Sunday, 22 November 2020

PS2 Mame - Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator for the PlayStation 2 / PS2 / PSTwo

OK, so its not exactly MAME.. oh wait.. It is MAME, and for the PS2!

PS2 owners are already rich and spoilt for choice when it comes to commercially released arcade game collections and arcade game conversions across both the PS1 and PS2 platforms, but almost every PS2 owner must have a few arcade games in mind that haven't commercially shown their face on the PS2.. could PS2 MAME be the solution to "Fill in the gaps"?

Well... as always, there are limitations. Dont expect to be grabbing your lightgun and firing up House of the Dead just yet.

There are three important things to take into consideration before you start tinkering with PS2 MAME:

  • The PS2 is an old console with limited processor power, graphics grunt and memory size.
  • PS2 MAME is based around an old release of MAME. Version 0.37b16 aka Version 0.52.
  • PS2 MAME is a technical demo. A proof of concept for want of a better word.

With this in mind, I decided to carry out two tests:

  • Test 1 - Make up a list of old 8 bit arcade classics that aren't already available commercially for the PS2 (or PS1), and try them out on PS2 MAME.
  • Test 2 - Make a list of increasingly complex arcade games, and determine at what point PS2 MAME's performance starts to become affected.

PS2 MAME - The Preparation

1. Download PS2 MAME. I found a number of different places that PS2 MAME could be downloaded from. The best download I found was "OPL Ready PS2 MAME", which containd detailed instructions and a pre made .iso file ready to add games to. I also found out that PS2 MAME doesn't have a browser, and will only launch games from the ROMS directory of the PS2 MAME ISO / CD. Max. number of Romsets per CD - 30.
This totally scuppered my plans to copy the whole MAME 0.37b16 romset to a USB stick and launch from there!

2. Download a complete MAME romset for MAME 0.37b16 aka MAME 0.52. I couldn't find a complete 0.37b16 romset available for download. After giving up searching, I found a .dat for MAME 0.37b16 and complete romsets for MAME 0.36 and MAME 0.72. I used CLRMAMEPro and the .dat file to the rebuild a complete unmerged 0.37b16 romset (Unmerged as I thought that this was the safest bet for getting games running). I ended up being around 30 individual roms short of a complete romset, and those 30 odd roms belonged to completely obscure games that I had never heard of, so at this point I decided that I had obtained enough romsets for the test.

3. Download a complete set of Samples for MAME 0.37b16. This was somewhat easier than acquiring the romsets as there are numerous MAME websites dedicated to MAME sample sets so I had the complete collection downloaded in no time.
This turned out to be a waste of time...

4. I used UltraISO to add a selection of old 8 bit arcade game roms and samples to the provided PS2 MAME .iso file, maximum of 30 games per CD. All of the romsets must be individually zipped. The authors notes mentioned using unzipped roms to reduce slowdown in games however all unzipped romsets that I have tried haven't worked. The zipped romset filenames must conform to old skool DOS. Name and extension in upper case, Name max. length 8 characters plus extension e.g. COMMANDO.ZIP. I also made a "gamelist.txt" file listing all of the games I had added minus the file extension in the order that they appear in the ROMs directory. Note: I have found that PS2 MAME doesn't support samples, so no need to bother with a "SAMPLES" directory. Two ISO's prepped for test 1 and test 2.

5. I copied my ISO files to the CD directory of a USB stick pre-formatted to run with OPL (Open PS2 Loader) and then used OPL to launch the ISOs. Note - By default, PS2 MAME is in NTSC format causing some of the game screen to be lost off of the bottom of the TV screen. Use OPL GSM to force PS2 MAME to run in PAL mode, and you will get a complete screen.

PS2 MAME - Test 1

I ended up struggling a bit with the list of games for test 1 as at least half of the list I initially selected were already available on the PS1 or PS2, however I did end up with a list of 18 games to try.

From the games that I tried, I ended up with the following conclusions:

  • All of the vector based games that I tried didn't work. Just a mess of graphics on the screen.
  • All of the 8 bit games that required samples played ok graphically, but played in silence.
  • All of the other 8 bit games that I tried played well, although some had slightly distorted sound.

Details for Test 1:

  • Amidar - Works
  • Berzerk - Works, no sound (Sound Sample game)
  • Donkey Kong - Works
  • Donkey Kong Jr - Works
  • Donkey Kong 3 - Works
  • Frogger - Works (Yes there is a PS1 Frogger, but its a 2.5D remake)
  • Gorf - Works
  • Jr Pac-Man - Works
  • Mr DO! - Works
  • Qbert - Works (Yes there is a PS1 Qbert game with a "Retro" mode but no official port/emulation).
  • River Patrol - Works
  • Star Wars - Not Working (Vector Game)
  • Star Castle - Not Working (Vector Game)
  • Super Earth Invasion - Works
  • Time Pilot '84 - Works
  • Tron - Works
  • Uniwars - Works
  • Zaxxon - Works, No Sound (Sound Sample Game)

Not too shabby! I though I'd be lucky if 1 or 2 games worked, so whilst enthusiasm was high, I continued onto test 2.

PS2 MAME - Test 2

From the games that I tried, it was clear that once you go 16 bit there is varying levels of slowdown, although functionally and graphically a lot of them play correctly.

Details for Test 2:

  • Afterburner - Not Working
  • Outrun - Works very slowly
  • Shinobi - Works, noticably slower
  • Super Space Invaders '91 - Works, noticably slower
  • Space Harrier - Works slowly but screen tiles are mixed up some
  • Alien Syndrome - Works, noticably slower
  • Gauntlet - Works, noticably slower
  • The Simpsons - Not Working
  • Commando - Working
  • Ikari Warriors - Works, noticably slower

PS2 MAME test - Conclusions

If you want to play some old skool 8 bit arcade games on your PS2 (and you're not too worried about the sound on all of them being 100% perfect) then PS2 MAME is well worth your time and effort, but as a rule of thumb, any zipped romset larger than around 150 kB is not going to play at full speed, if it plays at all.

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