Tuesday, April 1, 2014

GBoy Emulator (Game Review)

Game emulators are certainly controversial and I do not advocate them or recommend them. But this review will be for those that are interested in how could a game emulator possibly work in Firefox OS with only HTML5 and JavaScript. So don't try this at home, boys and girls, or Waluigi (the brother they don't talk about) will come and visit you in the dark of the night.

A brilliant person named Robert Bierkamp has created the first emulator for the Firefox OS phone and it works pretty good. Here's an example screen shot:

In case you're really too young, here is what a Gameboy looks like:

The original Gameboy was amazing in its time. You could carry it around with you, unlike earlier machines like the Atari and NES. You didn't need a TV, you just needed a big pocket. Gameboys got smaller and then evolved into the Gameboy Advanced and beyond, up to the very popular 3DS which is doing very well today.

But my interest here is two fold.

First, this really is some amazing clever programming. The author just says he got a lot of stuff from all over the place and put it together. It works. You can really play Mole Mania on the emulator, even on the ZTE Open! More about that in a moment.

Second, I recommend that you actually buy a real Gameboy and some old games and play them. Why? Because the games are phone-sized and might help you to visualize what kinds of things could be done on a phone. If you look at the amazing quality of something of those games, they pack a lot into a very small package and small screen.

How the Emulator Works

I don't know and don't need to know how the actual code works. I'm not building one! But in case you want to use it, here's a few tips:

1. Grab it from the Mozilla Marketplace. It's free.  https://marketplace.firefox.com/app/gboy-emulator/. Load it onto your phone.

2. Then add another program that helps GBoy Emulator find the files it needs. The author recommends Explorer or Alpha Explorer.

3. Find a snapshot of a Gameboy ROM. Somewhere. Actually they're all over, but not supposed to be. You didn't hear it from me and I don't advocate it. I have a nice collection of real cartridges (which are pretty cheap these days, around $5 to $10 bucks). You'll need a Gameboy, and they are really cheap as well. You don't need to pay much for those either! But if you want to download a ROM to try it out, search for "Gameboy ROMs" and you'll find many that are out there.

4. Most of the ROMs are zipped. Unzip it. Put it somewhere you can find it. Screenshots is a good place!

5. Then start GBoy Emulator. If you've installed Explorer, it will look like this:

6. Tap on Explorer and grab your unzipped ROM file. It should have a .GB extension.

7. The game that will be chosen is called Mole Mania. Very cool game about a mole named Monty who must rescue his family from the evil Jinbe!

8. Then the game will be loaded and you can play it!

The colors seem to change. Dunno why!

Using GBoy Emulator

Going back to the original NES, the controls are Select, Start, A, B, and the 4 arrow buttons. They all work. Even the sound works! Most of the games will tell you what each button does.

I love the humor of this early game, which was created by Shigeru Miyamoto, legendary creator of Mario, Zelda, and a ton of other amazing games. Mole Mania isn't as well know, but still cool. The game involves Monty digging his way under various obstacles and having to remember what was on the surface when he comes up. A really nice puzzle game with a story.

You can see that the emulator is still a little rough around the edges, but is certainly worth a look. And it plays just fine. Just remember to buy a real Gameboy and some real Gameboy games and learn from them so you can create fabulous Firefox OS phone games.

Starting to dig down. Monty is in the lower left hand corner.

Now he's underground, in the same place but one level down. Where to go?

Let's go north!

And tunnel back to the surface.

Well, that didn't help. He'll need to tunnel back down, go South one, and then East two, and tunnel up to get to the next part! An interesting exercise in mental ability! If you want to play the real game, you can get it on the 3DS Virtual Console! But there's something nice about snapping your game into a Gameboy and playing it.

Oh, one tip about Gameboy consoles. If you can find one, get the Gameboy Advance SP Backlit Model (AGS-101). That was the last handheld that would still play Gameboy and Gameboy Color cartridges, and it has a backlight! They're not that rare and you can pick them up on eBay for $50 or so. Worth it (and you can play the ton of Gameboy Advance games too).

You can find out more about the GBoy Emulator at http://mundofirefoxos.blogspot.com/2014/02/gboy-emulator.html.