If you have an HTC smartphone and are anything like me, you just can’t seem to get away from HTC’s Sense user interface. It’s sleek, intuitive, and has way more features than what the stock Android UI offers.
While some custom ROMs like CyanogenMod are quite popular, I could never quite stick with them because of the absence of HTC Sense. However, you can still get all the great features of a custom ROM without sacrificing the goodies of the Sense UI. Here are a few options:
Note: Before you can flash custom ROMs, you’ll need to root your Android device first. Use Google to find a how-to guide that’s catered towards your specific phone. If you’re still not sure that you want to root your Android device, here are a few reasons that might change your mind.
This is currently my primary ROM, mostly because I like the subtle changes to the theme that make it a bit darker, and the developer does a good job keeping it up to date. If you like the stock look of the Sense UI, but want it to look a bit more sleeker without overdoing it, this is the ROM for you.
This is a fantastic ROM for those that want the completely stock look of the Sense UI, but don’t want the bloatware that comes with it. It’s also a good choice for users who are new to flashing custom ROMs because of its easy maintenance tools like Virtuous Buddy and EZ-Customizer.
The best thing I like about SkyRaider is the recent apps in the notification pull-down menu. Surprisingly, I like it better than holding down the home button to view recent apps. SkyRaider also updated the stock Android keyboard to the Gingerbread keyboard.
If you want the best of both worlds (Sense UI and stock Android), Uncommon Sense is the ROM to use. It includes the wonderful widgets the Sense users love along with the look of the stock Android UI. It’s also packed with all the essential root apps and includes many browser choices by default (SkyFire, xScope and Dolphin HD).
If speed and smoothness is the selling point for you, IncROM might be up your alley. It’s probably the fastest and smoothest ROM I’ve tried. Plus, the developer is pretty quick to release fixes for bugs, so dev support is not a problem with this ROM.
The main feature of the Warm ROM is that it’s pretty. If you’re an artistic type, you’ll enjoy Warm. It also has a ton of mods (thanks to the Warm community) that you can install separately and play around with.
If you were born anytime after 1975, then you probably are familiar with console gaming. And as a kid growing up in the decades following, it seemed that each new year gave us bigger and better gaming options: NES became SNES, GameBoy turned into GameBoy Color and then GameBoy Advance, cartridges flattened into CDs, and Sega… well, Sega just kept adding Roman numerals to their newest systems (see: Master System I,II,III and Genesis I,II,III).
Pivotal games like Duck Hunt, Contra, Zelda, Mega Man, Mario Brothers, Pokémon, Paperboy, and Sonic captivated our minds and challenged our thumbs to new worlds and bigger boss battles. Those truly were the days.
But wait, why do these memories have to be mentioned in the past tense? Why can’t we relive these fond consoles (on a portable device) and their respective games that we cared to play? Well, we can, thanks to console emulators and video game ROMs (for Android-based phones).
Okay, so as you may have noticed, those last two sentences became a bit conditional in meaning. This is because Techerator already has a great article on vintage emulators and their operation, which I recommend reading. With that in mind, it is the intention of this article to then compliment the other by showing the world that the classic games we know and love have branched off to another platform: the Android OS.
The Android Emulator Low-Down
Just type the word “emulator” into the search bar in the Android Market and it is easy to notice that there are quite a few options to choose from. But before I delve any further into this realm, it is pertinent to talk about the meat of emulation: the ROM file.
On to Android emulator basics: No matter what emulator you choose, a few things come standard for all. Most allow multiple save states for every game you load and run, and they are normally stored right on your SD card. Another standard feature is the option to use a virtual keypad or a physical one, with the latter allowing the user to map out buttons to their desire. Sound is also an option, but the quality appears to be a hit or miss depending on the ROM used.
When it comes to battery life, extended use (close to an hour or more) of an Android emulator is comparable to using your GPS module. So be mindful that running one or both may reduce your phone’s lifespan by quite a bit. Otherwise, short periods of emulator game play do not seem to have too much of an effect on the phone’s battery life.
Now that the air has been cleared on these issues, let’s examine a few Android emulators.
Emulators For Your Consideration
There are several Android applications that emulate the widely popular GameBoy series. Yes, I said series. GameBoy, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance; all three are available for emulation on your very own Android phone. I recommend looking into Tiger GBC for all GameBoy and GameBoy Color ROMs, and GameBoid for all GameBoy Advance titles.
And no, it is not shameful to have all of the Pokémon games loaded on your GameBoy emulators… but I would recommend not trying to use that information to impress people.
NES and SNES
Ah, Nintendo Entertainment System. A solar system of its own, filled with many classic games and the consoles that ran them. A few notable emulators to investigate include NESoid and Tiger FC/NES for the classic Nintendo Entertainment System and SNESoid and Tiger SNES for the Super NES.
Regardless of which ones you choose, you’ll be saving a princess or two in no time at all. But I warn you, she may be in another castle.
