Chapter Select | Season 2, Episode 1 – God of War

Photo by SHOT, designed by Max Roberts

Season 2 sets a course through the myth of ancient Greece with God of War.
Max Roberts and Logan Moore travel back to God of War, not to be confused with 2018’s God of War. Has Kratos changed all that much since 2005? Does the quest for vengeance hold up?

Game Info

God of War

Metacritic – 94/100

This episode was originally recorded on September 25, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Season Art Statue Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Episode Cover Art Coals Photo by SHOT on Unsplash and designed by Max Roberts

Announcing a Slight Delay

Some news about Season 2 of Chapter Select:

We have decided to uncouple Episodes 1 and 2 of Chapter Select Season 2. This Wednesday 10/13/21, S2E1: God of War will release as scheduled. S2E2: God of War: Ascension will be release two weeks later on 10/27/21. The rest of the season will follow in the same fortnightly manner. The dates have been updated in the announcement post to reflect this delay.

I am extremely sorry for the delay.

You may be asking “Max, why delay the rollout not even a week after announcing it?”

Logan and I thought we could do a double drop to keep the entire run within 2021. But we were trying to crunch Ascension in and it turned out not to be possible. As the creator and producer, I should have made the call upfront to do one episode at launch. I was excited to finally get the show out there and that excitement has cost some integrity. I am sorry.

I hope you all continue to look forward to the premiere this Wednesday with episode 1 and the rest of the season this year. I truly appreciate your support. I hope you enjoy.

Episode 1: God of War (PlayStation 2), releasing on October 13, 2021.
Episode 2: God of War: Ascension (PlayStation 3), releasing on October 27, 2021.
Episode 3: God of War II (PlayStation 2), releasing on November 10, 2021.
Episode 4: God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PlayStation Portable), releasing on November 24, 2021.
Episode 5: God of War: Chains of Olympus (PlayStation Portable), releasing on December 8, 2021.
Episode 6: God of War III (PlayStation 3) releasing on December 22, 2021.
Episode 7: God of War (2018) (PlayStation 4) releasing on January 5, 2022.

Chapter Select Season 2 is God of War

Photo by Simone Pellegrini, designed by Max Roberts

I am excited to announce that the focus of Chapter Select Season 2 is the
God of War series. First appearing on the PlayStation 2 in 2005, God of War, Kratos, and the Blades of Chaos are still a proud titan within the PlayStation Studios catalog. God of War has arguably never been more relevant than with the upcoming ninth game, God of War: Ragnarok for PS4 and PS5, thanks to the series’ legendary relaunch in 2018.

RSS FeedApple PodcastsSpotifyYouTubeOvercastPocket CastsCastroAmazon

You may have noticed a new link in the middle there — YouTube. I have decided to create a video version of Chapter Select going forward. I have to play the games anyway, why not capture them as I go along? I was actually recording gameplay of Season 1, Episode 1: Paper Mario, but lost some footage and then never picked it back up after a brief pause in production. Recording Sticker Star would have been tricky too. Thankfully, I have the means to capture all of the God of War games. You won’t see our faces: This allows me to use the same audio edit without odd cuts in the video. The gameplay will be what I actually did for the season, along with additional relevant clips woven in. I am very excited for folks to watch and listen to the show going forward.

As for this season’s slate of episodes, here is the order we have for Season 2:

“Why is God of War (2018) at the end of the season?” you may be asking yourself. We delve into this in the first episode, but Logan convinced me to go about Season 2 this way. Since the reboot/reimagining of God of War is so stark to the first six games, we agreed it’d be best to save the Norse iteration for the end. Plus, when God of War: Ragnarok comes out in 2022 (🤞🏻), we have a nice line-up throw in a new episode to the season.

Sorry God of War: Betrayal fans, I couldn’t convince Logan to play it.

