It’s been a pretty slow summer for PC emulation, viewers. There are a bunch of reasons for this, some more obvious than others. Firstly, the fact is that we’re pretty much nearing the finish line where gaming emulation is concerned. There are almost no games platforms left to be emulated, and with emulation of the current PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation a long way off there’s very little left for emu authors to actually do. Name a videogaming platform from the 32-bit generation down, and you can more or less guarantee that there’s a near-perfect emulation of it already available, with only the minority-interest Atari Jaguar still holding out to any significant degree.

Even the more esoteric avenues that emu coders turned their attentions to are almost exhausted. Practically every pinball machine ever created is now emulated by Visual Pinball and Visual PinMAME – there hasn’t been a significant pinball emu release in months, because there simply aren’t any more tables left to do.

Similarly with fruit machines, releases have dried up because there are almost no machines left to emulate (although with fruity emus, there are at least still a couple of hardware standards left to be cracked, which will open up a new seam of machines if anyone ever does it, but the fruit-emu coders are such a highly-strung and sensitive bunch that at the moment there seems little prospect of that).

But more excitingly, part of the reason for a slowing of PC emulation in recent months has been that authors have turned their attention to virgin territory. Emulation on the Xbox has exploded, with a massive catalogue of PC emus ported across for the benefit of anyone sensible enough to fit a modchip to the bloated Microsoft console. Arcade emus like MAME and Final Burn, and console emus for the likes of the Mega Drive, SNES and N64 all run beautifully on the platform, finally bringing the glories of emulation onto the big living-room TV.

And a clutch of emulators have also been brought to handhelds like the GP32 and (via the magic of the “Flash linker” cartridge) the Game Boy Advance, so you can carry emulators around in your pocket as well, ensuring that classic gameplay fans can finally be assured of the chance to play 3D Deathchase or Super Mario Brothers 3 literally anywhere in the known universe. It’s an absolutely glorious time in history for emulation lovers, but PC owners will have to wait a little while before the beige monster box regains the initiative. Be patient, pals.


Even big games like Giga Wing run on Xbox MAME.

Cactus Jack, one of the last big PinMAME titles.

A GBA, on an Xbox, yesterday.



Bosconian ’87 (Spectrum, 1987)

Bosconian 87 exists in a very small category within the world of videogames – sequels to arcade games, that never saw an arcade, but were only released on home formats. Others in this small and elite club include OutRun Europa (a bizarre extension to the OutRun line which saw the player piloting motorbikes and boats as well as the traditional sports car) and Renegade 3, a dreadful follow-up to an arcade game which, ironically, was awful in arcades but magnificent in its home incarnations (especially the Spectrum 128 version).

Bosconian 87 is so obscure that even its author wasn’t entirely sure if it had been a coin-op when Emu Zone asked him, but some quality investigative journalism revealed that the 8-bit computers were the only place this sequel saw the light of day. It’s a spiffing little game, adding relatively little to the original game but doing enough to significantly tweak the balance and render it a much more exciting and well-balanced slice of fun. Most notable, though, is the superb music featured on the Speccy 128 version of the game, a tremendously catchy techno toe-tapper that drives you on to complete levels just to hear the level-completed jingle. Maybe if games like this had actually made it to arcades, they wouldn’t be dying now.



(Left) Spectrum games - better than reality.


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