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Relive the golden age of ST gaming
Atari ST Emulators
Member Name: Kodang
Atari ST Emulators
Date: 29/03/01, updated on 29/03/01 (301 review reads)
Advantages: Play all those old games for free
Disadvantages: Although excellent - the emulation is not yet 100% perfect
Now if you read the history the ST was first released as a competitior to the business machines of IBM, Apple and Commodore back in late 1985 - released under the Slogan 'Power without the Price' - The Atari 520ST had 512K Ram, a windows like operating system, mouse, diskdrive and MIDI ports - the essential tool for musicans, allowing them to pulg their keyboards directly to the computer. In fact I am reliably informed that the ST is still in use in recording studios and schools around the world. Various other configurations of the ST soon followed including the 1040STF which had 1MB ram and built in floppy drive for £999 (just think what this amount would buy you now).
All this history stuff is fine but what I remember about the ST was the games. Although I dearly loved my humble Sinclair Spectrum, the ST could deliver graphics and sound that I could only dream of. My mate David - who was one of the first in our area to have an ST - became very popular indeed. I don't know about anyone else but I'm into emulation for the games.
For those who are unfamiliar with emulation I will quickly mention what it is. Basically an emulator is a piece of software that will make your flashy PC think it is another machine temporarily. This means that you can play games exactly as they would have appeared when you played them all those years ago on your ST. You don't need original disks eitehr because disk images that you can load into the emulators can be found all over the net. Programming an Emulator is an i
ncredibly difficult art and some of them are better than others. None of the emulators are perfect and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses - if a game down't run on one emulator - try it on another. Another thing to keep in mind is that some of them are constantly being improved by the authors.
The rest of this op will briefly review some of the main ST emulators that you will be able to find out there. I have ordered them according to how good I think they are so if you just want the best (in my opinion) then take a look at the first review and go and find it. No more reading required. Anyway here they are:
STeem - current version 1.5b
This emulator is user friendly, fast, very accurate, regularly updated and put simply - amazing. This is a recent piece of software compared to WinSton and Pacist but it has already overtaken them in many respects. Runs in windows. Want a good ST emulator? Get this.
WinSTon - current version v0.5
This amazing little program is everything you would want from an emulator. It runs in windows for those of you who don't like DOS (and for those who say 'What's DOS?'). It's easy to use - all you have to do is unzip the distribution file, run the setup program and then load the emulator. The only other thing you will need are a few games disks. Compatibility is very high - Winston runs many of the games available on the net.
Something that beginners will welcome is the fact that you do not need to download the ST operating system (TOS) in order to use Winston as it has a version built in. More advanced users will be glad to know that you can can switch to any other TOS file that you may prefer. Another nice little feature is the favourites libary. This contains a list of all of the games in some of the popular 'compact disk' series such as Automan and D-Bug. The emulator will look for the images you have and catalogue them so you can just
click on the game name you want to load. If you don't have the disc image of the game that you want to play then you can click on 'Download' and Winston will direct your browser to the file on the net. So you don't even need to such for games!
Unfortunately this emulator is no longer under development but it is still an excellent piece of software and well worth a try
Pacifist - current version v0.49
One of the first ST emulators and one of the best. Good compatibility - if something doesn't run on WinSTon then try it on here and you may get lucky. The emulation is very good but as the author points out - is far from perfect (then no emulator is). One problem with this Pacifist in my opinion is that you really need to know what you are doing to get it to work. Once you do though - it is worh it. Although designed to be run in DOS, it works fine in Windows 9x. This emulator hasn't been updated in over a year so it looks like the problems it does have will not be fixed anytime soon.
Saint - current version v0.91b
This one is a relative newcomer to the ST emulation scene but even over such a short period it is establishing itself as one of the better ST emulators. It has a great GUI and compatibility looks like it's good although I have not tested it as much as I have WinSTon or Pacifist. From what I have read on the net it does not run as many games as some of the other emulators though. Saint seems a little slower than the aforementioned emulators but with modern PCs this should not be a problem and I am sure it will become faster as time goes by. This emulator is still heavily under development with updates appearing regularly so I think this one is worth watching and definately worth a try. Another neat feature is a simulated disk sound when loading from disk images - just to add to that nostalgia flavour.
There are more available if you look around but these are pretty much the
best of them as far as I know. I will try to post an update if this changes. Happy retrogaming.