Connectix Virtual Game Station
Estimated Price: $49.99
Much has been written about Connectix’s Virtual Game Station, and as of the writing of this review, it has not yet gone out to the vendors to be sold. But thanks to Connectix, My Mac has been “playing” with it now for a few weeks. And so far, I’m very impressed.
Most of you know that Virtual Game Station (VGS for short) will only run on a G3 Power Mac. If you own an early Power Mac, you’re out of luck. Many people have written in asking me if I know why this is so. The answer is that VGS needs a very fast system bus speed, 50MHz or greater, to ensure decent game play. System bus speed is not the same as CPU MHz, so even if you have a 603e 100MHz system, it will not work. (See “Carpe Tracheam” by Mark Anthony Collins in the January 1999 issue for an excellent tutorial on the difference between CPU MHz and System bus speeds)
Connectix has been creating great Macintosh software for a long time. From Ram Doubler, Speed Doubler, Virtual PC and others, Connectix has proven time and time again that they are great innovators of Mac software. VGS is just one more example of the creative talent that the company has.
Does VGS work? You bet, and very well, I might add. It allows Macintosh G3 owners (including the iMac) to play Sony Game Station games right on their Macintosh. And it does so at true Game Station speeds (not really surprising as the G3 chip in these Macs is much faster than the chips in a Sony Play Station).
When you install VGS you actually do a two-part install. First, you install the ATI drivers which come on the CD. Then you install the VGS application itself. The VGS application, once it’s installed, takes less than 1.2MB of disk space. So not only does the program work, it takes very little space on your hard drive. Like Virtual PC, (see David E. Price’s review of Virtual PC 2.0 in this issue) Virtual Game Station is emulation software. It requires about 9MB of memory for play.
How does it work? When you launch VGS, it asks for you to install a Play Station CD.
Once you do so, VGS takes over and your Mac is now a Play Station. Of course, you may want to take a visit to the Preference menu and configure your keyboard to use as the controller. (You can also bring up the hidden menu bar by hitting the ESC key on your keyboard.) If you’re a die-hard Play Station user, using a keyboard rather than a joystick controller will be very cumbersome. With any luck, a Play Station Mac controller will be forthcoming shortly in both USB and serial port versions.
Game play on a true G3 is very smooth and fast. On a Mac with a G3 upgrade card, such as my Power Mac 6500, it’s somewhat choppy and slow. Sound works almost flawlessly on an iMac or other G3, but not so on an upgraded Mac. In other words, if you have an older Mac with a G3 card installed in lieu of a real Macintosh G3, don’t bother with VGS. It just will not run as well.
The only problems I have found so far involve multi-CD Play Station games; those games which make you insert another CD during game play. However, Connectix does not advertise that VGS will work with all Play Station games, so if you’re under the impression you can pick up any of the thousands of games for the Play Station and use them on your Mac, you’re mistaken.
This is a great program. While PC users have longed claimed dominance over Mac users in the number of games available for their platform of choice, the Connectix Virtual Game Station now brings us thousands of new games playable on the Mac–something which the PC world can only dream of doing. Connectix has stated that a PC version is in the works, but recent rumors aside about Apple trying to either buy the rights to Virtual Game Station to keep it a Mac only application or else buying Connectix corporation itself, Mac users now have a leg up on the computer game playing world. Connectix should be commended for this superb piece of engineering emulation, and like any product that gives Mac users new ways use their computers, Connectix will be rewarded with the sale of thousands of copies of this software. It works great, gives Mac users a new way to play games, and it’s from a company which has shown a dedication to the Macintosh platform year after year. Thanks, Connectix!
MacMice Rating: 2.5