Connectix VGS for PC (available at Connectix)


Got my copy of Virtual Game Station for the PC today and I must say that I was impressed. Not as much as the first time I played bleem!, but impressed none-the-less. So I ripped open my FEDEX package like it was Christmas, eager to look at the box and play with my new toy. Most of my review will be based on my preconceived notions of a PSX emu based on bleem! While it may be unfair to VGS to compare it to bleem! VGS has had plenty of time to play with and look at bleem! and further develop any short comings that bleem! may have. As well as they have had much user feedback from the Mac version of VGS.


THE BOX

I don't see how the box is going to sell the product in a store. The front is VERY nice looking, very colorful. Nice big disclaimer at the bottom This product is not affiliated with, nor authorized, endorsed, or licensed in any way by Sony® Corporation, its affiliates or subsidiaries. The front of the box boasts "Play many popular PlayStation® games on your PC. 

The back of the box has a few clips of info. It tells you that you can change your controller between keyboard, game pads, and joysticks. That you can use the Memory Card Feature to save, or import DexDrive saves. It says you can play Two-Player games. It also boasts the features of being able to play at work or home, while traveling for business or pleasure, etc.


The system requirements are listed as :

What it doesn't list is ANY games that VGS plays. Not one. No screen shots of the VGS interface. Simply a disclaimer at the bottom reading : Audio and video performance of Connectix Virtual Game Station may not be the same as that of an actual PlayStation. Connectix does not warrant compatibility with any PlayStation game. Games sold Separately.

WHAT'S INSIDE

INSTALLATION
I could read the book, but I decide to skip the 9 page leaflet and install. Drop the CD in the machine and the CD auto-boots and asks if you want to install VGS. Asks you the directory you want to install to, and then it does. Once you have finished this, it tells you to reboot, even though it shouldn't have really changed anything. To be on the safe side, I reboot.

ANOTHER QUICK LAUNCH?
Returning from the reboot, I see a new little icon in my task tray. CVGS Autolauncher. While I will give them credit for allowing easy disable or exit, they did not give an option to turn it off permantly. Luckily it is just installed in the StartUp folder, so it is easily disabled for an intermediate Computer user. What this quicklaunch is supposed to do, is monitor the CD-ROM and autolaunch VGS when you insert a PSX Disc.

TIME TO PLAY!
Being an advanced computer user, I decide to drop a PSX disc in, and see what happens. VGS starts automatically (note the VGS CD does not need to be in to start VGS) and goes to full screen mode. I try pressing several buttons (to either move around the menu in the game, get to a VGS menu to change my settings, or switch VGS to windowed mode). I find that S moves down and A moves left. The default control settings leave something to be desired. After trying nearly every button on my keyboard (except for the universal "exit" button - ESC) I flip through the book.

THE BOOK
The book isn't really anything special.



So Page 5 Tells me to PAUSE emulation and enter the menu I must press ESC. So I do. I am greeted by a very small menu of options. Basically, Exit, Settings, About, Eject, and Reset. I go in the settings...

The settings menu is fairly basic (see right). It allows you to setup your controllers, Memory Cards, Movie Playback, Brightness, and Sound. These are your ENTIRE options in VGS. One thing I notice (and like) right away is the EJECT button for memcards. This allows you to "remove" the memcard just as if you were at a PlayStation.


Clicking on the controller menu will give you the screen to the right. To set a button all you have to do is click on the box representing the controller button you want to configure, then press what button you want to use. Whether it be on a Joystick, or a Keyboard. It doesn't seem to have any "presets" (other than keyboard), but with this easy entry system, you can get your controller setup in only a couple minutes (if even that!).

There is no "Memory Card Manager" (like in bleem!) where you can copy singular saves in and out of cards, or delete ones you no longer need. Meaning you have to find games that will allow you to do that. Though PSXGameEdit will probably add VGS support, and then you can use that.

GAMES
So now that I have VGS running correctly, and know how to get to the menu and stuff, I can try some games. You probably want to know if FF8, or WWF Smackdown works, but I didn't check those. Here's what I did check :

If you are like any normal human, right now you are probably thinking, WOW, bleem! doesn't play any of those 6 games [based on v1.5B] (and you would be right). However, it isn't the same playing on VGS. The lack of features on VGS really hurts the products overall feel. Having no 3D enhancement, No resolution settings, No windowed mode, etc. Basically you are stuck playing all games in a Full Screen 640x480(ish) Software mode.

Games play at a pretty consistent rate (but do speed up/slow down at different times), however one thing that hurts the feel of play is when VGS elects to skip video frames. This happened to me during Tekken 2, and Bloody Roar (PAL). VGS will drop video frames to keep up (as it states on their page) ...the titles may exhibit some defects. For instance, in order to keep up with the flow of the game, CVGS may need to occasionally skip a frame in the video presentation. While I believe bleem! also does this, it seems that when VGS does it, it seems much more "jumpy/choppy". 

Before someone attacks me about my system specs, I am using a P2 400, with 64 RAM, and a TNT2 Ultra. That meets not only the required, but recommended settings. I keep my machine pretty well "tuned" with nothing running in the background, and system resources optimized.

WHAT DOESN'T PLAY?
With the limited time I had to work on this, I couldn't review EVERY game I had, however here are a couple titles that don't play correctly.

THE FINAL WORD

  THE GOOD THE BAD
SETTINGS Lack of settings makes this a "dummies" program. It is truly a click-n-play atmosphere. No settings means no features. There is no 3D enhancement. No Resolution settings. No real sound settings (Volume doesn't count!).
MDEC Looks nice crisp and clean. Sound is pretty well synced as well.  
SPEED For the most part PSX speed and consistent Still has speed-up/slow-down
GRAPHICS Most games seem to be free of Graphics Problems. Too bad there is no 3D enhancement, or resolution settings.
SOUND For the most part Clean Sounding. Still can become corrupted or choppy.
CONTROLLER Nice way to set them up. No Analog, Mouse, Negcon, Jogcon Support.
MEMORY CARDS Ejectable cards! Not that big of a deal, but I like it :) No Manager for easy save settings.
PROTECTION None, No CD Swapping. Can they continue to provide support for a program that isn't protected at all?
MISC   I have two CD-Roms, and VGS keeps spitting out the second CD Drive. For absolutely no reason really.


What I wanted to mention here - Although the MAC version of VGS has a pretty good protection against backup's - We weren't able to notice anything like that with the windows version !



And of course when making your buying decision... it all comes down to...

Do you wanna play this?

(Taken with VGS)

or this?

bleem! v?.?? (in D3D Enhanced Mode)

Actually, it is this editor's opinion that you should support emulation, and buy them both. :)

Written by Dragon„en, small edits by Bobbi - March 10th 2000