Thursday, August 1, 2019

Eric Vs. 365 - Day 32 - Pilotwings 64

Kicking off month 2 of Eric Vs. 365 is Pilotwings 64. This is one of our absolute favorite N64 games and one of our favorite games overall. Even though it was an N64 launch title it still holds up incredibly well in terms of visuals and gameplay. We love it. We wish Nintendo would have released an N64 classic mini so we could play it properly, though, but if Nintendo doesn't want our money then that's their problem. Continue reading for more!

Pilotwings 64 is great. It's amazing. It's still tons of fun. It still looks great. Yadda yadda yadda. Today I want to talk about the state of N64 emulation, however, because that's how I played Pilotwings 64 for this video and likely will for many more N64 (and other platforms ...) games to come. The short version is that it's awesome now.

The long version follows. Before I started this little project I assumed N64 emulation was still really rough. Even a year or two ago it seemed like most games didn't work properly or you had to jump through a lot of hoops to make things work. To my surprise, somehow everything is great now. I wouldn't say it is 100%, or even 90% "perfect", but as long as you can accept a graphical glitch or two pretty much everything is playable now. And even if it doesn't work right by default, you can adjust an option or two in the emulator to get just about anything running properly. 

I'm using the latest version of Project64, which you can download here - . You may have heard that Project64 comes with malware, but if you download from the official website you don't have to worry about that. It does have a pop-up that asks for donations, but you can circumvent that easily enough (find that for yourself). The Project64 forums are also a great place to get setup advice if you're struggling to get a particular game to work. I'm also using an N64 to USB adapter - that you can buy on Amazon <---- over there  - so I'm using a real N64 controller, which makes a huge, huge difference in how these games feel and play.

I've honestly been very pleasantly surprised with how well everything has worked. I don't know if it is because Project64 is finally just this good or maybe I just have a beefy enough laptop that it just brute forces its way to glory but, outside of the occasional visual glitch, things have been great. 

One thing I have noticed, however, is that a lot of the discussion about N64 emulation online is very, very, very out of date, which is why I was under the impression that it still didn't work right. You'll find forum posts and compatibility lists and stuff from 2006 that people still swear by, but they are wildly inaccurate now. Hardware is much more capable and the emulators are much better now. Someone needs to just re-write the book on N64 emulation so people don't keep using such old info.

I don't really want to talk about the ethics of emulation and ROMs here but 1. Nintendo doesn't make any money off used N64 games, which is how you'd be buying physical copies. 2. Nintendo isn't selling N64 games digitally anywhere anymore. 3. Nintendo could release an N64 classic mini but stubbornly refuses to take my money. So I have no qualms about doing this. I know there are retro gaming purists that only want to play on real hardware, and that' s fine, but I'm not one of them.

The benefits of emulation are more than just playing games for free, though. You can make games look sharper and better and run smoother than is possible on real hardware. You can play import titles you never had a chance to play before and many of them even have English patches! And built in cheats let you get to the fun stuff quickly. 

So that's my story. Pilotwings 64 is great and N64 emulation is pretty darn solid these days.