Jstar’s Chronicles #23 – Karting with Emulation

In our 23rd issue, I do a “My Take” on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, along with a fresh reaction to the Dolphin emulator on the LG V20.

MY TAKE: MARIO KART 8 DELUXE

The next big Nintendo Switch game from the company itself; based on system seller for the Wii U, ported over when the Switch wasn’t even out for two months, when it’s still hard to find, and when some people may still be playing through the launch Zelda game. With the online service still slightly a mystery, and the potential audience growing every day, this game provides one of the first true online multiplayer experiences with a great cast of characters, wonderfully detailed tracks and karts, and just about everything being ported over from a console game with improvements; needed improvements.

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines; this is “My Take” on Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

By Nintendo
Released April 28th, 2017
Created for Nintendo Switch

Gameplay

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is legitimately just an enhanced port of Mario Kart 8; the same fantastic game that so few owned has been ported almost perfectly over to something that’s also natively a handheld. If you enjoyed Mario Kart 8 before, you’ll most likely enjoy this as well.

Controls are quite easy to use and are truly pick-up-and-play. Even while using a single Joy-Con sideways, the game still remains fun. It’s easy to steer (depending on your kart choice) and there’s even a few extra things added in for people who want to jump in safely.

There’s now “Smart Steering”, which allows for players to stay on the track at almost all times. It’s really quite useful at times when you’re driving at 200cc, but it can also force you away from shortcuts, making this a competitive disadvantage. You also don’t get the 3rd-Tier purple boosts from drifting long. It’s balanced in this case. There’s also “Auto Accelerate” for… well, reasons, but I simply used it to grind some coins for some sweet kart pieces to be unlocked. It’s useful for the people who need it, that’s for sure.

Content

Mario Kart 8 had a decent amount of content right at launch, but it eventually received updates and DLC, both free and paid. You were suddenly able to drive as Link in a Mercedes GLA in the Excitebike Arena, with the Villager from Animal Crossing right next to you. It suddenly got full of chaos, but that’s a good thing in this case.

However, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, all the extra characters and tracks before unlockable or with DLC paid-for was given to you right out of the box, along with most of the functionalities added with updates. You get an absolute insane amount of content out of the gate, but keep in mind that like I said earlier, some kart pieces are still unlockable, whether it’s through completing a set of cups or just getting enough coins through battles and/or races. Speaking of battles…

One of Mario Kart 8’s weaknesses was its… below-average Battle Mode. It was simply Balloon Battle on the race tracks, which was just not that fun to play with when you’re driving around instead of being in a straight path. The good news is that this Deluxe port brought on a completely revamped battle mode that’s actually really fun. There are now 5 different battle modes and 8 new tracks, some of which were returned from older games (Luigi’s Mansion from the GameCube). It brings a lot of new replay value to truly going crazy with multiple different battle modes, like Shine Thief and Renegade Roundup.

Jay’s Verdict

Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was great, but had room to improve. The Switch port to Deluxe fixed up almost everything that the original was bad in. A new Battle Mode, DLC as part of the game at launch, minor refined adjustments, and released early in the Switch’s lifespan, makes this truly a game that I’d personally recommend. Unless you’ve already bought the DLC on Wii U, this game is likely going to be something you’ll want to look into. I’d consider a little harder if you did buy the DLC already.

HOW TO: PLAY GAMECUBE/WII GAMES ON YOUR HIGH-END SMARTPHONE

One of the most popular emulators useable for computers is the “Dolphin” emulator. It runs very nicely to a lot of computer hardware configurations, along with being highly customizable and highly functional for almost all games at this point. It continues to improve thanks to the support of the developers and the community alike, and it’s overall a very good emulator for Wii and GameCube games.

However, what if you wanted to play your recent Nintendo games on the go? Maybe you recently got a beefy smart phone or tablet and really want to see if you can get this sucker running something good. That’s what I’m here for; to test out some popular games on a recently released Android phone; The LG V20.

I before did a “My Take” for the LG V20, and overall loved it for its great hardware and great functionalities. I didn’t plan on writing this up, but recently had the motivation from an anonymous Redditor who wanted to know more information about this. It’s very little to find info on this working well on a recent version on this phone, so I decided to write up something to help people who are also looking.

The recently-released LG V20 has 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, a Snapdragon 820 processor with the Adreno 530, Android 7.0, and all on a 5.7 inch 1440p display with a secondary display that comes in handy at times. It’s overall a sweet phone, but does it also run games as new as GameCube and Wii nicely, if even decently? Let’s find out.

