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Emulators for Palm PDAs : An Overview of the Best

By: Henry Kong
on March 26, 2004 12:00 am

3 years ago, I posted a review at this site:

Emulators for Pocket PCs: An Overview of the Best
.

Liberty was the first Palm emulator – for use with Gameboy cartridges. It was a
great effort at that time; I liked it so much that I whipped out this review for
it at
SPUG.net.
Now that the Palm OS is more up to speed with the StrongArm chip,
more capable emulators have surfaced and it will be great to have a write up of
an overview on them.

Above is a screenshot of the icons of some of the Palm emulators that I like.
To play these emulators, you will needs game ROMS – get them at
PDROMS, your #1
legal ROM Source since 1998. Running an emulator is like having another computer
on your Palm, with a library of software thrown in as well.



My most favorite Palm emulator is Codejedi’s

CaSTaway
, the Atari ST emulator – and it’s free! it has been updated to
v0.7.11 which includes full screen 320×480 display, Zodiac compatibility,
improved sampled audio playback and other fixes.

I had a great time playing all the blasts from the past – from breakout games
like Impact to 2-disk games like Street Fighter II. In fact, I liked the Atari
ST computer so much that I had 2 of them; one running in colour and the other in
super fine hi-res black and white. There hasn’t been a gaming computer quite
like it since then – the game play is just out of this world.


The 2 screenshots above show CaSTaway’s easy to use launcher and the emulator
in normal mode, running Silkworm.



Whenever emulators are mentioned, MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) is
used as the benchmark for all others to follow. I hear that a MAME for Palm is
in the making, but until it sees the light of day, here’s another great arcade
emulator, Xcade, from
Codejedi who brought us the free CaSTaway Atari ST emulator.

For a few dollars, Palm owners get to play the actual ROMS of arcade classics
like Space Invaders, Galaxians, Pacman and the like. At present, over a dozen
arcade games are emulated and it is great carrying arcade machines on your Palm
with good speed and great playability. The latest version is Zodiac friendly and
runs in full screen 320×480 mode.


Above are screenshots of Xcade’s launcher and that of the emulator in normal
mode, running Donkey Kong. Since Xcade predates MAME, some current ROMs for MAME
will not work for Xcade – you have to go back – way, way back to the original
ROMs. Or you can use the free utility to convert MAME ROMS for use in Xcade.




The NES emulator by
KalemSoft
is what a finely crafted emulator should be: good interface,
sound, stable with lots of options – I call this the "Lexus" of Palm emulators.
The latest version, 1.4 supports full screen (320×480) and the Zodaic version is
wonderful (I’m inspired by KalemSoft’s passion for the Zodiac) and NES games
like Battle City, Galaga and Galaxians are really arcade quality.




I first came to know of programmer Aaron Ardiri when he released his Watch
and Game apps for the Palm. Later, he released the first working emulator for
the Palm, Liberty,
a Gameboy emulator. Today, he’s as active as ever taking care of security for
the Zodiac and releasing the Atari 2600 emulator,

Atari Retro
.

This emulator has 7 of the most popular 2600 games – the first home console
that made it big until it went bust. Everything about Atari Retro is very well
laid out, with controls and variations of games like the real thing. For Zodiac
owners, there’s the 360×480 version as well – great blast from the past.




Like I said, the NES emulator by KalemSoft is what a finely crafted emulator
should be – good interface, sound, stable with lots of options. Their other
emulator on sale at this site
Gizmo Ultra, is equally
well done. It is a virtual Game Gear handheld/SMS (Sega Master System) console
running at full speed with sound on Palm devices. For Palm capable devices like
the T3 and Zodiac, the full 380×480 screen is possible. Take a look at the above
screenshots and be impressed at the amount of thought and work that has gone 
into Gizmo. Sound is a plus, screen size options are great and speed adjustment
totally enhances the enjoyment of the games.

