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.
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!