With nothing but steely, jet-fuel-proof force of will, I’ve resisted the temptation to turn Read Only Memo into a Baldur’s Gate 3 newsletter. This was no easy feat: as I write this Saturday night, Baldur’s Gate 3 has been the bestselling game on Steam for a week and change, practically everyone I know is playing it even if they don’t normally give a lick about CRPGs, and I would be playing it every waking moment if I wasn’t patiently waiting to experience it alongside my co-op crew.
Surely pivoting to be the world’s #1 Baldur’s Gate fanzine could be my ticket to fortune and glory! I can picture it now: subscribers flowing in by the millions to see the NPC Fuckability Index change week-to-week. A rapt audience awaiting jolly recaps of my latest Dark Urge antics (oops, I accidentally’d another murder!).
But no: I must stay the ROM course. Because while we’re all loving Baldur’s Gate 3 and I couldn’t be happier to see it thriving, the people must also know about the last couple week’s emulation happenings. The niche must be served! So uh… who else wants to throw BG3 out the window to play 1992 Sega Genesis RPG Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun? The Command & Conquer guys made it!
See, we’re having fun.
It’s been a calm but good couple weeks in plain old updates, with some nice graphical fixes in Yuzu and PCSX2. The first of our Big Two stories concerns a frankly absurd bit of engineering from Rich Whitehouse, a veteran programmer from the days of Jedi Outcast & Jedi Academy.
Elsewhere in emudom the last couple weeks, an emulator for the Zeebo resurfaced, though it’s been in development for years and shows no signs of being usable anytime soon. But this story has been doing the rounds with a bunch of headlines calling the Zeebo — a Brazilian console that aimed for affordability and basically ran bad mobile games — the worst console ever made. To that claim I can only say ouch, man: how could you rob the Intellivision Amico of the one thing it’s known for!?
While I haven’t tried it myself yet, there’s a new Android PS2 emulation project on the scene: NetherSX2, which is based on the discontinued AtherSX2. Currently the plan seems to be no further development beyond QOL fixes, but I’ll keep an eye on NetherSX2 to see if it grows into something more.
Finally, this week I guested on on one of my favorite podcasts, Brad & Will Made a Tech Pod, to talk about Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Flip 5 and other flippy, foldy phones. I also talked about Read Only Memo a little bit (and how I played Super Monkey Ball on the Flip’s lil bitty outer screen).
Alrighty, enough preamble — let’s get into it.
The Big Two
1. Do Jaguars dream of VR emulation?
Programmer Rich Whitehouse apparently has a niche, and that niche is creating things that literally should not be possible. Whitehouse’s latest update to his Jaguar emulator BigPEmu emulates something that does not exist: a VR headset for the ‘90s Atari Jaguar console.
Okay, I exaggerate only slightly: the Jaguar VR did exist in some form when it was shown at CES in 1995, so maybe a prototype still exists somewhere on this earth, but it was never anything more than a prototype. That hasn’t stopped Whitehouse from reverse-engineering how the VR headset would’ve worked to add VR support to his emulator for use in Missile Command 3D.
“I had to revers-engineer the head tracker protocol from Missile Command VR,” he explains in the video above. “There were some specifications for both a head tracker and a six degrees of freedom controller in a document called something like ‘Jaguar Tech Ref v10’ and I don’t know where those specs came from, but those had absolutely nothing to do with the actual head tracker used in Missile Command VR… I wrote stereoscopic rendering support into Missile Command 3D, which is a bit flabbergasting considering, at least as far as I know, there’s no source code for Missile Command 3D out there.”
I’m honestly not sure if it’s more or less impressive that Whitehouse based his implementation of VR support for the Jaguar on his previous work emulating Sega’s VR headset, so some of the ground work was already done. That one was never released, either, meaning in both cases he was working backwards from how a piece of software attempted to talked to the hardware to recreate how it functioned.
Some emulators are ideal ways to play games we love, but it’s rare for one to breathe life into an experience that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. It’s a hell of an accomplishment and a great act of preservation… even if I can’t say I’m too psyched to play Missile Command for the Atari Jaguar. 🚀
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2. Jotego brings the MiSTer to Springfield (or Springfield to the MiSTer?)