Whereas the Atari 2600 was the first gaming console to hit homes in a big
way, its popularity proved to be its downfall when many companies flooded the
market with really bad software. Except for Activision, most Atari game
developers shelled out nothing more than blocky stuff. Then came the Nintendo
Entertainment Systems (NES) who took over the market with quality games like the
Mario Brothers series. Sega challenged NES’ dominance with the SMS console with
its immensely popular Sonic series and upped the ante with a colour handheld,
the Game Gear (which would have beaten the Gameboy except that it sucks
batteries like a thirsty wanderer).




At the time of this writing,
Phoinix is
possibly the only Palm Gameboy emulator that works for OS5 devices until the
gbaZ (Gameboy Advance) emulator sees the light of day. Phoinix’s programmer is
actively working on it and the latest update works fine with the Zodiac also.
Although it is a tad slow and without sound, my favorite cartridges Super
Marioland, Headon and Watch & Game series work just fine.




Frodo is a
c64 emulator that is no longer updated and abandoned. This is too bad as it
already has sound and good key assignments all round. The screenshot above is
from a great an early c64 pinball game, arleady playing as good as it looks in
3-D.





LEDhead
is an emulator for Mattel handheld games, an interesting LED handheld device which
every kid in my neighbourhood wanted for Christmas. This electronic game is
somewhat like Speak and Spell, targeted at children. This device cleverly used
LED numbers to simulate many kind of games – great for developing the
imagination in today’s clueless kids.




apPALM ][ is
a nice little Apple ][ emulator that works pretty well with sounds, disk drives
and all. Unfortunately, the buttons are all wrong for the Zodiac. Can anyone
help here?





Colem
is a pretty good console with some very neat games. For some reason I
can’t get it to run on the Zodiac. This emulator is just starting out and
already it is looking pretty good.



Dave at the SPUG forum called my attention to the
SCUMM Virtual
Machine. He goes on to say that "it is technically an "emulator" and a pretty
good one too".



Jeff aka Codejedi alerted me of his freeware emulator
Kronos.
In his own words, from the man himself:

"Kronos is an interpreter for Magnetic Scrolls, Infocom-style ZMachine, and
Scott Adams style adventure games. Magnetic Scroll’s was a UK based text
adventure game company from the middle 1980′s; their games helped kick off the
adventure game genre by introducing high quality artwork, a fancy English-like
parser and wonderful plots. While Infocom was better known and more influential,
Magnetic Scrolls was light years ahead in their time. Infocom was an American
company who created the adventure game genre and offered some of the most
memorable and involved games in history. Zork will never be forgotten."

Hmm… it will be great to relive the early Scott Adams text-only adventure
games – leaving everything to the imagination!



To conclude this first ‘show and tell’ session of Palm emulators, I want to
share a beta release of an NEC PC Engine emulator by the great guys at KalemSoft
called Dream Engine. I have been playing with the emulator for a few weeks – so
far it does not have a save feature but will have full screen and all the bells
and whistles when it is released. As it is, it plays all the ROMs I have with
sound and in a polished way as you can see from the above screenshots.

NEC came into the console market to complete with Nintendo and Sega. They
released a nice console and a great colour handheld which is tops even by today
standards. The games come in credit size cartridges, costs a bomb but can be
used on both handheld and console. PCE doesn’t have too many games but everyone
of them is good; some even specially customised for PCE.

I leave you with this thought: Gizmo Ultra runs both GG and SMS games at $21.99
while Gizmo lite runs only GG games at $14.99.

Is it reasonable or even wise to shell out $$$ for emulators when there are some
which are labour of love (eg caSTaway) where a Palm user could pick up for free?

Let me answer this question from a personal experience recently…

While preparing to post this thread on emulators at

www.spug.net
, I check them out on the internet and started taking them for
test drives.

Of course, I purchased Xcade, Nesem etc… but I also tried Frodo, CaSTaway,
Phoinix… and here’s my 2 cents:

1. When you buy an emulator, you get a load-and-play software without any hassle
- works first time out of a box like Nesem. As for the freeware Frodo, a c64
emulator, it took me a week to get it working. Then only, because Dylan at the
forum at Zodiac Gamer went out of his way to help me (thanks a million, Dylan!).

