I was thinking where to post about my experience with the latest revisions of Dolphin and came across this thread thanks to the search function. Really surprised by the lack of replies though.
I hadn't kept up with Dolphin development for maybe about year or so until a few weeks ago when I decided to check in on its status to see how things were progressing. The reports on the developer's site boasted about major improvements in the emulator's core and the HLE audio and promised speed boosts of upwards of 100% for some games, so I figured I'd give it a whirl. And oh boy, they weren't bulshitting in the slightest. It really is a major improvement across the board. The games that used to give me trouble on my gaming desktop now run at full speed on a measly laptop at 2-3xNative resolutions(1280x1056 and 1920x1584 respectively).
Hardware specs: Intel Core i7 2630QM 2.0-2.9Ghz, GeForce GT540M, 4Gb RAM, Windows 7(I do most of the emulation on my laptop these days since I take it with me everywhere where there is a TV with an HDMI input)
What I tested and what results I got:Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
It used to be among the more problematic titles to emulate. Many effects wouldn't render correctly, it was quite slow at times, the audio wouldn't play properly even with LLE and one particularly nasty glitch would make further progress impossible. Now it runs without a hitch. I even started a new playthrough and as of this moment just a couple of chapters away from finishing it. Screenshots(downsized to 960x540):Super Mario Sunshine
I've been dying to play this game in HD for the longest time. I love the seaside theme, the crystal clear water of Noki Bay, the fluffy clouds of Pianta Village, the windmill on top of Bianca Hills, the degree of freedom brought into the platforming mechanics with the introduction of FLUDD and yes, even the dreaded blue coins, I don't mind. The problem, of course, was that it didn't run too well in Dolphin. In fact, it even lagged behind Galaxy in the accuracy and speed department. Imagine my surprise when I launch the game in one of the latest Dolphin revisions and it looks and runs the way I remember it on Gamecube, except in HD. I'm about 2/3s through the game now, unlocked all of the locations and I've yet to experience any slowdown or run into any glitches. Amazing stuff!!! Screenshots:
Other games I tried:Resident Evil 4
- full speed everywhere, even during the visually intensive scenes like the one where Leon enters the village for the first time. The audio issues seem to have been fixed: no crackling, stuttering or looping.Resident Evil Remake
- perfect, no issues whatsoever.Monster Hunter Tri
- full speed, both in the village and during the hunts. I turned off the frame limiter(TAB key) to see if there are any gains over the last official release of Dolphin(which is now over a year old) and got 7-9 more FPS on average. The bloom emulation is still botched, so make sure to check the 'Bloom Hack' box in the game's properties.Red Faction 2
- wanted to see how that Geo-Mod engine would fare in Dolphin and, well, no issues at all. I get over 100FPS when I benchmark with TAB(the game's native framerate is 30). Enable XFB(External Frame Buffer) in the settings or else the graphics will be glitchy as hell.F-Zero GX
- the performance has been majorly improved. I get at least twice as many FPS as I used to, the framerate is in the 45-60FPS depending on if there are any other racers nearby. The bugs are still in though - the game randomly reloads if you have 'Dual Core' enabled(the performance suffers if you don't).
One thing to note about Dolphin that people new to it may not know about is that the stuttering and small freezes that you are guaranteed to encounter when you run a game for the first time are caused by the GPU real-time processing of the data. It's a one time only occurrence and as soon as the cache is generated in User/ShaderCache, the stuttering should go away. The User/ShaderCache folder is automatically created in c:/user/name/My Documents/Dolphin when you run the emulator. If you want to keep it in the same directory as the emulator, create a text file named portable.txt and place it in the directory with dolphin.exe. Next time you run Dolphin, it'll generate the User folder locally.
Some of the games I played to completion in Dolphin in the past:Alien Hominid
Baten Kaitos: Origins
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Rune Factory Frontier
Resident Evil Remake
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Monster Hunter Tri