iPhone Life magazine

Emulating the PlayStation on the iPhone 3G S


First of all, if you have an iPhone 3G, you don’t need to read further – games are just too slow. The situation is somewhat better on the second-generation iPod Touch because of the faster CPU. Nevertheless, few very-very games run playable on even the 2nd-generation iPod Touch.

If, on the other hand, you have a 3G S and you definitely want to play some titles, you might want to read on.

In order to emulate the Playstation, you’ll need the following:
- If your phone isn’t already jailbroken, jailbreak it
- Search for and install pxs4iphone in Cydia
- Upload your decompressed ROM images (supported file formats are .ISO, .IMG, .BIN, .Z and .ZNX.) into /var/mobile/Media/ROMs/PSX/
- Get "scph1001.bin" from HERE
- Start pxs4iphone, select the ROM image, the orientation and whether you need sound (the latter is stuttering with most titles and is, therefore, useless)
- Play (or, at least, try to play…)

Very few (if any) PSX games run at their full speed. I think reports like “Fullspeed or at least 90% (but start up screens are slow)” (that of NFS Porsche Unleashed) HERE, in the official Wiki page are greatly exaggerated – the game is far from it and is barely playable. (Native iPhone games are waaay faster and they may also make use of other control methods like the accelerometer; in addition, they make full use of the screen estate, as opposed to the 320*240 center area utilized by pxs4iphone.)

I’ve produced two 30 fps videos showing NFS Porsche Unleashed and Frogger running on my 3G S. They’re available HERE (NFS Porsche Unleashed). The Frogger video will only be posted later. (It takes ages to upload a 200 Mbyte AVI file to YouTube from home.)

All in all, you will only want to play games like Final Fantasy VII – that is, titles (or any similar ones) not being natively present on the platform.



UPDATE (1/3/2010): An article comparing the new, 1.1.0 version (released in late November) of the emulator to the just-released FpseCE 0.10 running under WinMo with some remarks on compatibility and a demo video showing some games in action on both the iPhone 3G S and a WinMo PDA, the Dell Axim x51v:

Great Playstation emulator FpseCE 0.10, finally, released! + video

We emulator freaks have been waiting for version FpseCE 0.10 for at least two and a half years. Back in May-June 2007 when I published my (almost) all-in-one article series on emulating other computing platforms (see THIS) on Windows Mobile, everyone was already waiting for FpseCE 0.10. This is why, back in 2007, I chose not to publish a PS Emulation Bible back in 2007, by the way – I didn’t want to end up having to (completely) rewrite it after the imminent release of the brand new version.

The waiting turned out to take more than two years; during this, frankly, I’ve given up all my hope to ever see the emulator out. (I, however, actively helped the developers to continue working on the project – I’ve donated them about $20.)

Nevertheless, last Christmas (a few days ago), it was, finally, released to the public and I need to say it’s indeed as good as expected.

It's available for download HERE. It doesn't necessarily need a ROM BIOS file, unlike psx4iphone on the iPhone.

I’ve run several compatibility and comparative speed tests. For example, I compared to the also pretty new (version 1.1.0 was released in late November 2009) psx4iphone running the emulator on the iPhone 3G S. (Note that, despite what some people state, psx4iphone is plain useless on previous-generation devices, as is also explained in my article on the previous (1.0.0) psx4iphone version – and a quick note on the initial (0.8.0) one). The results show FpseCE is way more powerful and efficient than psx4iphone: it’s only the latest and greatest, current hardware (the iPhone 3G S or the third-generation iPod touch) that the latest psx4iphone version offers approximately the same emulation speed than FpseCE on very old (for example, the five (four)-year-old Dell Axim x50v / x51v) hardware. This also means FpseCE is, in most cases, waaay faster than psx4iphone on current high-end (read: 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU) Windows Mobile devices – for example, the Toshiba TG01 and (probably) the HTC HD2. (Of course, the lack of D-pad / external controls is a big issue with these devices.)