2. By paying $$$, you get support all the way. I must go on record to say I am
very impressed with KalemSoft’s support team. When I couldn’t get Gizmo Ultra to
work on my Zodiac, I sent these guys an email thinking at best, I’ll eventually
get a response the next working day. Wrong! It was answered within hours! On the
same morning, I contacted KalemSoft’s support desk 2 more times. All 3 emails
were answered within the same morning and Gizmo Ultra is running superbly
without a hitch by noon. As for Frodo, the author will not respond to emails
period.

3. Because the developer is rewarded for his hard work, the emulator continues
to improve and becomes very polished and great value for the money. On the other
hand, I understand work on Frodo has been abandoned

There are many more emulators for the Palm and new ones are coming out all the
time. I will be happy to hear from anyone about their experiences with Palm
emulators or new ones I have not heard, especially from developers whom I want
to thank for brightening my world.
 

 

Product Information

Price:
Manufacturer:N/A

Comments

  1. 1
    Julie says:

    Post your comments here on the Emulators for Palm PDAs Review.

    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/palmos-emulators-review.html

    Just click the POST REPLY button on this page.

  2. 2
    lgreenberg says:

    What a great comparison.

    Thanks for your obvious effort in this review.

  3. 3
    gorkon280 says:

    LEDHEAD is a sim for Mattel Handheld games and not Merlin.

  4. 4
    henrykong says:

    Originally posted by gorkon280
    LEDHEAD is a sim for Mattel Handheld games and not Merlin.

    what must i been thinking???
    Mattel handheld games of course!
    thanks for the headsup :x

  5. 5
    HJHiaatje says:

    Great article,

    PS: The SCUMM link is not working

  6. 6
    henrykong says:

    opps
    it should be
    http://www.scummvm.org/

    just right clicking the link
    should inform you that there was something wrong
    and reveal what the actual site should be

    thanks for the heads up

    btw
    Scott Raulinaitis, editor of tapland
    has an excellent shorter overview of emulators at
    http://www.tapland.com/news_arc/?id=58

    and i have written articles on emulators for other platforms:

    All About Emulators for the PPC
    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/pocketpc-emulators-article.html

    The Apple ][ Emulator for the PPC
    http://www.pocketgamer.org/features/emulators/applece/

    Liberty GameBoy Emulator for the Palm OS
    http://www.spug.net/reviews/rliberty.htm

    An early article on Emulators for PCs
    http://web.singnet.com.sg/~henrynat/2compa.htm

    Emulators for GP32 handheld
    http://web.singnet.com.sg/~henrynat/gpemus.htm

  7. 7
    Julie says:

    I just fixed the errors in the review. :)

  8. 8
    Green1 says:

    The article has a link to PPC article. Boy is that article old or what. It’s practically coming from the last ice age. (plus the article is wee bit fluffy.)

    PPC emu list.
    http://www.pdarcade.com/modules.php?name=Sections&op=viewarticle&artid=102

    older list:
    http://www.emulation9.com/wince.html
    http://www.pocketgamer.org/games/emulators/index.shtml

    —————————-Copy, spread the joy.

    http://www.spam-ce.com/index.php?board=32&action=display&threadid=5192&start=0

    —–

    * = recommendable

    Multi Video Consoles

    PocketGB / MorphGear* : GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, PC Engine, NES, Game Gear, SNES (new), Sega Master System
    http://www.morphgear.com/

    YameCE* : GameBoy, PC Engine, NES, SNES
    http://www.techmageppc.com/TMTFF.html

    GameBoy (Color)

    MBoy : GameBoy
    http://www.techmageppc.com/TMTFF.html
    http://www.meloditronic.com/home.php

    PalmGB : GameBoy
    http://revolution.cx/PalmGB.htm

    beBOY
    http://www.sukin.newmail.ru/beboy.html

    Gnuboy : GameBoy
    http://homepage3.nifty.com/UK-taniyama/gnuboy/
    http://www.geocities.com/dwall/be300.html
    http://www.geocities.com/gnuboycehpc/

    GnuBoy CE* : GameBoy
    http://gnuboyce.cjb.net/ *
    http://www.geocities.com/gnuboyce/

