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SPARCADE ARTICLE - February 1997

It's unlikely that Microsoft Arcade, Namco Museum and Williams Greatest Hits quite knew what they were starting when they blazed the trail for the idea of genuine arcade-perfect emulation.

With home hardware finally up to the task of replicating vintage coin-ops at the full original speed, nostalgics, historians and the merely curious lapped up ports of even the dodgiest of first- and second-generation coin-ops. A whole clutch of bedroom PC programmers, though, (a breed thought long-since extinct) couldn't wait for their personal favourites to be converted, and embarked upon a remarkable philanthropic crusade to bring the games to the world.

The PC arcade emulation scene is now one of the most dynamic areas of activity in the whole world of videogames, with a new emulator springing up practically every day. Most, however, concentrate on a single game, or a small family of related ones (like the Mr Do series). Dave Spicer's Sparcade is different, using a small core program to emulate the basic generic workings of coin-op hardware, which then enables dozens of tiny driver files to run a whole range of games via copies of the original coin-op code downloaded from the genuine ROM boards.

At the moment, there's some uncertainty as to the future of the full release of Sparcade, which runs over 70 different games, but anyone can download the current public version, which plays around 20 titles, including Space Invaders, Galaxian, Phoenix, Pleiades, Pengo, Pacman, Ms Pacman, Zaxxon, Amidar, Centipede, Scramble, Lunar Rescue, Galaxy Wars, Turtles, War Of The Bugs and several official and unofficial variations on said games (eg Super Galaxian and Space Invaders Part 2). Lurking in the wings waiting for release are the likes of Bomb Jack, Tutankam, Starforce, Super Cobra, Moon Cresta, Millipede, Tron and Donkey Kong.

Almost all of the games are emulated perfectly (by definition, since they're running the exact original code), although a few currently lack sound, and amazingly, the emulator is completely free - all you have to do is supply the ROM images, which can be widely found on the Internet or copied from your own PCBs. With commercial emulation packages costing 30-70 for five or six games at a time, retro fans should fall upon Sparcade like paparazzi on Liam Gallagher's bins after a party.

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