As far as the seasonal and episodic art, I spent a ton of energy finding real pictures that fit the themes and environments or each game. Nearly every photo was found on Unsplash and is properly credited in the show notes. Like
Season 1’s art, I have taken immense pride in the theming and visual design you’ll find in Season 2.

I hope you are as excited for Season 2: God of War as I am. The first two episodes will be launching next Wednesday, with new episodes following in a fortnightly manner. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts! 

RSS FeedApple PodcastsSpotifyYouTubeOvercastPocket CastsCastroAmazon

Update: Episodes 1 & 2 are no longer launching together. The release dates have been changed to reflect that. For more about the delay, please read about it here.

GB Operator Thoughts and Impressions

This GB Operator was provided for review by Epilogue. I reached out and asked if they’d be willing to do so and they were kind enough to oblige.

It is a secret to everybody that I have spent plenty of time and money in pursuit of archiving my game collection and emulating it in high fidelity. From building my own MiSTer to buying premium products from Analogue to upgrading original hardware, I have fallen in love with digitizing my physical games. It provides me with a peace of mind, freedom of accessibility, and it’s just plain fun to tinker and experiment.

I think a place folks like myself often start out at is with the Game Boy line of systems and games. Spanning 32 years, Nintendo’s iconic handheld line is near and dear to many. I dove in head first with the Gamecube and its Game Boy Player: Real GBA hardware slapped on the bottom of Nintendo’s powerful cube.

One tidbit I picked up from My Life in Gaming was that through the power of homebrew I could dump my Game Boy Advance games and saves to an SD card. This method wouldn’t work Game Boy or Game Boy Color games though, due to the system booting directly into the relevant mode. Between waiting for my Analogue Pocket and building my MiSTer, I decided to use the hardware at my disposal to digitize my GBA collection.

This was a tedious process. I had to reset or power the GameCube on and off each dump. Some carts would work, others needed to be cleaned. Pokémon saves were different than other games. I figured it all out, but it definitely took time and research.

While waiting for the Analogue Pocket and its presumed ability to dump games like their other consoles, I learned about a new little device called the
GB Operator from a company called Epilogue.

This $50 “cartridge slot for your computer” removes all confusion from handling Game Boy games in a modern way. It tears down the barriers for preserving save data, just one dead battery away from vanishing. It makes playing these games in higher resolutions plug-n-play. The typical emulation process, which can be filled with forums, technical specs, and sketchy websites is refined to a clean and clear product. While it does not have all the features a user may want, the initial launch and 0.7 beta software promises a strong foundation for the future of Epilogue’s product.

The Hardware

I love the look of the GB Operator. The see-through plastic immediately calls me back to the transparent Game Boy consoles I grew up with. Without a screen though, the games and their labels face you and show themselves off for a change. You can finally see your funky colored Pokémon game in all its translucent glory or the bright pop of Metroid Fusion‘s striking blue label.

With the circuit board on display for all to see, Epilogue came up with a real nice design. From the black PCB to the flush ribbon cable that connects the cartridge slot to the board, it’s a beautiful object that I don’t want to tuck away when I am not using it.

Thankfully, the GB Operator employs the use of USB-C for its means of connection. It’s a small, but modern progression that makes me enjoy the GB Operator more. I did have an issue connecting it to my iMac through a Thunderbolt dock. Using both the provided USB-A to USB-C cable and my own USB-C cable, the GB Operator would not connect through my Thunderbolt dock at all. This meant that the included cable was not usable with my iMac at all. Thankfully, I had a slew of USB-C cables to chose from a directly plug into my iMac. If you’re computer only has USB-C ports (most likely only an issue for those on a Mac), you’ll need to have a C-to-C cable.

Once you do have the GB Operator plugged in, the LED will shine bright and you can start popping in cartridges. Well, you also need to download their Operator software.