    GnuBoy XCE : GameBoy : http://www.pocketgamer.org/games/emulators/index2.shtml
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/emu_down.html

    GameBoyVM : GameBoy
    https://sourceforge.jp/frs/index.php?group_id=147
    http://gvm.emuunlim.com/

    GameBoy Advance

    PocketAdvance
    http://my.netian.com/~tylor5/Po049.zip

    PocketGBA
    http://www.sunfug.com/sunfug2/ppc/wince.htm

    VBAdvanceCE
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/emu_down.html

    NES, Famicom

    NesCE : NES
    http://www.techmageppc.com/TMTFF.html

    nesCE : NES
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/emu_down.html

    nesCE Upgrade : NES
    http://pocketvcs.emuunlim.com/

    DarcNESce : NES
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/arc/

    FCEUce : NES

    InfoNES : NES
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/arc/
    http://mopeopage.hp.infoseek.co.jp/

    NesterCE : NES

    PocketNES : NES
    http://pocketnes.retrogames.com/

    PocketFC : NES

    PocketNester* : NES
    http://jetech.org/

    NesterJ4u* : NES
    http://verdandi.to/cee4u/

    SNES, Super Famicom

    PocketSNES : SNES
    http://www.techmageppc.com/TMTFF.html

    PocketSNES Bleeding Edge* : SNES
    http://paqpark.nuclearfallout.net/projects/pocketsnes.php

    IPS PocketSNES : SNES
    http://www.techmageppc.com/TMTFF.html

    TWFC : SNES
    http://www.icode.com.tw/frame.asp?URL=http%3A//www.icode.com.tw/myweb.asp%3Fmenu%3D11%26sitecode%3D38922%253BxACPyzOlQsItmWZbk9xZ
    SNESCE : SNES

    PlayStation, PSone

    FPSEce : PlayStation 1
    http://fpsearm.psxfanatics.com/

    PocketSX : PlayStation 1

    Colecovision

    PocketColeco* : Colecovision
    http://pocketvcs.emuunlim.com/coleco/coleco.html

    Odyssey 2/Videopac Plus (G7400)

    Pocket Odyssey2
    http://www.clickgamer.com/moreinfo.htm?pid=39┬žion=PPC

    Atari 2600

    PocketVCS* : Atari 2600
    http://pocketvcs.emuunlim.com/

    GameGear, Master System

    CEGG : Game Gear/Master System
    http://www.geocities.com/bonelyfish/cegg.html

    smsCE : Master System
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/emu_down.html

    Virtual Game Gear : Game Gear
    http://www.synovial.com/

    Genesis, MegaDrive

    PocketGenesis* : Genesis (MegaDrive)
    http://www.pocketemulator.com/genesis.html

    TurboGrafX, PC Engine

    bfEngine : PC Engine
    http://www.geocities.com/bonelyfish/bfe.html

    PocketEngine : PC Engine
    http://pocketengine.retrogames.com/

    TWPCE : PC Engine
    http://www.icode.com.tw/myweb.asp?menu=11&sitecode=38922%3BxACPyzOlQsItmWZbk9xZ

    TGEmuCE : PC Engine
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/emu_down.html

    Wonderswon

    PocketWS* : Wonderswon
    http://www.sunfug.com/sunfug2/ppc/pocketws.htm

    Cycne : Wonderswan
    http://www.icode.com.tw/myweb.asp?menu=11&sitecode=38922%3BxACPyzOlQsItmWZbk9xZ

    oswanCE : Wonderswon
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/

    Atari Lynx

    PocketLynx : Lynx
    http://www.pocketemulator.com/lynx.html

    NeoGeo

    Neopocott : NeoGeo Pocket
    http://neopocott.emuunlim.com/download.html

    Multi Arcade

    MameCE* : Multi Arcade
    http://www.mameworld.net/mamece3/

    MegaMameCE* : Multi Arcade
    http://www.mameworld.net/mamece3/

    MameCE3 : Multi Arcade
    http://randy3.hp.infoseek.co.jp/mobile/

    iMAME* : Multi Arcade
    http://www.mameworld.net/imame/

    Apple IIc

    AppleCE : Apple II
    http://www.geocities.com/bonelyfish/applece.html

    Pina* : Apple II
    http://oldpc.jp/emu/eng/

    PocketIIE : Apple II
    http://www.freewareppc.com/utilities/pockete.shtml

    Atari 800XL, Atari 5200

    PocketAtari* : Atari 800XL, Atari 5200
    http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=40606&release_id=139301
    http://pocketatari.retrogames.com/

