Hello again viewers, and welcome to the first in PCZ’s new monthly updates on the – in fact – happening and now world of emulation. Now, I know what you’re all thinking. Firstly you’re thinking “Oh God, not more of this retro bollocks. All this old nostalgia stuff is all very well, but it doesn’t get the beers in, does it?” Except you can shut your face if you’re saying that., firstly because emulation isn’t about nostalgia, it’s about culture. And secondly, because now emulation CAN get the beers in. Interested? Thirsty? Read on.

With the recent advent of pinball emulation, it seemed that the virtual reconstruction of amusement arcades was all but complete. Except, of course, there was still one thing missing – fruit machines. Despite being hugely more popular than either videogames or pinball, fruit machines are inexplicably poorly-represented in the world of PC games, with only a tiny handful of frankly rubbish homegrown fruity games on offer.

“It’s not inexplicable at all,” I hear some of you cry, despite having been told to shut up once already. “Nobody wants to play fruit machines on a PC because if you can’t win money, there’s no point”. Right. Remind me again what the “point” of playing, say, Diablo 2: Lord Of Destruction is? So you’ll know what to do the next time you meet a REAL shape-shifting werewolf? Glad we got that one sorted out. Now SHUT UP. I mean it this time.

I’ve lost my thread now. Oh yeah, fruit machine emulation. The poor neglected fruity is neglected no longer, however. With the recent freeware release of Chris Wren’s previously-commercial and snappily-titled MPU3/4 Emulator, almost 40 genuine fruit machines can now be played for free on your PC, with all the proper sounds, adjustable settings and percentages (all the way from “rip-off” to “utterly outrageously scandalous rip-off”) and mouthwatering fruit symbols of the real things.

Many of the games are surprisingly entertaining in their own right (with such crappy jackpots compared to the million-dollar slots of Las Vegas et al, UK fruities HAVE to be fun to play or no-one would ever put money in them), but more exciting than that is the realisation that you can use the emulator to learn precisely how a particular machine plays and behaves, then go down the boozer and skin it for a couple of free rounds. Nice.

The MPU3/4 emulator also provides a sharp lesson for those short-sighted fools in the games industry who would try to crush emulation at every turn. When the emu was released, Barcrest, the fruit-machine firm who produce most of the machines emulated, attempted to bully the author into withdrawing it from sale. In compliance with their wishes, the author removed the copyrighted fruit machine ROMs which had been distributed with the purchase of the £50 emulator and, deprived of the chance to earn money from it anyway, released the non-copyright-infringing version as freeware, leaving people to find the ROMs themselves. At a stroke, then, Barcrest managed to stop the emu from being one used only by the tiny handful of people who were prepared to pay 50 quid for it, to one which was downloaded over 10,000 times in the first few days of release, and is growing faster by the day. Clever, eh?


Get the emulator

Initially, the emu didn’t emulate the cabinet graphics of the real machines, except for the reels.

Later, designers added "skins" to make the emulated versions look the same as the arcade machines as well as playing the same. 

Older machines even “pay out” in tokens rather than money.



One of the cultier games machines out there became the latest to bow at the feet of the mighty Emulation Goddess with the recent release of the first version of Cygne, an emulator for the Bandai WonderSwan handheld. Never released over here, the WonderSwan is a respectable (if distantly second) competitor to the Game Boy in Japan, and features some well-known brands like Final Fantasy in its software lineup. Cygne currently only emulates the mono version of the WonderSwan, and has no sound, but its compatibility rate is already impressive, and hopefully development will eventually encompass some of the little machine’s impressive colour games.



(Left) Morrigan gets kicked quite literally to bits in Capcom’s Pocket Fighters.


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