🎶 The MiiiiiSTeeeerrr 🎶
Our second Big Two update this week is dedicated to my mom, who let me buy an XL white t-shirt of the Simpsons family sitting on their couch when I was in middle school. She was endlessly supportive of whatever I wanted to wear, even when I bought the worst graphics tees imaginable at JC Penney. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah: The Simpsons Arcade now has an FPGA core!
Jotego released a beta core of the 1991 Simpsons beat ‘em up on his Patreon, where it’ll hang for a bit before a public release. If you’re an active MiSTer user, the $3 per month for Discord and beta release access seems like a no-brainer, especially when it means supporting one of the most prolific and ludicrously talented developers in the emulation scene. Jotego’s Neo Geo Pocket core is still on the way, but in the meantime, here’s a new way to visit Springfield.
It looks like the core is working well with only minor bugs, so I suspect it won’t be in beta for long.
While other Konami beat ‘em ups of this era are already playable on the MiSTer, like TMNT, that doesn’t mean they’ll all work with a finger snap. Konami used different custom chips on different boards, so some unique work will have to be done for each. That said, Jotego is also working on X-Men — I can’t wait to see someone try to replicate its dual-CRT output on the MiSTer.
Yuzu’s latest early access build update fixed level of detail issues in Pokémon, among other games; more fixes including lighting, shadows, lens flare and particles in Xenoblade, Metroid, Prime, and Luigi’s Mansion.
Dolphin adds cubemap support so users can fiddle with fancy custom graphics. Neat!
The Dolphin Progress Report covering May, June and July published Saturday night and is a great read as usual digging deeper into features and fixes. Peep it!
Unique naming options for games, with the suggested purpose of distinguishing between romhacks e.g. Jak 2 and Jak 2 [Full Nude Mod].
(I made that up. If there is a Jak 2 Full Nude Mod I do not want to know it exists, please don’t send it to me).
Post-processing fixes for MGS2 and Project Snowblind, graphical fix in Samurai Western, a crash fix in Klonoa 2
PS3 disc dumper utility updated with a fresh new UI for all you RPCS3 folks out there. Dumps: Nicer than before.
MiSTer Sega Saturn core gets saves - I love me some Saturn, and I also love being able to save progress in my Saturn games thanks to the ‘ol watch battery I walked to a Walgreens to buy one San Francisco evening. I think it’s safe to say that the addition of save support in the Saturn MiSTer core is the real big deal with this update, but there’s also a fix to CD audio which should mean some games with no/buggy sound will now have some/not-buggy sound! Hit up this page for guidance on getting saves working.
A handful of other helpful MiSTer updates have rolled in the last two weeks, too:
Neo Geo: Tweaks, a fix for Double Dragon CD, stability improvements and “support for Metal Slug 5 Plus, V-Liner, Jockey GP, KOF98 AE/UM”
SNES: Fastrom support for SuperFX games
L - the ProLogue to Death Note: Spiraling Trap - The third of three Death Note games that Konami made for DS, released in 2008, is now fully translated to English! I have not played a Death Note game but I did watch the anime many years ago and enjoy it in the same way I enjoyed reading John Grisham novels as a teenager, sort of resentful of how it kept me hooked despite being contrived as all hell. It’s trash for the masses, but sometimes that hits, y’know?
The same translation team has also translated the first Death Note DS game, too. It’s basically an escape room game that you solve while chatting with Death Note’s genius detective (and certainly best character) L, so as far as Death Note theming goes, sounds pretty good to me.
Keeping on the anime beat, how about a Game Boy Yu-Gi-Oh game as a chaser? Also from Konami, coincidentally!
Inspired by my friend Samuel Roberts on The Back Page podcast, I’ve been playing a bit of Parasite Eve (for the first time ever!) on my Steam Deck. Duckstation + CRT-Lottes enabled in post-processing immediately had me infatuated with how this game looks.
Deep. Till next time…