    AtariST

    CastCE*** : AtariST
    http://www.pocketinfinity.com/

    Commodore 64

    Come Back : C64
    http://www.techmageppc.com/TMTFF.html

    Pocket C64* : C64
    http://www.clickgamer.com/

    PocketHobbit
    http://www.omnytex.com/ph/

    VZ/Laser 200

    VZCE : VZ/Laser 200
    http://homepage.powerup.com.au/~intertek/vzce/

    MSX

    fmsxCE : MSX 1, MSX 2
    http://www.imasy.or.jp/~ngs/emu/emu_down.html

    PocketMSX* : MSX 1, MSX 2
    http://www.sunfug.com/sunfug2/ppc/pocketmsx.htm

    Oric 1/Atmos

    PocketOric : Oric 1/Atmos
    http://www.chez.com/edl/

    PC88

    M88* : PC 88
    http://www.aosoft.jp/m88ce/

    PC98

    Pocket9801* : PC98
    http://www.h4.dion.ne.jp/~yyy/freesoft/index.html

    Sharp MZ-2500

    EmuZ-2500
    http://www1.interq.or.jp/~t-takeda/mz2500/mz2500ppc.zip

    PC DOS

    PocketDOS* : PC DOS
    http://www.pocketdos.com

    Sinclair Spectrum

    PocketClive* : Spectrum
    http://pocketclive.emuunlim.com/

    Sinclair Spectrum Emulator : Spectrum
    http://www.palmtop.nl/ce/hpc_spectrum.html

    Palm

    CoPilot CE : Palm OS
    http://www.conduits.com/ce/apps/copilot.asp

    LED Handhelds

    LEDHead : electronic LED handheld games
    http://www.peterhirschberg.com/handheld/ledhead/index.htm

    Lucas Art Game Interpreter

    PocketSCUMM* : Lucas Art Game Interpreter
    http://arisme.free.fr/PocketScumm/

    Sierra Game Interpreter

    PocketSarien* : Sierra Game Interpreter
    http://pocketatari.retrogames.com/downloads.html

    Infocom Game Interpreter

    FrotzCE : Zork Game interpreter
    http://www.pocketpccity.com/software/ppc/FrotzCE-1999-11-07-ce-ppc.html

    ZipCE : Infocom Game interpreter
    http://www.geocities.com/zipceppc/

    HP-12C

    Pocket Biz Calculator : HP-12C
    http://www.odysseyinc.com/products/calcsoft/bizcalc/default.htm

    HP48

    Emu48* : HP48
    http://web.jet.es/leobueno/emu48.htm

    TI59

    TI59CE : TI Calculator
    http://alain.zanchetta.free.fr/

    TI82+

    VTI Pocket Emulator v2.4: TI-82, TI-83, TI-83 Plus, TI-85, TI-86 and TI-89 calculators
    http://ticalcemulator.calcnews.net/

  9. 9
    henrykong says:

    Originally posted by Green1
    [B]The article has a link to PPC article. Boy is that article old or what. It’s practically coming from the last ice age. (plus the article is wee bit fluffy.)