Can anyone mention the Sega Genesis without engaging in a conversation about Sonic the Hedgehog? I dare say not. But don’t just assume that a spiny blue mammal with expedited motives is the only option for Genesis gaming. Games like Earthworm Jim and Road Rash are great options as well. GENSoid in the Android Market is a good place to start your ring collecting.
After perusing the Market for a while, it becomes apparent that two major contenders have come out on top as respected Android emulator developers. In one corner we have Tiger King, a developer who supplies a range of major emulator titles and offers them for free, but has them subsidized by ads to pay for development and improvement. In the other corner, we have Yongzh, a developer that releases both lite and full versions of console emulators (and enjoys adding “-oid” to the end of console names), and asks for two-to-five dollars to use the full version. The full versions from Yongzh give features like cheats, save slots, and the ability to play others via Bluetooth and Wi-fi, while Tiger’s emulators allow for free downloading with the ability to save inside the emulator at any time.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you as to which ones to go with. Heck, try them both and see what happens. What harm is in that?
Whether you be a first-gen or a sixth-gen gamer, these emulators for Android should provide hours of viable, portable entertainment. Angry Birds, eat your heart out.
Back in the early ’90s things were different and, in some ways, better. MC Hammer was lighting up MTV with inflatable pants, Compuserve 3.25″ diskettes were confusing households across the US, and my family’s 66 MHz Pentium PC was a $3500 fiery hellbeast that made the Pentagon as nervous as current-day Wikileaks.
And the video games…
Before the gaming behemoths swallowed up the industry during the console wars, many games were developed by small groups of programmers that emphasized gameplay and challenging puzzles over graphics. Heck, the original Prince of Persia (1989) was developed by a single guy, Jordan Mechner, who carefully crafted a game that required a keen sense of timing, problem-solving ability, and patience…because approximately 0% of this game was passable on the first attempt.
I miss those days, sitting in my basement with my brother playing our NES and SNES, trying to get past that ridiculous ‘speeder’ level in Battle Toads (seriously, I’ve never played a game that went from ‘easy’ to ‘impossible’ as quickly as Battle Toads). Final Fantasy, Tetris, SimTower, StarFox! I want them back!
There are a few ways you can once again enjoy these classic games, so dust off that Power Glove and your favorite Zubaz, things are about to get retro.
Retro Gaming Repositories
Praise the Lord for basement-dwelling nerds that love their retro gaming. Two of my favorite places on the internet are RGB Classic Games and Liberated Games, which are sites devoted to the free legal distribution of retro games from DOS, Windows, and even a few from OS/2. If you’re looking for titles including the original Grand Theft Auto, Wolfenstein 3D, Age of Empires (1 and 2), and Duke Nukem (1 through 3D), you’re in luck.
It’s not all fun and games though – this software isn’t always a piece of cake to get working on modern computers. With some titles you’ll have to install in Compatibility Mode to get them to work on Windows 7. When I was installing SimTower the other day, I had to ensure that it was running as “Windows XP compatible”. I guess you take the bad with the good.
To complicate things a bit more, some titles absolutely will not run on a 64-bit operating system. To help ease the stress of geeks around the world, Microsoft offers the freely downloadable Windows Virtual PC which can be run within the Windows 7 environment, and effectively emulates a 32-bit version of Windows XP. This can be a hefty download, but if you absolutely NEED to get in a round of the original Command & Conquer, a few hundred megabyte download won’t hold a candle to your turbo-nerd resolve.
Pro-tip: Before downloading your favorite classic titles, make sure that it is legal to download the game.
Console Emulators and ROMs
Remember that trick with the NES where you’d take out the cartridge, blow into it, blow into the console, and then suddenly it would work? First of all, who invented that trick, and how did everybody find out about it? Second, wasn’t that Blinking Gray Screen Of Failure (BGSOF) depressing?
NES enthusiasts have helped to turn the system into something more reliable (and less susceptible to stray popcorn seeds) that can be played within your Windows or OS X environment. It’s pretty simple–people have written programs that essentially act as the console, and you can download “ROMS” which are the cartridges, single files that can be played by the emulator.
What are some popular emulators? For Windows 7 I use Nestopia (NES emulator) and ZSNES (SNES emulator). I’ve had great success with these programs, and very few problems. Some nice features include a built-in Game Genie (remember? That thing that destroyed your console two decades ago?) and the ability to interface with pretty much any USB gamepad ($10-30, depending on quality).
Have a Mac? No problem. Nestopia was originally developed for OS X and I’ve heard good things about BSNES (SNES emulator for OS X).
Happy Days are here to stay
Modern games like Halo and Starcraft 2 are great, and a lot of fun because they offer fantastic multiplayer options that just weren’t available in years past. However, sometimes you just want to kick back and enjoy some 8-bit graphics and mono sound. If you’re compelled to indulge your inner child gamer, don’t fret…your options abound.