The Software

The Operator software is the real brains behind the (GB) operation. As I write the review, it is currently in 0.7.1 beta across macOS, Windows, and Linux. Being in beta has led to some bugs and quirks. Epilogue does have a roadmap for Operator, which is comforting to see what is coming down the pipeline. Some of these near-term updates contain important features like borderless full-screen and support for “most common controllers.” For example, my 8BitDo SN30 Pro doesn’t appear in Operator (Bluetooth or wired), but my 8BitDo Arcade stick does show up. Other features coming are more esoteric, like using a Game Boy Camera s a webcam.

As for the current state of Operator, I has its cornerstone features in place to build upon. It reads games when placed in the cartridge slot, pulling in the artwork and a description. You can play the games using their version of the popular mGBA emulator. You can backup both the game and its save to your computer, or even upload a save to the cartridge.

That is the feature I wanted to dig into first. I grabbed all of my Game Boy and Game Boy Color games and got to backing up. Within three to five minutes, I had all 10 of them dumped to my SSD and transferred over to my MiSTer and the Delta emulator on my phone. Compared to the hour or so it took to transfer all 16 or so Game Boy Advance games with my GameCube setup, this was delightful. No fuss whatsoever.

There is even an upload feature for writing save data to the cartridge and writing a game to a rewritable cartridge. I tossed in my copy of Pokémon Blue, played through a battle, saved – all in Operator’s emulator. When I saved and ended the emulation, Operator prompted me to ask if I wanted to overwrite the save data on the cartridge. I did and immediately put the game in my Spice orange GBA. Sure enough, the save was updated to what I had just played on my iMac.

This feature alone is a night and day difference to what I have previously experienced. I allows me to access all of my Game Boy games, not just the GBA titles. I can move data to and from the games: This will make playing a game on my MiSTer then transferring it to my phone or the original game a breeze. With the power to dump the games, you are given the flexibility to use the ROMs wherever you’d like, which you may want to do until Operator gets more features.

Operator’s version of mGBA works functionally well. The games are crisp and appear to run initially at a 4.5x scale, based off my comparison between it and my macOS emulator application of choice OpenEMU. You can scale the Operator window, but without proper scaling tools/options, I was never sure what the games were running at.

The roadmap I mentioned earlier presents a paint by numbers picture of where Operator currently stands compared to fuller featured emulators. The early and important numbers are shaded in— actually playing the game, some controller support, rich sound — but all the tiny later numbers are still being worked on — shaders, scalers, cheat support, pausing the emulator, etc. Eventually, the pictures will look similar, maybe shaded differently, but I am confident Operator will be fully featured by version 1.0.

Another interesting bit I noticed was that the game cartridge has to stay inserted the entire time while emulating the game. Pull it out and the emulation ends immediately. This is just like non-jailbroken Analogue systems: to play a game, you need the cartridge to supply the ROM. Similarly, the GB Operator has to be plugged in for the Operator software to work. I wish Operator would create a game library and store my digital copies there. I would love for Operator to go in this direction and be a digital library of my collection that beautifully presents them and runs them. Maybe this is to prevent legal repercussions and encouraging piracy. I’m not quite sure, but the fact that I can still get the files off the cartridge and manage them how I see fit is a win.

Here are some of the other bits and bobs I noticed in my testing:

  • Some of the box art Operator would display for the game would be oddly colored or be the Japanese version (even for a NA cartridge). I’m curious what database these are pulled from, it even matched the art originally displayed in Delta on iOS. Thankfully, Delta let’s you change the box art. I hope Operator will allow that some day.
  • Similarly, the game descriptions occasionally had typos or grammatical errors. Some would be so long, that they’d be cut off and you couldn’t finish reading them.
  • My copy of Frogger 2 was unidentifiable to Operator. I could submit information via email so that the game could be included in a future update.
  • The GB Operator is quite sensitive to dirty contacts. I had to clean my copy of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins before it would be loaded by the device.
  • I had a similar issue with The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap. This cartridge has always given me trouble for some reason, even with original hardware. After a cleaning, my GBA would load the game instantly, but the GB Operator took some finagling.
  • The GB Operator also offers reproduction cart detection. To test this, I went out and bought a reproduction of Pokémon Emerald. While popping open the cartridge makes it readily apparent that it was a fake, not everyone has the tools to do so. The software immediately recognized the reproduction cart and offered me the option to upload a ROM to the cartridge. 👀