    PPC emu list.
    http://www.pdarcade.com/modules.php?name=Sections&op=viewarticle&artid=102

    older list:
    http://www.emulation9.com/wince.html
    http://www.pocketgamer.org/games/emulators/index.shtml

    —————————-Copy, spread the joy.

    it is one thing to copy a list from a posting somewhere

    and another thing to write brief comments about a few emulators

    and still another thing to
    1 have experienced owning/playing with a wide range of consoles/handhelds/computers these emulators duplicate,
    2 buy/download/test run a good number of emulators and
    3 screenshot/organise/write about them

    this is the reason i believe that since my article on ppc emulators as far back as 03/06/2001
    it is still one of the 2 overviews on ppc emulators
    with screenshots of running programs that i have come across on the web

    the other is an article which i wrote, entitled
    Everything you ever wanted to know about ppc Emulators
    after Mike Wagstaff, admin of http://www.pocketgamer.org
    (still THE place for ppc games after all these years)
    emailed me after reading that article
    that he wished it was posted on his page instead
    so i wrote a few articles for pocketgamer
    including an expanded listing of ppc emulators

    btw what green1 refered to as the ice-age
    is really the golden age of ppc
    when all manufacturers are giving up their incompatibility
    for one single fast chip, the strongarm chip that ipaq has adopted
    thus making emulation a more precise science
    at a time many ppc users were asking, ‘what is an emulator?’

    judging from the passionate discussion that followed the article
    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/ubb/Forum245/HTML/000001.html
    i would venture to say that it was very well received

    nb it is ironic that the list that was copied from pdagamer
    mark higgins, the admin from pdagamer
    when notified of this post – emulators for palm os
    posted a note in his news page with a link
    then emailed me about the future possibilities of emulators for the palm
    like mike did when he saw mywriteup on emulators for the ppc
    at this time when palm is moving up with the same strongarm chip

    a case of history repeating itself? :D

  10. 10
    Green1 says:

    nb it is ironic that the list that was copied from pdagamer
    mark higgins, the admin from pdagamer

    obviously then you haven’t asked where the pdagamer list itself comes from. (check pdagamer forum thread)

    and also, the so called ‘golden age of PPC emulator’ are an era when there were less than half dozen sub par emulators. Only Mame and GB reached smooth playability and wide ROM compatibility. Compared that to current pNester, pocketSNES bleeding edge, and of course FPSeCE.

    PS. most of the emulator on that PPC article you tauted are either not available and has been replaced with better versions. The articles are archaic and has very little value except as historical note.

    1 have experienced owning/playing with a wide range of consoles/handhelds/computers these emulators duplicate,
    2 buy/download/test run a good number of emulators and
    3 screenshot/organise/write about them

    elaborate fluff is still a fluff.
    Here are what gamer care about emus write up:
    1. where to get the emu
    2. playability (fps, control arrangement)
    3. performance, if more than 1 emus are available.
    4. how to instal and deal with ROM if the steps are complicated. (FPSeCE and SCUMMVM are prime example)

    the spam-ce.com list addresses 3 of the items.

  11. 11
    henrykong says:

    Originally posted by henrykong
    [B]nb it is ironic that the list that was copied from pdagamer
    mark higgins, the admin from pdagamer….
    [/B]

    opps….
    should be pdarcade, not pdagamer

    imho a review
    that shows screenshots and actual running games
    helps a reader see what’s available
    and points the way to broaden his options

    for those whose appetite has been whetted
    more info is readily available from the links given

    from the majority who commented on the last thread
    and those above
    many liked and appreciated the review
    including many adminatrators of websites like
    zodiac gamer, tapland, clie source etc :D

    i love the consoles in its early days when every cartridge is joyfully anticipated
    i love the pcs in its early days when every new game is played and discussed
    i love emulators in its early days when every feature is longingly looked forward to

    the palm os scene is still this way
    people are still asking ‘what is an emulator?’
    and this are the golden days for the palm emulators
    like it was when i posted that ppc article

    btw zodiac gamer has a rather good list of palm emulators
    many not covered by my review

    happy days are here again :p

  12. 12
    Ken Overby says:

    Don’t forget Little John emulator for Palm OS 5 or greater.
    http://www.little-john.net/
    It emulates:
    NES
    SNES
    GB/GBC
    Sega Genesis/Megadrive
    Sega Master System
    Sega Game Gear
    Bandai Wonderswan/Wonderswan Color
    NeoGeo Pocket/NeoGeo Pocket Color
    Atari 2600
    …. Yup it is the best and stable and high resolution updated recently. Have fun.

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