GameCube emulators

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The Nintendo Gamecube (GCN)

The GameCube (GCN/NGC) is a 32-bit sixth-generation console released by Nintendo in 2001. Nintendo, Namco, and Sega later designed the Triforce arcade board based on the GameCube, releasing titles for it the next year.

Nintendo released the successor, the Wii, in 2006 where it was revealed to have very similar (albeit more powerful) hardware and compatible interfaces. This meant that the Wii could handle GameCube games natively rather than use emulation. In contrast, when the Wii U was released in 2012 it contained a Wii mode that could use Wii remotes, but didn't have ports for GameCube controllers or supported GameCube games; the controller issue was later resolved with the Super Smash Bros. adapter, but this still didn't allow GameCube titles to be run.

Emulators[edit]

Name Operating System(s) Latest Version GCN Wii Triforce Libretro Core Recommended
PC
Dolphin Multi-platform GIT [N 1] [N 2]
Ishiiruka-Dolphin Windows GIT
Dolphin (Nintendo) Windows e2.8
Gekko Windows, Linux SVN
Mobile
Dolphin Android GIT ?
  1. Requires the Triforce branch to work. It is very old and unsupported.
  2. Currently at Alpha release and has bugs that are not present on standalone Dolphin.

Comparisons[edit]

  • Dolphin is the emulator of choice for the GameCube, and the only emulator for the Wii. It's updated on a near daily basis and has very good emulation of almost every game, though some games have known bugs on their issue trackers. The developers maintain a wiki containing known bugs, tips, user-provided tests, and much more for every game. System requirements are high, moreso for Wii games than GameCube.
  • Gekko is still in very early development after being on hiatus for many years, and is nowhere near achieving Wii emulation either. For Triforce emulation, MAME is not optimized for 3D systems yet, nor is Triforce emulation very good either.
  • Ishiiruka-Dolphin is a fork of Dolphin optimized towards performance at the cost of accuracy and stability in the process. Its most important features are:
    • Async shader compilation (Avoiding shader compilation time)
    • Galop's DX11 Texture Encoder/Decoder (Improve Texture decoding specially EFB TO RAM)
    • Pre compiled Vertex loader & Optimized vertex decoding using SSSE3 and SSE4
    • Dolby Pro Logic II support for XAudio and OpenAL
    • Custom Texture improvements to allow direct compressed texture loading including mipmaps
    • DSP - Time Stretching Option (Improve sound output to avoid sound skipping on slow machines)
    • DX9 support for old machines
    • Modified Post Processing interface to support:
      • Multiple Stages allowing more complex effects.
      • Depth and native gamma as inputs.
      • Custom version of DolphinFX that work under dx11 and ogl
      • SSAO and DOF.
      • Texture Scaling Support
      • Bump Mapping with advanced material properties
      • Phong Specular reflection to improve lighting quality
      • Tessellation and Displacement Mapping
      • Rim Lighting
      • Bump auto generation to improve lighting

Running BIOS[edit]

To boot the GameCube's original BIOS, you need a dump from real hardware. Dolphin does not require it to load games, but can be set to use it if desired. Current development builds have introduced a feature allowing users to load the BIOS directly from the interface in the Tools list without needing to load a game, as well as hybrid XFB. If you're on the stable release, use XFB Virtual and disable "Skip BIOS" in the GameCube options; you will have to load a GameCube title so that the startup animation begins and like on the original console, you hold the first controller's A button down and the system will send you into the main menu instead of booting the game. You can then switch to another game with Change Disc, or you can explore the BIOS.

Peripherals[edit]

GC/GBA Cable[edit]

Nintendo produced a special cable (DOL-011) that allowed connectivity with the Game Boy Advance in specific games. Up to four ports could be taken up for the game. While the third-generation Pokémon games are the prime example of it being used in conjunction with Collosseum, XD, or Pokémon Box, they aren't the only games to do so.

