PCZ ISSUE 142 - JUNE 2004



The PC’s a funny old thing, viewers. Designed to be the world’s first backwards-compatible computing protocol, the entire reason the PC outlasted machines like the Apple 2, the Sinclair QL and the Amiga was that you didn’t – theoretically – have to throw the whole machine away and buy/learn an entire new one every time technology took a couple of steps forward. Of course, the way things have progressed in the world of PCs, it’s actually a lot cheaper and a LOT less trouble to do exactly that these days - as Emu Zone can confirm from its own experiences this month – but that’s not really the point.

The other great thing about the PC, of course, is that in the miracle age of emulation your humble beige box is capable of being just about every other piece of home-computing hardware ever invented. From the ZX81 to the Oric Atmos to the Nintendo Gamecube, there’s almost no games-capable machine that your PC isn’t capable of accurately impersonating. Except one, that is – your old PC.

Yep, in one of those towering ironies that demonstrate beyond any measure of doubt the rank incompetence of pretty much everyone everywhere, the ONLY thing your fancy new “backwards-compatible”, all-emulating PC can’t run to save its life is your collection of old PC games. It’s all Microsoft’s fault, naturally – they’re so (a) shriekingly paranoid that PC owners might use the DOS interface to do something non-Microsoft-approved with their machine, and (b) terminally useless at writing an operating system capable of coping with a little bit of user tinkering, that they’ve managed at a stroke (specifically the stroke from Windows 98 to Win XP) to obliterate the core functionality behind the whole invention of the PC. Bless them.

“But enough of this editorialising – what’s it all got to do with Emu Zone, you fat idiot?”, impatient viewers may be wondering at this point. And obviously (man, don’t you just hate those know-nothing impatient viewers?), the answer is that the tirelessly-cunning emulation community has come up with a solution to the problem, and the solution is this – a PC emulator for the PC! 

DOSBox has been around for ages (and shouldn’t be confused with another similar, but rubbish, program called, er, DOSBox) – it’s basically an MS-DOS emulator, which enables your fancy Windows PC to act like a clunky old 486. It’s simple to use – you just install your old DOS game as normal, then drag-and-drop the install folder onto the DOSBox executeable. You then get a command-line window and can navigate the folder like it was an old MS-DOS hard drive. Ah, happy days.

In truth, DOSBox still isn’t all that compatible, but it does run a lot of games, from the PC’s earliest attempts at arcade conversions to violently Windows-hostile games like the famous “Pinball Dreams” series, and for that alone it’s worth keeping a close eye on.


Genuine dirt colouring in Dig Dug.

The immortal Pinball Fantasies.

The official PC port of Super Pac-Man.

Not sure which part of the race this is.



Turbo Outrun (US Gold/Sega 1990)

We covered the original Out Run in Emu Zone a few issues back, but the “Turbo” sequel to it is one of the great lost coin-ops – still not emulated in any arcade emu, largely written out of history and the recipient of some pretty shoddy home ports, (not least the awful Mega Drive one), Turbo Outrun was actually a really smart sequel, shifting the location to a trans-America race and adding tweaks like the turbo-boost of the title, the ability to upgrade your car, and the fact that if you drove poorly, the famous passenger-seat blonde would actually walk out on you between stages and zoom off with one of your rivals instead (complete with a display of little love-hearts just to rub it in).

Oddly enough, just about the least terrible home version of Turbo Outrun was the DOS PC one, and fortuitously it’s one of the games fully supported by DOSBox. By 1990 the PC was finally starting to catch up to the graphical standards of the other home machines, and this is a colourful, smooth-running rendition of the arcade game with all the main features intact. Hopefully someone will one day crack the encryption of the arcade version, but until now you can keep the Turbo flame alive with this.



(Left) Why are all racing-game roads one-way?


Emulation Zone is brought to you in association with the International World Of Stuart Foundation.