all the Pokémon I need? A compromise between the two would be using a ROM to give myself the items necessary to unlock some of the legendary encounters, then use my own party to attempt to catch the ones I need.

So Lusigamers, do think that emulation is good thing, or is it detrimental to the industry? Should I, or should I not use an emulator to get the missing Pokémon I need? Let me know in the comments!


  1. My first experience with emulators came way back in early 2000. It was just after the release of Pokemon Gold and Silver in Japan and 13 year old me could not wait until October for the English release. After I moved on from the (badly) translated Pokemon Gold ROM, I began to play the through tons of SNES games through an emulator on my computer. I still play quite a few games with emulators, but now it is usually on my PS Vita (using a PSP kernel exploit).

    The emulation scene has exploded in popularity since the iPhone was released. Now, every douchebag with a decent phone can perfectly emulate Game Boy games, and more powerful phones can even emulate the PSX and DS.

    It is difficult to say if emulation is a good thing to the industry though. Before the Virtual Console existed, the emulation of classic consoles didn’t cost the industry anything. But the very thing that made the PSP the best console for emulation also led to rampant piracy which led to Sony locking down the Vita to the point that games get removed from PSN when it is revealed that they have an exploit. Still, emulating classic SNES and N64 games is better than waiting months for Nintendo to release them for the VC.

  2. my first real run with emus was through a special GBA cart to play emus created exclusively for the gba. the most famous(which Nintendo supposedly used early versions was Pocket NES as well as others made by the same guy. hhis creations allowed the full experience of the games as well as hacks with the bonus of a save anywhere on any game function, so no more stupid passwords. currently the system that luxipurr does not wish named has right in their shop free emulators for everything up to ps1 including MAME.and Unlike X-Bone(head)1 some games are released weekly for free without paying for an account.

  3. I think that you have every right to download a ROM of a game you don’t own as long as the game is no longer in print or was not localized to your region. For example, when I want to play Terranigma, I’m not going to import used copy from the UK so I can own the cartridge of a game that I’m just going to download and play on my PC anyways. If the game is no longer in print, the developers and publishers of the product won’t see a single cent of what you pay for it. So all you are doing, is propping up an antique market. On the flip note, I bought a copy of Xenoblade, never opened it and proceeded to play it on Dolphin. When that goes out of print, I will sell my copy for the ton of money it will be worth because the publisher and developer no longer want to profit from sales of that game (they no longer sell the product). They have made their money off my purchase, and I will hand the sale off to the “antique” market, who should be smart enough to just bootleg the abandoned product.

  4. My first experience with emulators was around 2003, being able to play snes roms was incredible since I never had a super nintendo. The reason is that I had to play genesis games because my parents could only afford that( the price of a snes game was 3 times the price of a genesis game) . That allowed me to know about a game I never knew it’s existence: Chrono Trigger and Final fantasy 6 ( 3 in usa I think was named)

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