I haven’t done a blog in a few days and also, these apps (and youtube channels) are all along the same lines so I’ll group them together. One of the reasons I am doing this is so that it challenges me to find new apps and videos, if I clear through the ones I already know as quickly as possible, then it’ll give me the challenge of finding new ones. I’ve ended up writing so much for apps and youtube recommendations, I make them each in to their own blog posts this time.

Reicast, vDS, RetroArch, Mame

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.reicast.emulator&hl=en_GB&gl=US, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.icorewwwi.vDS&hl=en_GB&gl=US, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.retroarch&hl=en_GB&gl=US, , https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.seleuco.mame4droid&hl=en_GB&gl=US

These 4 apps are emulators for a whole bunch of games consoles and arcade games machines. I like retro games, probably more for nostalgia than anything else.

I grew up with a Mega Drive, my friends also had NES, SNES, Gameboy that I got to play now and again. My dad had an Atari VCS and I remember playing Asteroids, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and Solaris when I was really young. Memorable holidays when I was young was to Butlins holiday camp and I remember playing arcade games New Zealand Story and Super Space Invaders 91.

The first games I had on the Mega Drive were Twin Cobra, Truxton and Revenge of Shinobi. I never realised it at the time, but Santa actually got me a Japanese Mega Drive, so not only did the games have the Japanese names on screen, but the boxes for the games were also in Japanese. I remember especially looking at the box for Truxton (Tatsujin, which means ‘expert’ in Japanese) looking at the weird box art (the final boss) and the Japanese text, wondering what it said.

Years later when I first got online, one of the first things I discovered was Nesticle, a NES emulator. I downloaded Super Mario 2 on some random Geocities website. I remember being utterly amazed that a video game that I remember playing and loving when I was really young could then be magically transported through this phone line extension cord and then it sitting there on my computer screen.

Later on this became an adventure of finding new old games to play. I got through quite a few Nintendo games, probably because I had a Mega Drive and saw all these games my friends had and played at their houses but never actually got to play seriously or complete. Zelda 2, Super Mario 2, Super Mario World, Zelda link to the past, Zelda Links Awakening, Megaman games.

I remember my friends making fun when I upgraded my Cyrix 200MX computer with no graphics card up to a proper computer in 2000, an AMD Thunderbird with GeForce 2GTS graphics card, one of the higher tiered machines, everyone said I would do nothing except play retro games on it! This new computer allowed me to play some of the new games, like Quake 3, CS, 3D racing games. I did play them for a bit, but I’ll be honest, they were right, I did prefer playing the older games and ended up going back to them, replaying some of the RPGs, such as Mario RPG, Breath of Fire 2, Chrono Trigger. I think I got even more into these games after playing and completing Final Fantasy 7 on Playstation.

It’s not so much about the games themselves any more to me. Years later and now we have mobile phones that have insane amounts of processing power, portability and connectivity. By all means, there’s the moments of nostalgia at the old games, as well as the fun of trying a game that I might have missed out on, but now it’s just the fact that it’s even possible to have all of these experiences accessible at any time. On a device that could potentially cost no more than the price of a single games console, instantaneously. My most recent apps I’ve tried have been Reicast (Dreamcast) and vDS (DS) emulators and played a couple of minutes on each. Previously, I was used to the games being of the early to mid 90s, but now the emulation technology is moving forward even into Dreamcast and DS era, I’m still surprised at how things are still advancing even now. My phone is a 2019 Samsung A70 (A decent enough phone, but not flagship) and from a technical point of view plays everything with no noticeable dropped frames or compromised sound quality. I’ve tried up to consoles like N64, DS and Dreamcast.

The biggest disadvantage really is that using on-screen controls just doesn’t cut it for a lot of these games. You really need a controller to get a good experience out of the games. At home, I connect a PS4 controller to my phone with bluetooth which works, but I wouldn’t normally be taking a PS4 controller out and about with me. I’ve tried in the past with a mini Bluetooth controller but I’ve found the quality of the controller (buttons and latency) to be somewhat lacking, so the experience just isn’t quite there. On screen controls are passible playing simple things like arcade games with just a couple of buttons, or a NES game, but SNES games and beyond are just unusable. Having to press shoulder buttons or even the Z button on an N64 emulation is just impossible. So it really comes down to how much convenience I want vs how much I’m willing to put up with in order to have a decent experience.

I also got MAME for the Amazon Firestick, so I can even connect the PS4 controller to that and play some of the lower end games, such as Truxton on Megadrive, Space Invaders on Atari VCS and Super Space Invaders 91 on MAME. Performance was good enough but controller lag is noticeable. At the start it was unusable, but after tweaking the settings I got it to a usable enough level. Its nice enough to play now and again, especially for the cost investment, but sadly that lag prevents a 100% authentic experience and really inflicts times playing more challenging moments of games like in Shmups Twin Cobra and Truxton.

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