The GB Operator is sleek, simple, and versatile. Even with beta software, the future of both the GB Operator and Epilogue is bright. For the enthusiast, it is an affordable tool for preservation, development, and emulation. For the lapsed fan that found a box of old games in their parent’s attic, it is a window to their past with modern accessibility. Epilogue has struck that balance beautifully. There is power in its elegance. The GB Operator truly is a “cartridge slot for your computer.”

PlayStation Acquires Bluepoint Games

Welcoming Bluepoint Games to the PlayStation Studios family by Hermen Hulst on the PlayStation Blog

Today I’m very excited to announce that PlayStation Studios has grown again with the addition of long-time partner Bluepoint Games! From the exceptional PS5 remake of Demon’s Souls to the critically acclaimed PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus and remasters of fan favorites like Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Bluepoint has built a name for itself by creating some of the highest-quality remasters and remakes in the industry.

With each of its projects, Bluepoint has raised the bar on console-defining visuals and gameplay, and the studio’s vast expertise in world building and character creation will be a huge plus for future PlayStation Studios properties.

Yours truly back in April writing about PlayStation’s blockbuster garden:

It sounds like they wanted to be Sony’s first party remake studio, at least at first. I predicted this year that Sony would buy Bluepoint Games. I still think that is a possibility and should happen. In the long run, it could be cheaper to buy the best remake studio in the business than develop one from the ground up internally. Microsoft certainly thinks it is cheaper to buy prominent studios in the long run.

And another one of my 2021 predictions has come to pass. I am having a very good year.

GMTK is Making a Game

What’s next for GMTK? by Game Maker’s Toolkit on YouTube

Mark Brown of Game Maker’s Toolkit has launched a new series where he shows the educational and creative process of making a game. And he is the one making said game.

I enjoy the idea and am excited to see how the series (and the game) shake out. The first proper episode is out where Mark explains which game engine he choose and the initial learning process he experienced. His lessons already learned are insightful and, frankly, applicable to learning anything for the first time (or the second or the hundredth time).

Episode 12: Twitter Tea Leaves with Peter Spezia

Peter Spezia returns to the show to run through the September 2021 Nintendo Direct. Next month is jam-packed with releases, more Directs, and a new tier of Nintendo Switch Online. The fifth year of the Nintendo Switch is also shaping up to be one of its busiest and best. And of course, Seth Rogen is Donkey Kong.

The Direct’s Opening

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

The Next Stretch

Nintendo Switch Online – N64 and Genesis

“Mario” Film Cast

iPhone 13 Pro Camera Review: Tanzania — Austin Mann

iPhone 13 Pro Camera Review: Tanzania by Austin Mann

We’ve spent the last week in southern Tanzania, exploring this vast natural habitat and capturing all its beauty with the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera. As I watched Apple’s keynote about this year’s iPhone release, I was most excited about the new macro capability, increased telephoto zoom, and Cinematic mode.

Boarding my flight, I reminded myself of the answers I’m looking for:

How will this new tech make our pictures and videos better?

I learned about Austin and his iPhone reviews two years ago with the iPhone 11 and its low-light photography capabilities. These reviews immediately entered the echelon of what I consider essential reading/viewing when new iPhones come out. I cannot believe these were shot on an iPhone. Simply incredible.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – 512 Pixels

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by Stephen Hackett for 512 Pixels

…Josiah is special. When he was just six months old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

To be honest with you, his diagnosis feels like it was several lifetimes ago. It’s hard to keep track of how much he’s been through between surgeries and physical therapy and chemo and MRIs and feeding tubes and speech therapy and on and on and on. Cancer doesn’t give a rip about what you had planned; when dealing with a tumor, you’re on its turf most of the time.