Kudos to the developers of FpseCE – it indeed rocks! Please consider donating to the developers – they do deserve it!

Note that it’s not only with emulating the Playstation that Windows Mobile is (currently) certainly better at. The same states for all(!) other emulated platforms – the emulators are just far better, faster, featureful and more powerful for Windows Mobile than for the iPhone (even including the superfast iPhone 3G S). I, for example, haven’t reported (in a separate article) on the currently released version 1.2 / 1.3 of the Commodore 64 emulator. (Please see my remarks on the playability of Uridium and Paradroid, both coming as an in-app purchasable title, HERE). The only platform that Windows Mobile is completely unable to emulate (unlike the iPhone 3G S / iPod Touch G3) is Nintendo 64 (see ZodTTD‘s thread and info HERE); in all the other respects, Windows Mobile is way ahead of Apple’s mobile platforms.

As has already been mentioned, the emulation speed is roughly the same on the four-year-old Dell Axim x51v (which, CPU/GPU-wise, is exactly the same as the one-year-older Dell Axim x50v) than on the iPhone 3G S (the latest and greatest iPhone with a really powerful CPU and GPU) running the latest (and, to time, greatest and fastest) psx4iphone version. For example, Gran Turismo runs with 18…20 fps with sound on the 3G S (both full screen landscape and portrait modes tested; interestingly, full emulation mode didn’t visibly reduce the frame rate); on the Dell Axim x51v, it’s noticeably faster (25 fps), less sluggish and WAY better playable. (Note that, on the video, I deliberately switch to manual mode in psx4iphone on the iPhone 3G S. Otherwise, I just coulnd’t ride forward, only backwards with the “back” button – the emulator would constantly switch me back to “reverse” mode after approaching more than 3-4 mph speed. I couldn’t find a fix for this. No such problem exists under FpseCE – it runs just great in automatic – the default – mode.)

Medal of Honor, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: the 3G S runs it decidedly better (around 28 fps), while it’s much more sluggish and less pleasing on the x51v (around 22 fps). Interestingly, in the latter, in-game videos are played back flawlessly on the x51v; not so on the iPhone. This seems to be a consistently existing problem with the iPhone: while the game itself is (almost) perfectly playable, demo videos all have stuttering sound.

In the demo video, I’ve also made a quick demo (at the end of the video) of showing Assault Rigs (with the, in this game, flawless in-game sound under psx4iphone). The demo certainly shows while it’s pretty well playable (again, with sound) on the 3G S, under FpseCE 0.10, it just doesn’t get past of the intro screen.

Note that all this has been measured without any tweaking of the x51v – I haven’t tried modding the ini file to speed up emulation.

By the way, does anyone know how to make Metal Slug X work (that is, entering ‘1’ or ‘2’ players?) Based on the in-game demo, it seems to be even faster than under masterall’s FinalBurn, the – so far – only way to play the great game Metal Slug on Windows Mobile (please see THIS for more info). Or, at least, up until version 0.12 of the latter – if I remember correctly, that was the last version I’ve played the Metal Slug series with. 0.14 (the current version) is stated to have some speed optimizations. I don’t know whether this makes Metal Slug audio stuttering-free (which certainly wasn’t the case with 0.12 running on exactly the same x51v.) Incidentally, there’s a native Metal Slug port for the iPhone, Metal Slug Touch, but it pretty much s*cks (see THIS).

The demo video (please see THIS) shows the following games, in this order:
Gran Turismo (shown in both orientations on the iPhone)
Medal of Honor
Assault Rigs (again: it’s incompatible with FpseCE 0.10)

Again: check out the head-to-head iPhone 3G S vs. Dell Axim x51v video – click HERE!

Please see the following threads for more info / compatibility lists:
FpseCE 0.10
psx4iphone 1.1.0 (note that this seem to be a bit outdated; for example, it lists Gran Turismo to be incompatible, which is (no longer?) the case. Keep this in mind while reading the list!)
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Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.

Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.