Emulation is the use of special software to run console games on a PC. All it does is enable a computer, whether a desktop or PC, to act like another specialized piece of hardware, like a video game console.
Wouldn’t it be awesome for your PC to operate like an Xbox or PlayStation? This is what emulation software delivers. It tricks the video game code – that originally was exclusively playable on one of the video game console platforms – to be playable on your desktop PC.
The big draw to emulation software is that if you don’t want to purchase a console, you still get to enjoy the games these consoles play but on your PC. You don’t have to go out there and buy an expensive new piece of equipment.
But, as you can already tell from this description, there is a lot that could go wrong.
Emulation software, as advanced as it is, is not perfect. It’s not unusual for people to get emulation software and try to play a really awesome game that was exclusively published for the Xbox and have a crappy experience on their PC.
With that said, the main advantage of emulation software is that its graphics tend to look better. 3D games played on a PC produce higher resolutions than the original console version.
This should not be a surprise because, generally speaking, if your PC is upgraded, its hardware is so much better than a lot of older-generation consoles. This makes for smoother play and smoother graphics overall.
Another great advantage of emulation software is that you get to save whenever and wherever you want. This is not always possible with console games. You can only save in certain circumstances or if you go through the right process.
With emulators, you can save the state of your game. There’s no need to restart the level every time you die. You get to set up your own checkpoints, and it delivers like a snapshot of where you are.
So if you make the wrong move and get clobbered, you just go back to the previous state, and you’re good to go.
Another awesome advantage of emulation is that it enables you to fast forward or rewind. You can increase your player movement speed, or you slow it down – depending on what you need. You can also skip those boring and confusing dialogue sections.
On top of all of this, you can rewind the game. You can go back a few seconds to clear a mistake.
Customized Control Options
Another advantage of emulators is that you can connect a compatible controller. You can set up your own control scheme with the keyboard.
This is big because a PC is fairly limited when it comes to hardware. But with emulators’ proper hardware support, you can plug in all sorts of specialized peripherals to level up your gaming experience. It’s as if you’re playing a console but with the power inconvenience of your PC.
Unlike consoles, where you basically have to write down cheats or print them out, you can easily access cheats from the emulator software. Since it operates with the ROM code, you can apply the cheat immediately. You don’t have to do things manually like you would with consoles.
To round off this long list of emulation software advantages, they also enable you to play hacks of classic games. These are retro game classics that feature modifications by fans.
Maybe you speak a language that’s not supported by the original version of the game you love. Well, you can get a ROM hack with a local translation of that game. Other ROM hacks also feature texture packs and different kinds of upgrades.
With all that said, emulators do come with their own set of drawbacks.
First of all, forget about expecting all retro games to work on your PC. That’s just not going to happen.
Some games don’t work perfectly: they suffer from visual glitches, memory issues, or the game crashes repeatedly. Other games have really crappy textures that look really nasty. Others are just silent because there is no music or sounds.
Another drawback is that you need a compatible and proper controller if you want to enjoy a video game console experience. This means that you have to shell out a few bucks for USB controllers.
There’s a shortcut to this. If you have the console, you can use a USB adaptor for your PC to accommodate the original console’s controllers.
Finally, there is the issue of saved states.
One of the greatest things about platform games is the fact that when you die, you get to repeat the level all over again. In many cases, you have to repeat the previous level. This gives you a sense of urgency. There’s a sense that you are going to lose something if you don’t get it right.
Well, with saved states – courtesy of emulators – there’s no longer that added risk. That’s why a lot of hardcore gamers say that the saved state and cheat features take away the thrill and challenge of the game.
It’s as if you’re just going through the motions and going from step 1 to step 2, and there’s really no suspense because one wrong move can set you back. There’s a price that you’re going to pay. You don’t have to do that anymore with emulators.
So something gets lost in the translation.
Playing with original systems or consoles when retro gaming has its own set of perks and benefits. But, at the end of the day, it depends on what kind of gamer you are.
Some gamers would argue that nothing beats the gaming experience of playing your favorite games on the original consoles they were designed for. This is a long-running debate, and I’m not sure we’re ever going to get to the answer.
Still, here are the clear advantages of playing games with consoles.
First, you play a retro game or a contemporary game the way it’s supposed to be played. You buy a cartridge, and then you pop it into the console. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
When you’re playing a retro game, it’s more exciting when you are interacting with it based on its original context. It was originally designed to be played on a console, and here you are, interacting with the game using the console it was designed for.
Playing retro games is better with original hardware if you are doing so for nostalgia. Not only are you seeing images that trigger memories from your childhood, but you’re also interacting with and handling equipment that gives you the look, feel, and sounds of your early days.
It’s a complete experience if you’re doing it for sentimental and nostalgic reasons. The video and sound quality in the original format are better because that’s how you experience them.
Unlike emulators, you don’t have to worry about glitches because the retro games that you want to play are originally played with a specific console. Now that you’re playing that console, there is no chance there will be an issue.
In fact, the software that you’re going to be running will perform 100 percent of the time. This means no lags, no grainy images, and no stoppages. It’s all easy to use in a plug-and-play environment.
Also, you get to play console-exclusive titles without a hitch.
Now, for the downside of console gaming.
There’s a reason why retro games’ consoles got returned. They had limited graphics and processing power. You’re definitely going to be confronted with these realities when you play retro games on the hardware that they were originally designed for.
You have to deal with limited graphics. There’s less scalability as far as additional components and peripherals in the console’s hardware. You are also limited in terms of your input options – just how many controllers does it allow, and can you use specialized third-party controllers?
In almost all cases, console games cannot be modified. This means that you can’t tweak it to improve its graphics or use a modded version so that there’s more texture and new gameplay elements that make the game more enjoyable.
Still, if you prefer the authentic gaming experience – whether you’re nostalgic or not – you definitely should consider consoles over emulators.