MESS 0.95

by MSX Resource Center on 21-04-2005, 00:00

MESS stands for Multiple Emulator Super System and is a derivative from the arcade machines emulator MAME. With MESS you can emulate a huge variety of old consoles and home computers, including MSX1, MSX2 and MSX2+ systems. Systems very similar to MSX like Colecovision and Spectravideo SVI-318 and SVI-328 can be emulated as well. Another interesting option of this emulator is its capability of emulating the SIMPL device (a.k.a. Covox on other systems). It's too bad there's very little software out there supporting the SIMPL, though.  

 

After starting the emulator the complete list of all emulated computers is shown on the left side. On the right side you can select the software (ROM, DSK, CAS) to run in the emulator. It took me quite a while until I got a nice working MSX2+ setup with disk support, as the emulator is quite picky on which System ROMs to use and their naming/location, while little documentation on this is included in the emulator. Before the emulation is started the properties of the machine can be adjusted, allowing a large variety of image filters and joystick configurations. During emulation several settings (including DSK images) can easily be changed with the toolbar which appears when you move the mouse to the top of the screen. All in all the interface of MESS looks a bit outdated, but very feature rich.  

 

Accuracy

 

The first tests already showed that MESS still has a long way to go when it comes to accuracy. Many disk-based software would not even boot because of disk-errors during startup. These boot-errors could even occur when just loading MSX-DOS. The only tests on which I managed to get some results were Almost Real (which hung right after the system info part), Maggoo's Vertical Sync scrolling demo (which showed a lot of action on the screen but not exactly what should happen), Metal Limit (which gave an I/O error after the intro), Turnix 2 (which showed an incorrect, yellow FCS logo and then hung) and ANMA's Relax, which showed a lot of glitches as well. All other software in our test did not even boot. As I managed to run several ROM files that aren't part of this test in MESS, it seems like MESS just isn't intended to play anything from disk.  

 

Music

 

MESS only emulates the PSG and MSX-MUSIC. Both sound quite ok, but not more than that. The MSX-MUSIC sounds quite sharp and lacks bass and warmth to sound close to the real thing. For some reason the default sound-level of MESS is also very soft, which might lead to unpleasant surprises when switching from MESS to other applications that generate audio.  

 

Conclusion

 

MESS emulates a huge variety of computer systems, but at a price. Many of the video/configuration options are very nice, but of little use as the emulator just isn't capable of running a lot of MSX software. The idea of emulating a lot of different computer systems from one GUI sounds interesting at first, but in the end the quality of the emulation of at least the MSX computer suffers from this diversity. Besides, most end-users will probably only emulate a few of the many systems that can be emulated with MESS. As long as accuracy and correct disk emulation aren't implemented in MESS, MESS can not be considered to be an alternative to any other MSX emulator.  

 

Information chart

MSX2 CPU Benchmark:         1032
MSX2 VDP Benchmark:         1014
turboR CPU Benchmark:       N/A
turboR VDP Benchmark:       N/A
MSX1/2 accuracy score:      07.50%
turboR accuracy score:      00.00%
Music quality score:        20.00%
Usability & Features score: 64.70%
CPU load MSX2 idle:         ~ 90.00%
CPU load turboR idle:       N/A
MRC EmuRank:                16.84%
Emulator interface:         GUI
Save-states:                yes
Screenshots:                yes
Joystick support:           yes
Mouse support:              yes
Printer support:            yes
Real disk support:          no
Multi-disk support:         no
Change disk:                yes
Dir as disk:                no
MSX1 palette:               no
Image enhancements:         yes
Fullscreen:                 yes

MESS website: http://www.mess.org/

 

To see how MESS compares to other emulators, check out the MRC EmuRank chart.

My MSX profile