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Liberty, Palm OS Gameboy Emulator
Ed Hardy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After years of waiting, Liberty, the GameBoy emulator for the Palm is finally here! Is it perfect? No. Will it allow you to play GameBoy games on your Palm? Most certainly yes.
Liberty comes in two forms: demo and registered. The demo form is fully functional except that it can only play ROMs that are at most 32 K. Fortunately, it comes with a few demo games that are that small and a quick search of the Internet quickly turned up some other games that also meet that criteria. This should give you everything you need to fully test the app before putting down your money.
When you first launch Liberty you will see a screen that displays the games you have loaded onto your Palm. This is straight-forward; just select a game and hit 'Play".
I played all the bundled freeware games and Liberty executed them fairly well on my Palm IIIx. Several of them are strategy games so the speed that they play at is unimportant. One of the games is called "Free Ants!" and it is a good test for how quickly this emulator runs. It is a version of the great old game "Lemmings" so it needs to be run fairly close to real time to be fun. It tears me up to say this but this really didn't happen for me.
When I wasn't happy about how quickly "Ants" was moving, I played around on the Configuration screen. This will allow you to set the throttle speed. As the instructions say, "Some games will be faster with throttle set to low; some with throttle set to high." This is also where you can set your frame skipping, called 'frame blit'. The default setting for this is to show every other frame but you can reduce this all the way to every fourth frame or show every one. I played around with these for a while and still wasn't satisfied. "Ants" has a convenient timer on it and each second on the timer took about three seconds in real time. So the game was just barely playable but it took a bit of patience.
The instructions recommend using an over-clocking utility. In fact, they say they'll be offering a bundle of Liberty and Afterburner. So I installed the latest version of Afterburner and set Liberty up to the maximum speed I could: 32 MHz. This helped quite a bit. The each second on the timer on "Ants" now took about 1.5 seconds of real time.
Though I'm a touch disappointed I really can't fault Liberty for not being as fast as a real GameBoy. Emulating one piece of hardware on another is a tremendously difficult thing to do and the Palm's Dragonball processor isn't exactly a speed demon. The one in my Palm IIIx pokes along at 16 MHz, the Palm Vx and IIIc sport 20mhz chips. The fact that Liberty works at all is a major achievement.
I decided it was time to break away from "Ants" and tried some other commercial GameBoy games. I met with mixed results. Some games wouldn't play at all. Some worked fine. Naturally, the games I had the best luck with were the strategy games where the speed of the game is less important.
Liberty comes with a utility to convert GameBoy games (.gb) to Palm format (.pdb). I tried this with half a dozen games and it worked great every time. Just drop a game onto the conversion utility and it will be converted almost instantly. This is a really great feature and the developers deserve a lot of applause. What surprised me most about this is how much the file sizes increased. For example, a GameBoy file that was 256 K became a Liberty game at 481 K.
I feel obligated to point out here that downloading GameBoy ROMs off the Internet is illegal and the guys at Gambit Studios won't have anything to do with it. As the developers say in the instructions, "Do not contact Gambit Studios asking where to get commercial games. We don't know, and will not respond to your requests."
The other options on the Configuration screen weren't important during my quest for speed but they are handy once you are playing the games. You can remap any of the buttons and make the Calc and Find buttons into Select and Start buttons. There are also 'Select' and 'Start' buttons at the top of the screen that are always available.
If you have a non-color handheld, you can change the brightness of the grayscale tones for better viewing in various lighting conditions using the Grayscale screen. Just select the settings that provide the best picture for you.
If you have a color handheld, Liberty will show games in color after you change the gray palette to a color combination you like. You can select any color combination you choose. The developers advise, "Our experience has shown us softer colors work much better than bright ones, and complementary colors better than contrasting ones."
The developers for Liberty, Michael Ethetton and Aaron Ardiri, deserve a big round of applause for all their hard work. They persevered, putting in ridiculous hours, to produce a piece of software that nay-sayers had dismissed as "Vaporware". But it isn't vapor and it is available now for $16.95 on their site, PalmGear, or Ardiri.com.
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