blueMSX 2.2

por MSX Resource Center en 21-04-2005, 00:00

The first version of blueMSX was released on November 21st 2003. With that, this emulator is the most recent flavor of MSX emulators in our test. Originally based on the popular fMSX core of Marat Fayzullin, the emulator is completely free from fMSX code as of version 2.0. The same version was the first version of blueMSX to introduce turboR emulation. In the year that lies between both releases blueMSX has become a popular, feature-rich and user-friendly emulator.  

 

The blueMSX website already shows the developers settle for nothing but the best. It is by far the most well-designed MSX emulator website, offering a good combination between good looks and useful content. The website is available in Japanese as well and contains a forum where blueMSX users can offer suggestions or find support, if necessary. Without even having a single look at the emulator itself, expectations have already risen to a high level.  

 

The first impression of the emulator itself is similar to the impression the blueMSX website gives: To the point, good looking and very intuitive. After running a very easy to use installer you can instantly start playing MSX games. The user can choose between 2 different themes: Classic and DigiBlue. Both themes include a menubar which provides easy access to the most important features of the emulator like selecting disk and ROM images. The DigiBlue theme adds an extra section at the bottom which can be used to show emulation status, configure the audio mixer, adjust video settings, control the input devices or change the key mapping. If desired, you can even develop your own blueMSX skins. The only thing that bothered us a little bit is the fact that the blueMSX interface has been radically changed once again. When used to previous versions of the blueMSX emulator it takes a while to get adjusted to the new location of several features. Apart from the standard version, blueMSX is also available in SSE and SSE2-optimized versions. If you have a CPU capable of running SSE or SSE2 code, you can benefit from its features (and thus lessen CPU-load) by using these optimized emulators.  

 

New in blueMSX 2.2 are a clickable keymap of the MSX keyboard. If you can't easily find a key you need on the PC keyboard, you can just click on it with your mouse. This keymap also highlights the keys you press during emulation, with a slight delay. The blueMSX trainer is also a completely new feature, making it very easy to find ways to make your gaming life easier. All you have to do is scan the memory a couple of times to certain values (e.g. the amount of lives you have left in a certain game) to find out where the information you want to change is stored. After that, you can easily change this value in the memory of the emulated MSX, instantly increasing your odds of completing the game. Last, but certainly not least, a neat debugger has been added to blueMSX 2.2 as well. With this, the blueMSX development team has rightfully noticed an accurate MSX emulator is a very interesting tool for cross-developers and reverse engineers.  

 

blueMSX has the capability of emulating all essential MSX hardware, including MSX-Audio, turboR and even Moonsound. Apart from being capable of emulating MSX computers, blueMSX can also emulate the Colecovision, Spectravideo SVI-318 and SVI-328 computers, which are closely related to the MSX1 computer system. The emulated MSX graphics can be enhanced by adding one of the 6 available filters. Some of them will actually decrease the image quality a bit, giving it a real 'running on a blurry TV'-feel. By default the emulator uses a blurry setting, which turned out to be a bit too blurry on our testing system.  

 

There are a few downsides as well. By default the diskdrive is emulated at the same speed as on real MSX computers, whereas most MSX emulators achieve much higher speeds. As the vast majority of MSX software doesn't need accurate drive-speed emulation at all the blueMSX emulator might come off as extremely slow to people who are used to other MSX emulators or even versions of blueMSX prior to version 2.0. Luckily this accuracy setting can be turned off as of version 2.1. Apart from that, whilst emulating, the options menu isn't always as responsive as one would want it to be. In fact, changing a few settings in the menu can be very slow from time to time.  

 

Accuracy

 

Especially considering the fact that the blueMSX emulator has only been around for a year, the accuracy of this emulator is exceptionally good. Almost every test we ran worked absolutely perfect. In Almost Real the buildings in the multilayer scroll flickered a bit, and the logos that announce which demos are to come didn't scroll as smoothly on MSX, in Metal Limit there were some very minor glitches in the Rhapsody 2 and Columns demos. Apart from that, we could not detect -any- problem or glitch whatsoever during the other tests. As you will find out reading the tests that follow, this can be considered to be truly remarkable. Although the blueMSX isn't quite there yet, the emulator sure gets very close to being capable of running all MSX software exactly as it does on real MSX computers.  

 

Music

 

As the audio-mixer in the DigiBlue theme and the possibility to emulate the Moonsound already indicate the developers also put a lot of efforts in the audio-section of the emulator. The PSG, SCC, MSX-MUSIC, MSX-AUDIO and OPL4 sound very close to the original sound chips. The MSX-MUSIC emulation can still use quite some improvements, as it lacks the warmth of the real thing, but especially the emulation of the SCC has taken an impressive step forward in the latest release of blueMSX.  

 

Conclusion

 

Everything about blueMSX seems to breathe perfection. We had to dig real deep to find a few minor glitches and imperfections. Looking at the time it took the blueMSX to get the emulator this good and looking at list of features that are planned for the future it seems like it's only a matter of time before this emulator accomplishes a 100% EmuRank score. blueMSX scores very well on all fronts: Accuracy, Music, Features and usability, making it a good choice for both novice and experienced MSX/emulator users. The good looks of the emulator give it a pleasant finishing touch. If you have used other MSX emulators in the past, blueMSX is certainly worth having a look at.  

 

Information chart

MSX2 CPU Benchmark:         994  
MSX2 VDP Benchmark:         993
turboR CPU Benchmark:       1003
turboR VDP Benchmark:       1013
MSX1/2 accuracy score:      97.50%
turboR accuracy score:      100.00%
Music quality score:        80.00%
Usability & Features score: 88.24%
CPU load MSX2 idle:         ~ 20.00%
CPU load turboR idle:       ~ 40.00%
MRC EmuRank:                91.46%
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:                yes
MSX1 palette:               yes
Image enhancements:         yes
Fullscreen:                 yes

blueMSX website: http://www.bluemsx.com/

 

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