The GC/GBA Link feature is partially emulated; the Dolphin team collaborated with VBA-M developers to get the feature supported in the emulators. Since VBA-M has fallen out of favor to mGBA, the Dolphin team has since been developing a way for other emulators to use the feature. Some GameCube games make use of the GBA's e-Reader; this is not supported at the moment.

To get it working, you need a recent copy of Dolphin and VBA-M, and DSP-LLE enabled.

Game Boy Player[edit]

This add-on plugged into the bottom of the GameCube and allowed it to play Game Boy / Game Boy Advance games on a standard television; it had provisions against Game Boy Advance Video cartridges by returning an error after booting them. The launcher even had support for the GBA-GCN link cable where the Game Boy Advance would serve as the controller. Some GBA games like Super Mario Advance 4 and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga took advantage of the add-on by adding rumble support. The hardware is essentially a peripheral containing Game Boy Advance hardware.

No emulator currently supports the Game Boy Player hardware and its features. The author of mGBA has expressed interest in getting the feature working with the Dolphin team.[citation needed]

Broadband Adapter[edit]

This shouldn't be confused with netplay, which synchronizes emulation over an internet connection.

This was an add-on that allowed the console to use LAN technology using RJ45 cables. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! used it to play on a local network with up to eight other GameCubes while Phantasy Star Online took it a step further to allow an internet connection for Sega's now-offline official game servers. Kirby Air Ride and 1080° Avalanche also support this adapter. This feature was unavailable on the Wii despite having 802.11 b/g connectivity built-in and an official USB LAN adaptor.

It's possible to hook up zero or more of each of these configurations on one networked game:

  • A GameCube with the broadband adapter (of course)
  • A softmodded Wii with Devolution
  • A recent version of Dolphin with OpenVPN

Dolphin has support for the Broadband Adapter on Windows and Linux. Go to Config > GameCube. A drop-down for SP1 will have the Broadband Adaptor or BBA, depending on the version of Dolphin you're running. Their wiki contains up to date instructions on setting up a VPN.

Bongos[edit]

This is a special controller used with Donkey Konga and other Donkey Kong games released for the GameCube. Dolphin supports this controller.

Microphone[edit]

This was an accessory bundled with Mario Party 6 that allowed the GameCube to receive audio from the memory card slot. There were also other games known to support it.

In Dolphin, set slot B in the emulator settings to the microphone. In the operating system, you then make your default recording device available.

Triforce[edit]

The Triforce is an arcade system board developed jointly by Namco, Sega, and Nintendo, with the first games appearing in 2002. The system hardware is based on the Nintendo GameCube with several differences, such as provisions for add-ons such as Sega's GD-ROM system and upgradeable RAM modules. Wii emulators can also play Triforce games.

Dolphin used to have Triforce support in the stable builds, was quickly deprecated and a branch remained. This branch is no longer updated, but can still be used.[1] The developers plan to bring it back, but only if there's interest and work is done to clean up the code.

Compatibility is abysmal, and there are lots of unemulated features preventing the games from even booting without patches like both Mario Kart GP games. Check the Dolphin Wiki for more information. Various features including the NamCam camera, the save transfer functionality, and the multiple Triforce board networking, are simply not emulated.

For the games that do emulate with Dolphin Triforce (that is, the Mario Kart GP games and little else):

  • Under "Config/GameCube" (or more recently "Controllers"), "SP1" and "Port 1" need to be assigned to "AM-Baseboard".
  • "Enable Cheats" must be activated. Mario Kart GP1 and GP2 have patch codes that need to be added to their gameini file to fix the showstopping emulation bugs and to change the coins value to something else than 0, to play it at all.
  • The keys used are the same as the GameCube controls in Dolphin. The Z button supposedly emulates "Insert Coin", but it doesn't seem to work.

Resources[edit]

  • Dolphin Wiki - The most comprehensive wiki for the Dolphin emulator and games. Good for any fixes/tweaks/settings you should know beforehand.

References[edit]

  1. https://dolphin-emu.org/blog/2016/09/01/dolphin-progress-report-august-2016