Sometimes, it’s all too easy to see why certain elements of the videogames industry make such a fuss about emulation. It’s nothing to do with it damaging them financially, it’s nothing to do with “protecting their intellectual property”. The simple truth is, sometimes emulation is just plain embarrassing to the games business, because frequently the guys doing it in their bedroom in their spare time for free do a better job than well-paid professional developers. Examples are countless, including various official retrogaming packages which are not only poorer quality and worse value but also less authentic than their emulated counterparts, but emulation can also show the professional industry a thing or two when it comes to updating rather than just recreating their products.

Alert PC ZONE readers will recall the less-than-warm welcome given in the reviews section recently to some Infogrames/Atari updatings of classic arcade properties like Pac-Man and Dig Dug. And yet, an emulation project which hasn’t even been updated in over two years effortlessly eclipses what the software business demands large chunks of your hard-earned cash for. The self-explanatorily-titled EMU DX is at heart a MAME-style emulator, running the ROM code of a whole bunch of old coin-ops including Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, Frogger and Galaxian.

The difference, though, is that the coders have cleverly managed to replace the graphics and sound with brand-new modern visuals, effects and music, while obviously the ROM emulation retains the exact original gameplay. The effect, as you can see from these pics, is beautiful (in the case of Donkey Kong especially) - though what you can’t see is the lovely shimmering translucencies on DK’s fireballs and Pac-Man’s ghosts, making them look like real fire and real ghosts – and the new sounds and music, while adhering strictly to the flavour of the originals, are executed to similarly high standards.

Tragically, EMU DX no longer appears to be in development, which is a terrible shame as many more games had already been worked on to an advanced stage, including Mr Do, Pengo, Phoenix, Zaxxon and Kung Fu Master.  We can only hope that the games industry continues to pump out more poor-quality “updates” of classic games until the DX team can bear it no longer.


Transporting fire by ladders? Madness, sheer madness.

Clearly, this isn't a picture of Pac-Man.



In a less impressive but thematically similar vein, people have been messing around with existing emulators for years to produce “hacked” versions of games. The most extreme example is probably PacMame, a derivative of MAME existing purely to run almost 300 hacked versions of Pac-Man and its sibling titles, including hacks like invisible mazes, graphics taken from the Atari VCS version, and characters replaced by those from various other classic games, such as Berzerk.

One of the nicest recent efforts, though, is this “Simpsons” hack of Tapper, featuring all your favourite boozehounds propping up Moe’s Bar. All your favourites are here, and Bart even shows up in a special cameo as the Beer Bandit in the between-rounds bonus game. What’s more, if you fancy trying your own hand at something similar – maybe you’d like to superimpose your own face on one of the butch Final Fight guys, or put Chun-Li in some rubber pervwear – there’s a program made just for you. Turaco lets you rip the graphics out of ROM files and replace them with your own, with semi-limitless possibilities. Why not have a go and let us see what you can do? Emulation Zone will personally cough up a prize for the funniest.



(Left) Moe's Tavern opens a beer garden.


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