Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere was an amazing game. There are two problems with it, however. First, it’s real old. Like, PlayStation 1 old. Older than Jesus, as some would say. Second, the export version of it sucks. It’s not a personal opinion but the harsh truth. Therefore, in order to play the original Electrosphere, you will have to put a lot of effort into it first.
What you will need:
- Images of the two original Japanese CDs of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere. I will not tell you where to get them other than legally buying them from a collector or eBay.co.jp. Consider it the first test of your dedication to the series and this game in particular. You can’t proceed until you beat it.
- A PlayStation 1 emulator. I used ePSXe (1.7.0 for Win32) because, really, it’s the industry standard PSX emulator by now (too bad it’s not available in 64 bit).
- A PlayStation BIOS image. I used SCPH7502.bin, as recommended by the ePSXe crew. Again, I will not tell you where to download it, so google it.
- An ePSXe GPU plugin for your graphic card. They are all available from a certain Pete’s page; I used the “Pete’s OpenGL2 PSX GPU” because I have an ATI Radeon HD 3200 in my laptop. If you are not certain which plugin to get, refer to the ePSXe FAQ, the section titled “Choosing the best GPU plugin”.
- And just in case your ePSXe installation decides to be bitchy, get the zlib1.dll file from SourceForge.
If you want to play the game using a real controller rather than on your keyboard (which I recommend unless your keyboard is designed for such abuse), you will further need:
- A PlayStation-compatible USB game controller. I took a DualShock 3 from my PS3 because I am used to it.
- A Windows driver for DualShock controllers. Get the latest ZIP file appropriate for your operating system (32 or 64 bit) from the MotionInJoy homepage.
Now that you have all the stuff, break out your shaman tambourine and begin:
- Unpack the contents of epsxe170.zip you just downloaded to somewhere. It can be C:\Program Files (x86)\epsxe170 but needs not be. I will henceforth refer to this root installation directory as “\epsxe170”.
- Place your SCPH7502.bin into the \epsxe170\bios folder.
- Open the ZIP archive you downloaded from Pete’s site and extract only the file gpuPeteOpenGL2.dll (or whatever the only DLL in your package is called) to the folder \epsxe170\plugins.
- Open the ZIP archive you downloaded from SourceForge and extract only the file zlib1.dll to \epsxe170 (right next to ePSXe.exe).
The next steps are only relevant if you want to play with a controller.
- Unpack the MotionInJoy ZIP and start the EXE inside to install it. I recommend to do so in admin mode, because, you know, drivers.
- Once MotionInJoy application is installed and starts up (again, preferably in admin mode), go to the “Driver Manager” tab.
- Connect your controller to a USB port and wait for it to appear between the blue bar with instructions in it and the buttons bar underneath it. It may take some time but not longer than 2-3 minutes.
- Select the controller and press the “Load driver” button. Again, it may take some time, but wait until a success log appears underneath the buttons.
- Windows may say it needs to restart at this point but ignore and cancel it.
- Go back to the “Profile” tab. Your controller should now appear in the drop down menu under “Connected game controller(s):” and the red bar to the right of it should be blinking.
- Select the “PlayStation 3” radio button and click “Options” next to it.
- For some reason, in my initial installation, two D-Pad buttons (up and down) were mapped to numbered “Directx input” keys (12 and 13) , while the other two weren’t. This led to me being later unable to map the controller keys to the “simulated” controller in ePSXe, so make sure all D-Pad buttons are mapped to numbered “Directx input” keys.
- Also, while you are at it, you might want to set “Axis Rz” and “Axis Slider” inputs to “None” because you won’t need them anyway and it will be easier to map the controller’s other buttons that way.
- Press the “Enable” button (highlighted because it’s so easy to forget) to activate the analogue controls (thumb sticks)
- Optionally, press the “Game Controller Panel” button. It will open the standard Windows controller overview, where you can check whether your controller works (via “Properties” button).
OK, back to the general part:
- Start \epsx170\ePSXe.exe. On first start, it should pop up a configuration wizard. Otherwise, select Config -> Wizard Guide in the top menu.
- For BIOS, choose the only one you’ve downloaded.
- For Video, ditto.
- For Sound, the default plugin that comes bundled with ePSXe (ePSXe SPU Core 1.7.0) will do.
- For CDROM, confirm whichever standard option is pre-selected.
- For controller, confirm the default values if you want to play with the keyboard, otherwise, see next section. You can also access the controller configuration from main menu: Config -> Game Pad -> Port 1 -> Pad 1.
Again, the next part is for controller users only:
- Select “[SCPH-1200] DualShock (F5)” in the top-right corner drop down menu.
- In the “Rumble” box on the right, select: “DXJoy1” for Type, “Sine” for both Big and Small Motor.
- Inputting the key mappings in the central diagram was the tricky part, at least for me, because my controller seems to have been constantly sending the “Slider” signal to the PC because I didn’t hold it in a perfectly horizontal position. So, when I clicked onto an input field and pressed the corresponding button, it was instantly overridden by the continuous “Slider” signal. I have come up with this trick: click into an input field, press and hold the intended button, then click into the next input field with the mouse in your other hand. For the thumb sticks (red and blue lines on the diagram), I found that holding them all the way down in a certain direction would make the intended button code appear in the input field, after which I could click away. After inputting the final field, click OK.
- Don’t look at me like that. If you want to use a controller, you should have at least this much finger dexterity. Anyway, here is a picture of what it should look like when done:
This next part is relevant only if you have a wide screen or don’t like the original (notoriously low-res) video output of PS1 games to be stretched out, and only if you have an ATI graphic card like myself (though I am sure NVIDIA ones have something similar).
- Go to Control Panel -> Display -> Display properties.
- Reduce your resolution to 800 x 600.
- Go to Advanced properties -> Catalyst Control Center -> ATI Catalyst Control Center.
- Go to Graphics (top-left) -> Desktops & Display.
- Click on the small triangle next to the small display symbol underneath to bring up a context menu. The large display above will not have the option you need. In the context menu, click “Configure…”
- In the Attributes -> Scaling box select either “Maintain aspect ratio” (video will be upscaled) or “Centered” (video will remain in original resolution) radio button.
And back to the general part again:
- In ePSXe, choose “File -> Run ISO” in the main menu, then select your Electrosphere CD1 image.
- If it shows the “Analog Off” message in the top-right corner on start up, press F5 (repeatedly, if it doesn’t work the first time) until it changes to “Analog On” and disappears.
- Once you see the red Namco logo appear on the screen, you’ve made it.
That is it. Now that you have reached this point, you have to beat all five endings of the game on Very Hard difficulty, simply to make the ridiculous amount of time and effort you invested into setting it up worth it. 😉
Oh, and one last thing: on PS1, especially in Japanese games, the Circle button meant “Confirm” and the Cross meant “Cancel”. Have fun.
EDIT 2011-10-11: Just tested the guide above on my other PC with Windows XP x86. Essentially, it’s the same thing, though I couldn’t get MotionInJoy to work since it apparently only works with .NET 3.5 and I recently updated to 4.0. No matter, I found my old Saitek USB controller for PC and set it up. Worked like a charm. Also, I couldn’t bother to look for Aspect ratio settings in the Nvidia settings (have a GeForce on this machine), so I just found an option for this in my monitor hardware settings.