At some point in the last few years, I decided that I was going to set up a box full of emulators and older games and put it under the living room TV and have access to decades worth of interactive entertainment whenever I felt like it.
That was before I realized that just playing the games I had actually, you know, BOUGHT would probably last me until the end of days and I didn’t need access to thousands more. So that project got shelved, and then I took the shelf I’d shelved it on and fed it through a wood chipper, and then I burned the chips.
Really I just wanted to see how far I could take that metaphor.
Still, I had a retro style gamepad lying around as a result, and it became unearthed during a recent cleaning spree, so I figured I would see how the Surface 3 could handle emulation tasks. I also have a handful of GBA, WonderSwan and SegaCD games in the backlog still, so I carefully went out and found ROM images for JUST those games, set up RetroArch, and gave it a go.
Initial results are… well, they’re passable. From the point of view of “I have a portable SNES in my backpack and can pop out its little kickstand and play a game wherever I want”, it’s pretty good! It’s totally like that Switch reveal video, where Karen invades your cool rooftop party so she can play video games in the middle of it. I HAVE BECOME KAREN, DESTROYER OF FUN.
Performance, on the other hand, well, the Surface 3 does not have a beefy processor and it seems to be stretching things a bit to get much oomph out of it. I started with Klonoa: Empire of Dreams, and it plays really well when you’re in the game levels… but when you’re on the world map, or in one boss fight so far, there’s a ton of audio slowdown and it’s really kind of painful on the ears. And that’s just a GBA game, which should not be a real burden to emulate. I’m definitely not going to try emulating any 3D systems on this little guy.
Also as a side note, it’s very weird loading some of these ROM images and seeing little intro bits by whatever group ripped the images, with Amiga-demoscene-style bouncing text and greetings to their buddies, before you can actually get to the intro screen of the game. It’s a mix of nostalgia and annoyance.