Now, keep the following in mind:

  • I’m running a LG V20 that’s been used for several months; performance on newer and fresher hardware can almost always be better.
    • My phone is also un-rooted, so any of those other performance boosters that are usually suggested before running apps like these aren’t used in this case. If I eventually go back and root it, I’ll make a new revised guide.
  • I’m running the Dolphin Android version “5.0-3753”, which as of the time that this article was written, is the latest version. Keep in mind that this is an unstable version, but older versions have gotten pretty old to use for good performance at this point.
    • On the app, if it says “Dolphin 5.0-3617”, that’s also fine, as that’s what popped up on my phone as well.

With those out of the way, here we go;

  1. Download the apk of Dolphin here.
    1. You can always find the latest version over at https://dolphin-emu.org/download/ .
  2. Install it onto your Android smartphone. If any popups occur, deal with them so that the app can be installed.
  3. Look through the available settings:
    1. CPU Core: JIT ARM64 Recompiler
    2. Dual Core: Checked
    3. Audio Stretching: Depends;
      1. It does mess with audio a little, but it says to cut stuttering. I still had some occur either way.
    4. Native Resolution: 1x (640×528)
    5. Video Backend: OpenGL
      1. Using “Vulkan” should be better, but ended up crashing when booting up the game.
    6. Full-scene Anti-aliasing: 1x
    7. Anisotropic Filtering: 1x
    8. Scaled EFB Copy: Unchecked
      1. You’ll really want to push whatever you can out of this.
    9. Per-Pixel Lighting: Unchecked
      1. “Decreases emulation speed by some percent (depending on your GPU).”
    10. Force Texture Filtering: Unchecked
      1. Better safe than sorry, although you can try this and see if anything helps.
    11. Disable Fog: Checked
      1. Disable this if the games you’re trying out have some problems with it not having fog.
    12. Stereoscopy: Just turn everything off.
    13. “Hacks”:
      1. Generally speaking, whatever here says that it could improve performance is suggested to be turned on, and anything you don’t know about and/or confused with should be left alone.

With these settings in mind, let’s check out some framerates (with a DualShock 4 controller connected, and phone not charging up):

  • Super Smash Bros. Melee: 30-40 FPS while battling, slightly higher when the intro is running.
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii: ~35 FPS in the menu, I had trouble actually getting into a level, but it may have just been my controller.
  • Mario Kart Wii: Extremely varied; 25-35 FPS while driving, usually around 30 but stutters really bad until you get deep into a race (near the end of the first lap, for example).
    • There’s also a weird shaded out block that gets in the way of the gameplay; it’s only there while you’re racing, and things like the UI for controls in the Pause menu still show up in front of it. It may have been from some of the hacks that I kept on, so your mileage (heh) may vary.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: ~25-30 FPS while battling, intro plays faster.

I didn’t rip many games to my phone, but it’s clear that the few games that I did try are at least running at half speed. With the Galaxy S8 showing even stronger boosts, it’s clear that playing GameCube/Wii games on the go may end up being on our phones before the Nintendo Switch.

Due to how games were programed on the Wii and GameCube, and how the emulator works in general, frame skipping isn’t properly implemented in the emulator. This means that the games above, while normally running at 60 FPS, will run at around half of the speed that they normally would. In conclusion, I’d suggest waiting about a year or less until games can really be played on the go. The Galaxy S8(+) shows that we’re really close, so maybe the next Galaxy Note phone will be the one to do the job right (or the LG V30, who knows).

Let me know if there was anything that I messed up on and/or need to change, as well as stuff that I should change for my future revised guide!  Please note that I do not condone piracy of any sorts, and do not suggest associating that with this in any way, shape, or form. I highly suggest that you rip your games to be able to play them on the go.

THIS WEEK IN GAMING

  • Sega planning “revival of major IPs”
    • How this could end up is quite interesting, based on how the following excerpt explains;
    • “A “major issue” Sega says it will tackle is to “create titles that will become global hits.” To do this, they plan on reviving past IPs and actively utilizing existing IPs, new IPs, and external IPs, and maximizing the value of said IPs by expanding development channels (mobile devices, PC, and game consoles) and regions of the respective IPs’ development for a global simultaneous release.”
    • The “Road to 2020” Business Presentation can be seen here.

Next week, prepare for another game review, along with something on the level of this but on a somewhat more respectable day! Sorry this was released so late, but rest assured that I plan to not have this happen again! Until then, thanks for reading!

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