Run Retro Games On Phone, Tablet And PC (Part 3)

5/13/2014 5:08:33 PM

Modern technology is all very well, but old-school entertainment still has its charms. Dave Stevenson takes a step back in time.

One last notable emulator worth mentioning is ScummVM, which doesn’t simulate a particular computer at all, but is rather an open-source implementation of the game engine that underpins dozens of 1990s point-and-click adventure games - including Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Full Throttle and the classic Secret of Monkey Island. All you need to run Scumm games is the emulator and the original data files. You can obtain these by buying an old CD-ROM on eBay - expect to pay between $17 and $50 - or download free and demo games.

One last notable emulator worth mentioning is ScummVM

One last notable emulator worth mentioning is ScummVM

Finding games

Although DOSBox and ScummVM can work with original game discs, most emulators can’t use the original media - after all, there’s nowhere to plug a game cartridge into a modern PC. To play a game you therefore need to obtain a soft copy of the program data, called a ROM file. ROMs are often surprisingly small - only a few megabytes in many cases, but the question of legality is a thorny one.

Following a change in the law in 2012, British owners of ebooks, CDs and films are permitted to make digital copies of their content, as long as they don’t circumvent DRM technology. This means that if you own a game cartridge, you can legally dump its contents to your PC using a device such as the Retrode, a USB-based reader for Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive cartridges.

you can legally dump its contents to your PC using a device such as the Retrode

You can legally dump its contents to your PC using a device such as the Retrode

This isn’t terribly convenient, however, or cheap: the Retrode costs $65, and has been produced in limited quantities. A much easier approach is to download ROM files from online archives, which you can easily find with Google. Unfortunately, downloading a ROM file from a site such as this is considered copyright infringement. The same is true for “abandonware” -software so old that the copyright holder no longer sells or supports it. While you’re unlikely to get in trouble for nabbing a long-forgotten game, some titles represent trademarks that are still exploited today, such as the 25-year-old original Prince of Persia.

A final word of warning: not only is downloading console ROMs legally problematic, it’s also risky. Not every big link marked “Download” on these sites links to the file you’re looking for. Some ROM sites use underhand tricks to get you to visit sponsored sites, and one ROM site in particular is notorious for hectoring you into using its bespoke downloader, which then tries to install bogus software on your PC alongside the file you’re actually after.

the original 1981 version of Pac-Man

The original 1981 version of Pac-Man

There is a truly free alternative. The Internet Archive operates a project called The Old School Emulation Center (TOSEC), which archives classic games for a number of old systems in the name of preserving classic code in an accessible format. For those averse to downloading emulators, there’s even in-browser emulation for several platforms, allowing you to play, for example, the original 1981 version of Pac-Man as it was on the Atari 2600.



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