First Contact with Emulation

This is a treasured memory of mine and I decided to write it here, my first experience with emulation.

When I was a young boy we used to visit some family friends every once in a while, usually on Sunday after church, the adults had their conversations, and I was usually with my sister watching TV (Discovery Kids!), or probably being annoying to the younger member of that family.

He was maybe 17 or so years old, and the coolest guy I knew. We kind of played basketball together—he would lift me up so I could score points. I also remember he had an NES, the 101 model with red accents and a smaller controller that also had red buttons, I got to play Super Mario Bros on it a couple of times.

However, he also had a personal computer, and a laptop! Great technology, kinda like a TV but you could move stuff on it! To be honest I didn’t really understand or cared about computers just yet.

It was circa 2005, when I went to his room—his door was always open—and I saw him very focused on his desk. It was quite a weird setup, he was pressing keys in the laptop keyboard, but the action was happening in the computer monitor1. I believe the OS was Windows XP, it had a window open, with the title: Project 64 version 1.62 with a funny looking icon with the letters “PJ”, which looked like it was made with the Comic Sans font, with cyan and red colors.

I had no idea of what anything meant, I knew how to read, but I was simply amazed at what the window itself displayed.

There was a green dinosaur on top of a kart or something, going around and around in a circuit! It was throwing shells at other karts, and getting boosts after stepping on a yellow platform with red stripes.

He was playing Mario Kart 64.

Mario Kart 64 running on Project 64
Mario Kart 64 running on Project 64

I had never heard of it, when I was even younger I lived in a more rural area, so seeing those polygons was quite something. He only allowed me to watch—I suspect he wanted to break his lap times or something—but it was fun! The race was in a really muddy track, and he was jumping a wall on it and getting first place instantly, there was another road with the colors of the rainbow, and he was flying through it somehow!

It really left a big impression on me, and I sooo wanted to play myself, I think he allowed me to do it a couple times, I remember a track made of snow and ice where penguins go and crash with you mercilessly, throwing you into the ocean and turning you into an ice cube. I was really bad at it no doubt, I probably raced backwards and did other dumb things children do, but I didn’t care, I was playing Nintendo 64 on a computer!

Another time, same place, he was playing a different game, he didn’t allow me to play this one at all, he knew I would not be able to handle it. I remember seeing a very scary face, rotating on itself and getting closer and closer, there was creepy music in the background and some sort of laugh? The face was shaped like a heard, it had big yellow round eyes, and many horns poking out of it, it had no mouth and it could not scream. It wasn’t a face, it was a mask, and then happier, but still eerie music started playing.

It was The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

Majora's Mask Rotating

He loaded up the game, and he was in a very weird place, built of bricks and stone—it seemed like an infinite labryinth—he had to be very careful to not fall down of a ledge or something, it looked quite complicated and my brain does not remember much more. I think he was solving some sort of puzzle involving light and mirrors puzzle but I—

It wasn’t until 2012 or so, that the thought of installing this thing myself finally came to my mind. I don’t remember much of this period of my childhood, Project 64’s website was quite barebones, I recall installing version 1.6 again, simply because that’s what I knew, newer versions existed already, but I kind of didn’t like the new logo on their website. It looks like I saved myself some trouble by accident, since many new versions came bundled with malware back then. I was no computer geek back then, at the time I even used websites like Softonic to install programs so—feel free to shame 12 year old me in the comments.

The website I found the ROMs on… I don’t quite remember, it was definitely a website in Spanish, with links full of shorteners and ads left and right. Somehow I pushed past all that and got my hands in some nice ROMS, there were some in .n64 format, and others in z64 format. Regardless, I didn’t even know what a file format was. Most of them worked fine: Super Smash Bros, Majora’s Mask, Ocarina of Time, Destruction Derby, Rampage, Bomberman 64, and also Paper Mario 64! That last one was really fun, but it also crashed my computer at one important bit of the story—which was in English and I didn’t really get—so I didn’t stick to it. To this day I haven’t played it, maybe soon.

The rest of the games gave me many awesome moments and memories. I didn’t play Zelda until much later because it still scared me, but I recall setting up a 3-player layout on a single keyboard! To play some Smash Bros with friends and race each other on Mario Kart 64.

Super Smash Bros was epic

My favorite character to fight as was Fox, and my favorite to race with was Yoshi—just like my friend before me. I was the best among my friends at that place, but I never really went for the great tricks my older friend could pull off. Still, since nobody else had an emulator at home I could practice more often. Those were good times.

There are many other stories of mine regarding emulation, like the time I discovered Gameboy and SNES emulation, or the first time I installed one on my phone! But those stories are for another day—maybe even tomorrow to be honest.

Please, feel free to share your story as well! How did you find out about emulation, I would love getting some emails about this.

This is day 42 of #100DaysToOffload and post 10 of #WeblogPoMo2024

  1. Looking back it was probably just a VGA cable plugged to the monitor, I was a kid ok? 

  2. I don’t know why he didn’t play in fullscreen, probably to save some frames? 


If you have something to say, leave a comment, or contact me ✉️ instead

Reply via email Load comments
Reply via Fediverse

You can reply on any Fediverse (Mastodon, Pleroma, etc.) client by pasting this URL into the search field of your client: