Emulation on Mac

Emulating classic video game consoles on Mac OS X

Category Archives: SNES

Revisiting multi-console emulation with OpenEmu, getting PS1 emulation to work

In my last post about OpenEmu I mentioned the “experimental” build that adds support for many more systems than the official release of the program. Over the weekend I tried out the experimental version’s Playstation 1 emulation. Wow, it’s actually better than PCSX-Reloaded!

The official release version of OpenEmu supports:

  • Game Boy Advance
  • Game Boy Color
  • NeoGeo Pocket Color
  • Nintendo (NES)/Famicom
  • Nintendo DS
  • Sega 32X
  • Sega Game Gear
  • Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
  • Sega Master System
  • Super Nintendo (SNES)
  • TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine
  • Virtual Boy

The experimental build version adds support for:

  • Atari 2600
  • Atari 5200
  • Atari 7800
  • Atari Lynx
  • ColecoVision
  • Commodore 64
  • Famicom Disk System
  • MAME
  • Nintendo 64
  • PC-FX
  • PlayStation
  • PSP
  • Sega CD
  • Sega Saturn
  • SG-1000
  • TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD
  • Vectrex
  • WonderSwan

I tested out PlayStation support, and ran into a few obstacles before getting things to work.

  1. The UI does nothing to explain how to provide the PlayStation BIOS file. Searching around, I learned that you add the BIOS file(s) by dragging and dropping the *.bin files (BIOS ROM images) like you would a game ROM. But, after I found a set of BIOS ROM images online, adding them this way still didn’t work. It turns out the filenames were also important, and that I had to rename the files I had to be the expected filenames:
    scph5500.bin (JP) (sha1 sum: b05def971d8ec59f346f2d9ac21fb742e3eb6917) …matched what I had in the download pack I found.
    scph5501.bin (NA) (sha1 sum: 0555c6fae8906f3f09baf5988f00e55f88e9f30b) … for me, this file was SCPH7003.BIN, and had to be renamed.
    scph5502.bin (EU) (sha1 sum: f6bc2d1f5eb6593de7d089c425ac681d6fffd3f0) … for me, this file was SCPH5552.bin, and had to be renamed.
    After renaming these BIOS images, it was possible to drag them into OpenEmu and have them be recognized as PS1 BIOS ROM image files. The UI doesn’t make it clear that it has done anything with the files, but the lack of warning is your indicator that they have been accepted.
  2. OpenEmu’s “emulator core” for PS1 emulation is Mednafen, and this emulator requires all games be provided in cuesheet format. I had only ISO images, so I had to re-rip a game in cuesheet format in order to successfully add it to my OpenEmu game library.
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NES, Game Boy, SNES, Game Boy Advance, DS, Virtual Boy, Lynx, NeoGeo Pocket, TurboGrafx, Master System, Game Gear, and Genesis Emulation on Mac

The lower-powered game consoles have all been well emulated by this point. Basically any living room console older than the year 2000, and all handhelds before the current generation (before 2011 or so). Thanks to the authors of those emulators, much of their work is open-source at this point too. That’s what enabled OpenEmu to come along and put a front-end on the emulation cores of a dozen or so different emulators.

OpenEmu is a ROM library management and emulator front-end application. It does for ROMs what iTunes does for other media: basically it makes your game collection the focus, and tries to make the actual emulation seamless and transparent to the user. You can even keep your ROMs in zip format; OpenEmu will handle decompression. It will also supply cover art from the original game boxes, and correctly identify the game titles and metadata. Like iTunes, though, when you import a game into your “library” it will create a copy in its own directory: ~/Library/Application Support/OpenEmu/Game Library. This is configurable, but it’s worth noting, because you might inadvertently double the storage space used by your ROM collection by adding it to the OpenEmu library.

Graphics and sound are perfect, for all of the cores I tried.

GamePad support just works. It’s very impressively done, actually. NES four-player support is possible, SNES 8-player support. Even 4-player GBA and DS support is listed, although I wonder how it is implemented.

The software is not perfect, though. There’s a crash bug that happens often when opening a ROM for the first time. Net play is not implemented, so multiplayer is strictly local for now. And it looks like the project is hesitant to add emulation cores for consoles like Wii, Gamecube, PS2, PS1, N64, and Saturn, despite the quality open-source emulation cores that exist for each of those systems. There is currently an “experimental” build that incorporates Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and arcade systems.

OpenEmu is the future of emulation and of classic game preservation.