Getting Started with the Dolphin Emulator

The Dolphin Emulator has become known as the de-facto emulator for GameCube and Wii games. This open-source software is available for OSX, Linux, Windows, and Android. It specifically has support for Android TV. The emulator has seen some great progress recently, adding support for Vulkan graphics and finally getting every Gamecube game to load. This should allow gamers to get the best Gamecube emulating experience to date.

However, this software isn’t entirely stable. There is no stable version of the app on Android. While some things work, it may be a bit convoluted to actually get started. This article will explain what I figured out in order to get games playing correctly.

As a note, we will not explain how to download GameCube or Wii ROMs. You should be aware of the laws around copyright and piracy.

Downloading Dolphin 4

The most recent nightly builds of Dolphin work fine for the most part, except when you try to play a game, nothing works. No control does anything. Before you can start playing you need to map your controller. Unfortunately this menu has been hidden in the most recent versions.

First you should install Dolphin version 4.0-5672. Then you can go into settings and configure an emulated GameCube controller. You can map the controller anyway you want. With the Shield controller it was a relatively straightforward process.

dolphin-emulator_20161022_234133

You will need to visit an older version of the software (not sure how old exactly) in order to reconfigure your controllers each time.

Downloading Dolphin 5

Once your gamepads are set, you can download a newer version of the emulator. Go to the download page and then go to the “Development versions” section. You can download the Android version for one of these builds.

After installing, you can go to the “Add a Folder” option and browse your file system for a valid ISO or ROM file. After choosing one, the system will scan that folder and all valid games will appear on the screen.

dolphin_vulkan

You can select one to begin playing. If you want to switch graphics rendering to Vulkan first, you can do that in the video settings.

With your gamepad configured and your games located, you are ready to start. Just select one of your ROMs and the game will load. You can see me play Kirby Air Ride directly on my Shield.

Performance

The biggest question is around performance. How well does this play ROMs? I have to say I was very happy with the performance. Kirby Air Ride was definitely one that the software group has marked as five stars in their compatibility table. The graphics looked just as good as the original and though there were rare stutters, it didn’t impact my gaming capability.

The music was occasionally weird. It would start to lag and then play slower than normal. You can’t seem to hear it in the video (the audio didn’t record for some reason), but it is something to note. Although Vulkan has improved graphics rendering, it hasn’t done the same for audio throughput.

If you’d like to try it out for yourself, you can take a look at the recommendations above. If you have any other tips about using the Dolphin emulator, mention them in the comments below.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker)Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop.Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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