Ported to Macintosh by John Stiles
In the past, emulation of anything ranging from game consoles, arcade machines, to other OSes has been anything but satisfying. SNES9X, an excellent Super Nintendo emulator, breaks that mold with stunning, clear, and nearly flawless gameplay. Incorporating features that were once exclusive to other slower emulators (such as “Silhouette”), the newest installation of SNES9X reclaims its title as the fastest, most compatible, most versatile, and the overall best emulator.
The Need For Speed
SNES9X has undergone a major improvement since its last update nearly a year ago. The project was nearly cancelled for legal reasons, and then handed off to another group to continue development. The results are astounding! SNES9X is now completely playable on most of the 603 and 604 PowerMac systems, even with sound on. Music and audio no longer lags or skips, and sprites move with greatly optimized and more fluid animation. However, for graphics and effects-intensive games such as Super Metroid, at least a 604-based computer is needed for optimal gameplay speeds.
Almost the Real Thing
Along with the new, optimized PowerPC code core, SNES9X also packs in a full house of special effects support that were either rare or non-existent in previous emulators. First of all, translucency support is extremely speedy on most of the mediocre to higher-end Macs. This means that games like Zelda are fully experienced with the translucent fog, clouds, and shading effects generated by the Super Nintendo’s hardware. Also added was some SuperFX support, the chipset which allowed 3D-polygon games like StarFox to be possible. With integrated support for all of these effects, SNES9X can play nearly every Super Nintendo game to date with amazing accuracy.
Several nuances to the interface make SNES9X a more pleasurable experience for the user as well. The keyboard layout is now customizable; many of the techno-jargon options have either been eliminated or tucked away into a neat new Preferences dialog box. (Who really knows what HDMA and Interleaving support is?) The emulator even offers a Game Genie feature to cheat on those really tough games, although its functionality isn’t perfect; we couldn’t get the Super Metroid codes to work properly. It kept the “Freeze” and “Defrost” features from previous versions, which is basically a “save at any time” option. Gamers can even take a screenshot of the game, useful to post on the web and gloat to competing gamers about.
In all, the newest update to SNES9X has brought it back up to the “best emulator” status. Speedy gameplay, near perfect compatibility, and a wealth of features and special effects make this emulator hard to pass up for nostalgic Super Nintendo players and computer gamers alike.
Startup Doubler 1.1
If you have enough time to walk the dog, do the dishes, water the lawn, and get a glass of lemonade while your Mac starts up, you surely need to add a little zip to your startups. Startup Doubler, by Marc Moini, is an easy way to slightly reduce the time it takes to start up.
Startup Doubler’s installation procedure is nearly foolproof. Downloading takes a few seconds (the package is 90 KB), and the installer is a one-step wonder. After opening the installer, the user merely selects the target volume and clicks “Install” to place all of the necessary files in their place. The user can then toggle the startup acceleration with the simple Startup Doubler Control Panel.
Not Quite Double
Although Startup Doubler’s documentation touts an up to twofold increase in startup speeds, real-world tests on several computers with differing configurations yielded much more subtle results. A PowerMac 6400/200 system loaded with 40 Control Panels and more than 135 extensions, for example, saw a 17% decrease from a startup time of 1:26 (minutes) to 1:11. Even though a somewhat valuable 15 seconds are shaved off the startup time, the savings hardly amount to the “potential” 50% decrease in time claimed by the author.
For slight decreases in startup time, Startup Doubler provides a quick, simple, but slightly overpriced solution. However, most users would be better off saving both startup time, disk space, and system memory by cleaning out their Control Panels and Extensions Folders.