ANOTHER FINE EMULATOR
Crusading investigative journalism is all very
well, but at the end of the day there’s nothing Emulation Zone likes
better than puerile schoolboy humour, so your reporter always allows
himself a little chuckle when the updating of an emu allows for
headlines like this one, seen recently on top emu site Retrogames:
“A NEW MESS HAS BEEN RELEASED”. Fnark!
MESS, which is long overdue a proper mention on
these pages, stands, rather strainingly, for Multiple Emulator Super
System. It’s yet another in the long line of spinoffs from the
greatest piece of PC coding of all time, the arcade emulator MAME.
Rather than arcade games, however, MESS emulates home console and
computer systems. More precisely, it emulates a staggering 152
home console and computer systems, dating all the way back to the
Commodore PET of the 1970s and right up to platforms as recent as
the GameBoy Color, and covering just about anything that ever
happened in home gaming in between.
It’s the only place where ageing emu fans will
find emulation of all the strange and obscure formats that they read
about in the games magazines of the early 80s, where upwards of 20
formats all struggled for supremacy at the same time, before
inevitably being crushed by the juggernauts of the Spectrum and C64.
Machines like the PDP-1 (home of Space War, generally considered the
first videogame ever), the Sord M5, the Bally Astrocade, the Emerson
Arcadia 2001 (a futuristically-titled but primitive console actually
dating from 1982), the Quickshot Supervision (a short-lived GameBoy
wannabe from the people who made the 1980s’ favourite joysticks),
the Memotech MTX512... they’re all here, each one bringing a thrill
to the hearts of perhaps as many as seven or eight people.
The best thing about MESS, however, is that it
also rescues some obscure but great machines which were previously
emulated only by DOS programs, and which had hence been lost to
posterity all over again with the advent of stupid incompatible
operating systems like Windows XP which simply refuse point-blank to
run most old MS-DOS progs - because that would be, y’know, useful in
a supposedly backwards-compatible hardware platform like the PC.
Historic systems like the Vectrex and the Dragon 32 can now only be
run - by most people, anyway - with the help of MESS, and for that
alone this enormous, sprawling, ludicrously ambitious program
deserves a rather more generous share of the acclaim more regularly
piled on its illustrious parent.