Viewers, it isn’t often Emulation Zone finds itself treading ground last walked by Robert Oppenheimer and the scientists of Project Manhattan, the WW2 operation to produce the first atomic bomb. But such ground we tread this month. Oppenheimer, when questioned some time after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki about the moral implications of his work, famously and rather regretfully observed that the sheer scientific magic of what they were doing completely blinded the scientists to its practical applications.

And similarly, a lot of the time, emulation is something that comes about purely because a coder wanted to see if they could do something, rather than having a practical purpose in mind. The classic example was the release of the N64 emulator UltraHLE a few years ago, a technical achievement so stunning that it never even occurred to the author that people would want to use the emulator to – no! – play N64 games, and it was with some surprise that he withdrew the emulator immediately after release after the entirely predictable storm blew up around it. But anyway.

Into this same category we have to enter the emulation of most CD-based systems, such as the CD32 and Mega CD - which we’ve covered here in the last couple of months - and now the Sega Saturn. To enjoy the games made playable by Fabian Autrel’s fast-developing emulator Satourne, you obviously have to own the original CDs, and these days Saturn hardware is actually a lot cheaper to buy than  the games are, which seems to render the emu slightly pointless. Except, of course, that all the best Saturn games were only ever released in Japan, and to get yourself an imported or chipped Saturn to play them on nowadays, you WILL have to pay through the nose to some rip-off retro shop or profiteering git on eBay. So in fact, there IS a point to Saturn emulation, and by extension this column, after all. Phew, that was close.



PCZ’s autocratic News Ed doesn’t like it when Emulation Zone mentions fruit machine emulators, “Because they’re not proper games”, so we’d better make this quick and hope he doesn’t notice. A brand-new emulator, JPEMU, was released recently offering emulation of another arcade hardware system, JPM’s Impact. Why should you care? Because Impact was the hardware protocol that ran the excellent Sonic The Hedghog fruity (as well as classics like Roller Coaster, Indiana Jones and Monopoly). And Sonic is a proper videogame star, so we’ll sneak it in. Quick, before he comes back.


The legendary Radiant Silvergun, for many the best 2D shooter ever.


A beat-em-up with a difference – you’re on dragons!


What would a hedghog do with a tenner anyway?




Thunder Blade (Sega, coin-op)

One of the most famous emulators of recent years, Final Burn, was initially written to provide emulation of a bunch of Sega’s classic mid-80s 3D coin-ops (After Burner, Power Drift, Galaxy Force etc), but quickly found itself sidetracked into becoming the first emu to crack Capcom’s CPS2 encryption and play host to a neverending stream of 2D fighting games. Now, however, after a lengthy hiatus, FB has gone back to its roots with a new version which finally does the job the emu set out to do.

The prime beneficiary of the new version is Thunder Blade, the highly-atmospheric helicopter assault sim that’s all the better for not having to be played in the ludicrous manual swivelling cockpit that beset the arcade game. There’s still nothing quite like hovering six feet off the ground and sending rockets right up the turrets of enemy tanks through a cloud of smoke and flame. In real life, too.



(Left) "I knew I shouldn't have parked the van there."


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