It’s not the latest news, but we’ve finally taken a closer look at the forbidden fruit of Xbox consoles: the incredible performance emulation. It’s when your computer can run games from other consoles that have been released before, and in this case, run them at a high quality!
Yes, what was previously the preserve of PCs has become a reality. True, a more primitive form of emulation was already available on flash-enabled consoles, with few fine-tuning options and generally variable game speeds. These were mainly available with very old consoles (NES, SNES or SEGA Genesis), but now, thanks to the latest solution, no less famous names have entered the ’emulation’ market than the SEGA Dreamcast, the Nintendo 64, and the big guns, the Sony PSP, the GameCube, or the most impressive of game libraries: the Sony PS1 and PS2!
Oh, and you can apply filters to these consoles, smooth them out, or… turn up their NATIVE resolution, and even improve the typically slow frame rate of PS1 games, and get rid of the ever-flickering textures! This is the RetroArch emulator front-end. This simple little program is basically a graphical interface for the machines you build in the background to emulate, so it helps you navigate between your games, while in the background, once you’ve got everything in the right place, it does the rest of the work. We just need to start what we want to run! Every console was different, after all, and there are emulators that are easier to start with minimal tinkering, but there are also some that even on Xbox… Well, need some not quite legal add-ons, such as BIOS files extracted from the machines’ flash memory. Of course, if you look, you’ll find it, but we wouldn’t encourage anyone to go against the law…
The emulator comes completely bare, not ready for emulation yet. There are two options to get it: one is a Microsoft loophole, the other is completely legal. I’ll explain. Microsoft allows you to create a private developer account to make various Universal Windows Platform programs and even small games available to relatives and friends in a small corner of the MS Store reserved especially for you, out of sight of others. Of course, this also means that people have started to bundle the software into official installers and sell it on their own account to a more receptive audience. The recipe is simple: pay the asking price (around 8 USD), and then you get access to the Store of your favourite hobby developer. There, they make hidden programs visible to everyone (whitelisting), and then you’re ready to have fun. The real pros usually come with ready-made packages, mostly via Discord, for this retro experience sold as a full service, with saved BIOS files for the various machines, or other necessary pre-sets.
This was version A. In scenario B, you have to activate a Microsoft developer account for individuals, and after spending around ~13.50 USD… You basically put as much and as much software as you want on the machine. Of course, according to the instructions, we have to copy them from a laptop or PC to a Developer Mode machine using the Developer Kit. We can’t really beat ourselves up with either, but we would obviously suggest that everyone should go for the more legal solution… However, as usual, the less legal is again the more advanced and more capable method. Because scenario A (retail version) can be installed in the normal Xbox running environment from the trusted developer’s site. You just enter the Edge browser, and from there you navigate to the store with a link. (The link provided by the developer will immediately drop you into the hidden programs available. These can be video players, FTP programs, File Managers or RetroArch.) This is good because it keeps you in between your other games and allows you to switch between the RetroArch emulator and your other Xbox games without a full system reboot. And the best fun of all: we don’t have to listen to the same boringly repetitive music during a 60-lap Gran Turismo 2 race: we can put Spotify on top of the program and play our own music, with the familiar game/Spotify volume control! Version B, on the other hand, asks you to log in to a closed system every time you start it, and you can only legally install RetroArch there, for yourself. There’s no Spotify here, no net available or other delights, we can only run what we’ve put together ourselves on our freshly born little DevKit.
So that’s it. Oh, and did I say there were retro-achievements in the stuff?
Worth a look! Especially since the Xbox One and One X support games up to Sony’s PS1, up to 1440p (!), while the smallest of the new generation, the Xbox Series S, can do the same in emulation, up to roughly 2K, for around ~320 USD, that its bigger brother can do in 4K: emulate Sony’s legendary PlayStation 2! Yep, God of War on Microsoft! Very hardcore!
It’s worth thinking about the options available on Xbox for console users: with GamePass Ultimate, you can add up to thousands of games to a 1 TB storage space! That’s something…
Of course, who has a thousand original records to make copies of? Hm…