Friday, 13 April 2012

An oldie, but a goodie

After a break due to illness I find myself returning to gaming in a bit of a lull. There are no interesting major releases scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks and while I still have games like Kingdoms of Amular: Reckoning and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sitting on my drive, uncompleted, I feel like I need a change from the fantasy RPG genre after having been almost completely immersed in it since Christmas. It was a conversation with my lovely wife over the weekend that finally got me settled on what I would play next.

It started innocently with her asking if I had any of the original Sonic games, as she wouldn’t mind playing one of those with me. I was pretty sure I had the first two for the Sega Mega Drive, but after digging out the console I realised that I was severely lacking in the Sonic department. It didn’t really matter though as upon connecting the Mega Drive up to my TV I struggled to get the thing to work. Eventually I gave up, realising that the wire that connected the system to the TV was probably broken. However having seen some of the classic games that I still had for Sega’s console I decided to check out a bit of PC emulation.

Going back a few years I used to have a pretty extensive emulation collection on my PC, but after a subsequent hard drive failure I lost it all. I could still remember most of the sites I used to build that collection, so I set about getting hold of a Mega Drive emulator and some roms of the games I currently owned. After a bit of fiddling with a program called Joy2Key I managed to get Castle of Illusions running with my Xbox 360 pad. This only whetted my appetite though as I started thinking about whether I could emulate a more modern console, namely the GameCube.

I duly set about finding out about Dolphin, which for those who don’t know is a great emulator which allows you to run Nintendo’s finest GameCube and Wii games on your PC. The idea of playing The Legend of Zelda:Wind Waker or Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door in stunning high-res was too good to pass up, so I promptly got hold of the latest version of Dolphin and a rom of each game. After consulting various guides I managed to get the graphical and sound settings just right and also configured the 360 pad to work with the GameCube games.

After everything was set I decided to boot up Paper Mario first and was greeted by a spectacular sight. Everyone knows that Nintendo’s art direction is among some of the best in the business, but due to the antiquated nature of the GameCube tech married with an HDTV, it doesn’t look as good as it could. But when you play the games through Dolphin, the power of modern CPUs and GPUs are brought to bear and the result is nothing short of astounding. Having seen the effect on Paper Mario I quickly booted up Wind Waker and was equally delighted with the result. 

Seeing these classic games in their new clothes made me want to instantly sit down and play through them again. However first I had to decide which one I was going to start with and I also wanted to try and get a better set-up going. I have a fairly decent 21” LCD monitor connected to my PC, but I also have a lovely 26” HDTV sitting only a few metres away, as well as a nice comfy couch. I already had an HDMI cable connecting the PC to my TV and after a few tweaks Paper Mario was now displayed on a nice big screen.

Game wise I decided to plump for Paper Mario as, like many games I brought when I was younger and had more disposable income, it fell by the wayside when other games arrived and distracted me. Yes I know that technically it is another RPG, but it is quite different from the RPGs I have been playing with a totally different setting.

Having got GameCube games working on the PC I am now resolved to also get Wii games working. This will require a bit more work though as getting the Wiimote to talk to the PC is slightly convoluted and requires a Bluetooth connection, something my PC is currently lacking. However I have ordered a Bluetooth adaptor and once that arrives I am hopeful that the added fidelity will get me back into Skyward Sword, once I have completed Paper Mario of course. Right now though, I am happy that I can once again enjoy some of Nintendo’s finest games in a more modern setting.

If you are interested in playing your GameCube and Wii games on a PC here are a few pointers to help you get started.

  • Dolphin Homepage with the latest version. 
  • A Wiki which will help you with most problems including getting the right settings for each game. 
  • A guide to getting the Wiimote to work with Dolphin 
  • As for getting hold of game files you can rip the games directly from the discs if you have the necessary hardware, just Google to find out how. If this is beyond your capabilities you can get GameCube roms from the net by searching Google, there are a few sites out there. As for the Wii your favourite torrent site is probably your best bet.