Today I’ll continue with my overview of game emulation with OpenEmu, a smashing emulation software package available for the Macintosh. OpenEmu strives to be a “just works” version of a game system emulator, with a number of historical console emulators available right out of the box.
This type of effort pulls together a number of worldwide developers, who each contribute game engines that can run a number of popular past game systems. System ROM support is built-in for consoles for the most part, with clear instructions on how to drag-and-drop missing ROM files. In other words, setup couldn’t be easier.
Adding game files is also as easy as dragging them to the OpenEmu library window, where they get evaluated and added to the playable library with cover illustrations added as well (for the most part).
The high level of art direction makes OpenEmu look great as well, and there are excellent representation of consoles and console controllers in the game’s configuration screens. The OpenEmu system supports Bluetooth game controllers, and I’d highly recommend bringing a fully-charged PS4 controller to the table to run the emulated game systems in this package.
The games run in a window separate from the main application, and you can scale this window on the fly. One caveat is that older emulated game systems have pixilation issues (compared to modern systems). Doubling the original screen size of an emulated handheld screen can result in an unplayable game situation.
Another issue to consider in running a game emulation system like OpenEmu is that even when you get the software up and running and hunt down the game ROMs needed, a number of consoles represented have a limited interest factor, which I’ll call “Emulation Fatigue”. Arguably there are some of us out there that can play Frogger or Tetris or Duck Hunt for hours on end on 20+ year old game emulators, but for a lot of us , the novelty of running an emulator ends around five minutes after you get the emulated game up and running.
To defeat this paradigm, game emulators have to rise to the same level of sophistication as a newer generation of system. OpenEmu generally supports the same set of past-their-freshness emulators that are fun for a nostalgic visit, but I was really pleased by the stellar support for Playstation Portable games in emulation.
The base-level PSP had a 10-year life after SONY introduced it in 2004, with production ceasing in 2014 after selling 80 million units (!). This decade of production led to a number of titles that would appeal to the techno nerd community, including sophisticated puzzle games, unique platformers and shooters, driving and flight simulators, as well as several StarWars and Star Trek / space shooter titles that have a lot of play value.
One issue to watch for when you consider PSP emulation via OpenEmu is that the earlier the title, the more probable that pixilation issues and lower-level graphic support will happen. As a rule of thumb, avoid games from the beginning of the PSP’s life, circa 2004-2008, and concentrate on titles from 2009-2014. This works well as a general rule for game sequels as well; the PSP was around long enough for popular launch titles to have sequels later in its’ life, and the sequels are often better than the latter games (IE, God of War: Ghost of Sparta is more fun than God of War: Chains of Olympus).
I tested OpenEmu on a 2016 MacBook with a Retina display, and a MacMini i5 circa 2011. Both ran practically every PSP game I threw at it, with my preference being the Retina display on my MacBook.
Here are my Top Fourteen games for PSP emulation on Macintosh, via OpenEmu:
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Fantastic platformer action game, great storyline, beautiful cutscenes
Seriously-fun Crash mode
Meticulous flight simulator / arcade system
From Russia With Love
Character-based shooter, with Sean Connery back as Bond in a new storyline
Call of Duty: Road to Victory
A bit simplistic compared to later versions, but playable
Metal Slug Anthology
Hands-down super-fun arcade shooter
Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny
Fun port of the Sega Dreamcast classic
Star Trek Tactical Assault, No Gravity: The Plague of Mind
Arcade action set in the Trek universe; fun space arcade game shooter
Archer Maclean’s Mercury, Exit by Taito, Echocrome, Flow
Intriguing interactive puzzle games
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
Disney characters in an anime universe
Star Wars titles
Not only Battlefront and Battlefront II, but also Force Unleashed, Lethal Alliance and Clone Wars: Republic Heroes
To sum up, OpenEmu is a great way to play PSP games, with a lot of play value in the historic PSP game library in 2018. Hunt down those games on the P-Bay and Emuparadise and related sites, and enjoy yourself…