We have been waiting to write up this article until the PSP emulation scene was mature enough to provide a lot of stable content. Since you are reading this article, you can rest assured that this goal has been reached. In fact, using an emulator on the PSP is so easy that you only need to find, download, and extract one program to have about 13 different emulators ready for action. However, before we get to games, let's take a moment and cover the basics.
An emulator is a piece of software that can interpret and 'play' programs that normally would run on a different architecture. By architecture, we mean a completely different type of computerized device. For example, with an emulator a PSP can load and play games designed for the Super Nintendo or Game Boy Advanced.
When an emulator is used to play a game, the PSP first loads the emulation software, which in turn is used to load the game file. The emulator processes the game data to create a user interface and produces a graphical output. The upside of the emulator is that its user can now access a whole group of programs that would not normally run on the PSP. The downside of using an emulator is that the PSP must not only be able to process the game, but it has to be able to process the emulation code as well. The result is that many emulated games run slowly or have unpredictable reactions. For example, in one game we tried the main character would appear to jump around the board because the game failed to draw in the pixels fast enough to make movement smooth. In another game, the display bled off the screen and the game pretty much failed to operate.
Using an emulator is only one half of the puzzle. The second part is the game, which is nothing more than a ROM (read-only memory) image of a game cartridge. These ROM images are typically created using a ROM extractor that can rip the game data from a cartridge and pack it up into a binary file. The file is then used by the emulator, which is programmed to understand the binary data and output the desired results. This brings us to the question of, where can I find these ROM game files?
Before continuing on, keep in mind that playing Donkey Kong on your Nintendo emulator on your PSP might be illegal, especially if you do not own Donkey Kong. I am not a legal expert, but I do know that these ROM files have been online for years and most companies ignore the sites that host the files. One site that hosts ROM files that are supposedly legal is http://www.emulator-zone.com/doc.php/roms.html. Other possibly legal sites that host ROM files include http://www.romnation.net and http://www.rom-world.com.
Now that you understand the background and limitations of emulators, let's get one onto the PSP. We HIGHLY recommend you find and download an emulator pack known as KXSPLOIT Homebrew Pack (http://files.pspupdates.com/cgi-bin/cfiles.cgi?0,0,0,1,38). On this page you will also find links to game packs that include everything from Blackjack to Quake. Once you download the emulator pack, unzip it and follow the instructions in the ReadMe.txt exactly to get the best results. Generally, the steps are as follows. We include screen shots of how we loaded up Air Strike Patrol in the Snes9X emulator.
Unzip the KXSPOIT file into a directory
Connect the PSP to the computer via USB
Copy the 'PSP' folder to the root directory of the drive representing the memory card on the PSP
Download a game that corresponds to the desired emulator
Extract game file and copy to the corresponding emulator folder on the PSP memory stick
Unplug the USB cord and scroll over to the Game menu
Scroll down the Memory Stick option and hit X
Select the emulator of your choice (ex. Snes9X – figure 2)
Once the PSP splash menu loads, and disappears, you will have to select the ROM file you just uploaded to the PSP
Hit the O button to load the file and enjoy (ex. figure 3)!
Figure 2: SNES emulator
Figure 3: Air Strike Patrol on the PSP
The following lists the emulators included with the most current version of KXSPLOIT.
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Sega Master System