In a series of articles, I want to illustrate what a great portable gaming device the Nokia N97 can be, even though it has a comparatively slow processor, only 128MB of RAM and lacks hardware accelerated 3D graphics. Nevermind all those mediocre JAVA games, or the ones offered in the OVI Store: you’ll get the true gaming kicks on Symbian^1 by going retro and looking back into the glorious world of the 8 and 16-bit games that was carefully crafted by console giants like Sega and Nintendo. Nintendo emulation is already covered, and now it’s time to put Sega in the Symbian^1 limelight.
On my Nokia N73, I loved the Sega Master System / Game Gear emulator MasterGear. I’ve been in contact with Marat Fayzullin, the developer of the emulator, on several occasions. And even though he says he’s working on a release of MasterGear that’s compatible with 5th Edition devices, it has yet to see the light of day. Fortunately, another Sega emulator called PicoDrive works great! It may not be as advanced as MasterGear, but it has the benefit of actually working. PicoDrive supports Sega Mega Drive/Genesis games, but it doesn’t have Game Gear support. Here’s how you get it started on the Nokia N97, N97 Mini or any other Symbian^1 device with a hardware QWERTY keyboard. Unlike Vampent’s Nintendo emulators, it’s much less ticklish to get PicoDrive running. Next up in the series of gaming tutorials at www.TechCredo.com, is trying to write a fail-safe guide to playing Quake on Symbian^1.
How to Play Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Games on Symbian^1 QWERTY Phones using PicoDrive
- Download PicoDrive and install it to your mass memory. I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to install PicoDrive to the memory card as well, if you prefer that.
- Connect your Symbian^1 device to your computer and create a specific folder for your Sega Mega Drive/Genesis ROMs, on either the mass storage or on your memory card. Sega Mega Drive ROMs are all over the interwebs, and those who Google shall find. Here’s a great list of the Top 25 Genesis Games for inspiration.
- Place your ROMs in the folder you just created. The ROM files can be in ZIP-archives, but no other compression than ZIP will work. You can of course also copy the Sega ROMs to the folder uncompressed, and the ROM files should have a .bin or .smd filename extension.
- Launch PicoDrive in landscape mode with the keyboard out, and configure the gaming keys by selecting Configure Controls in the menu.
- When you’re done configuring the keys, select Configure Screen from the main menu and choose the Portrait stretched option. This will allow you to play the games in full screen.
- Now you’re ready to launch a game! Select Load ROM from the top of the menu, locate your ROM folder and select the game you want to play. Once you have a game running, you can go back to the main menu by pressing the Backspace/Erase key.
- That’s it! Sweet 16-bit Sega Mega Drive gaming will ensue. If you encounter any problems (I haven’t been able to try this on the N97 Mini), please let me know and I’ll try to work something out. Thanks!
Additional Steps for Devices Lacking an OK Button (Nokia N97 Mini etc)
Since PicoDrive’s menu options are accessed by pressing the OK button, you can’t use the menus on devices that don’t have this particular key, without using a program like Virtual Keyboard or Virtual Key. The workarounds are quite smooth, but you need to be able to sign applications before they can be installed. This might scare some people off, but signing Symbian apps is easier than it might seem. And once you have your certificate (it’s free), it only takes a couple of seconds to sign applications. Getting your certificate is definitely worth the bother, since you from then on can use a whole range of unsigned Symbian software – not just Virtual Keyboard and Virtual Key. Here is an excellent guide to signing unsigned applications at Symbian-Guru.com. Thanks to Yap for helping me out with testing on the N97 Mini.
There are two methods of emulating the OK button, and the first one is probably the most convenient.
Using Virtual Key
- Download Virtual Key, sign the application, then install it to the mass memory.
- If you don’t know how to sign unsigned Symbian applications, check out this guide to learn how.
- Next step is copying a custom keymap for Virtual Key. Download VirtualKey-Custom-PicoDrive-Keymap.rar, and place custom3.keymap in the folder Private/e7d61da9 on your mass memory. If the folder doesn’t exist, create it.
- Launch Virtual Key and tap Options > Load Mode > Custom mode 3. This will load the custom keymap, and it should look something like this:
- Now press the right navigation key on the QWERTY (or tap on the arrow at the top of the display) to go to the Include screen. If the title says “Exclude” instead of “Include”, go to Options > Change mode > Include, to change it to Include mode. PicoDrive, as well as the Nintendo emulators vBoy, vBag, vNES and vSun (if you have all of them installed) should already be listed here. If not, tap Options > Add from Installed and select the emulators from the list.
- Tap Back to make Virtual Key run in the background.
- Launch PicoDrive and you should now be able to use C as an OK button!
Using Virtual Keyboard
- In order to use the menus in PicoDrive on the Nokia N97 Mini and other Symbian^1 phones without an OK button, you can also use a tiny little application called Virtual Keyboard, that can emulate an OK key press. It can be downloaded here, and the utility must be installed to the phone memory (C:). Since the application is unsigned, you need to sign it first. Follow this tutorial if you don’t already know how to sign apps.
- Once Virtual Keyboard is installed, start it and drag the resulting grey box to the upper-right corner of the screen so it’s not in the way.
- With the keyboard out, launch PicoDrive. You may need to move the grey box again at this point, if it’s blocking the menu. Navigate up and down in the menu with the arrow/directional keys on your QWERTY keyboard, and to select an option in the menu, press the button in the far left corner of the grey box, as shown in the video. This will let you use PicoDrive’s menu, just as if your device have had an OK button. If the PicoDrive menu disappears, press the Up or Down key and it will reappear.
- If your phone even lacks arrow keys, you can tap the buttons in the upper middle and lower middle of the grey Virtual Keyboard box, to move around in the menu.
- For further information, watch the demonstration video and hopefully everything will fall into place.