Josiah made it through. He’s no longer a cancer patient; he’s a cancer survivor.

That’s thanks to the work being done at St. Jude.

Just like the title says, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Each September, the podcast network Relay FM (co-founded by Stephen), raises money and awareness for St. Jude’s mission to save children from cancer. As of this writing, they have already raised over $80,000 this year.

St. Jude does not charge the families a dime to treat their children. Donations allow families to focus on their children’s health, without the looming cloud of hospital bills.

From a network that has personally given me so much to an organization that has given countless hours of research and life-saving treatment, I hope you will consider donating. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to donate for the past two years. Every single dollar helps these kids.

Don’t miss out on the Podcastathon on September 18 either:

This month, you’ll hear about St. Jude across the Relay FM family of podcasts, and from 12-8 PM on September 17, Myke Hurley and I will be co-hosting the third annual Podcastathon for St. Jude on Relay FM’s Twitch channel.

I Hope This Video Doesn’t Suck – Razbuten

I Hope This Video Doesn’t Suck by Razbuten on YouTube

I made this mostly for myself, but you can watch it too.

I have been in a creative rut for most of 2021. That may sound odd, especially with my launching two podcasts, but all I’ve really come up with are those podcasts and blog posts. And I feel frustrated because I, too, have a list on my phone full of little ideas. Not only a list, but a notebook, and the back of my office door. I may not be out of ideas, but I am definitely beginning to feel overwhelmed by them and thought of executing them.

I need to reign it in. My brain is bouncing all over with plans to work on this and that. Projects get started and then stopped. Ideas are stuck in creative purgatory.

Recently, I played through Chapter Select Season 2’s first game, Death’s Door, and earned the platinum trophy in Castlevania Requiem (aka Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night). I was so zoned in on these games, with clear goals to collect and do everything each game had to offer. When I finished the platinum trophy hunt, I realized I didn’t have the next project/goal/thing lined up and fleshed out. I’m waiting to begin post-production on the first episode of season 2 before I dive into the second game. Finding a guest for The Max Frequency Podcast has been tough these past two months (although I do have some ideas for September).

Chasing the Stick, my history of Naughty Dog, is its own self-contained nugget of too many ideas. I have been paralyzed by ideas and “if I just got this piece of equipment.” The project has been filled with its own amount of failing to get interviews and make progress.

I feel paralyzed to make a real decision.

After watching Raz’s new video yesterday after work, I’m pretty sure my subconscious began working on my problem. I intentionally left the house last night and helped Abby with her own tasks. I did it because I needed a break from sitting around trying to decide which mole hill mountain to climb. We ended up watching Back to the Future and Part II. Despite bringing along my notebook for working on my ideas, my brain was totally not swimming in the Idea Sea.

It was right before bed that I think I came up with a solution, which I understand is fundamentally another idea. My subconscious found an answer and brought it to the surface.

My ideas are big. I need to break them down. I need to build up into the big ones. So, I’m going to try and break them down. I’ll create smaller pieces of them, publish them, and move on to the next one. Sort of like when I was hung up on a name for The Max Frequency Podcast: I wanted a great show name before I started. That small element was stopping me from doing the show. I ended up picking the simplest name and then actually began producing the show.

Instead of ideas that take months of work and skills I haven’t fully developed, I need to tackle shorter turnarounds and develop those skills. Honestly, that’s the approach I’ve mostly had with Chapter Select. I suppose I’m adopting that across all my projects.

To semi-quote Raz: I wrote this mostly for myself, but you can read it too.

Halo Infinite Should Be Delayed – Comicbook

Here’s Why Halo Infinite Should Be Delayed to 2022 by Logan Moore for

From the outside looking in, it just doesn’t seem like Halo Infinite is ready to release this year. While many other publishers would feel a need to rush their games out because of fiscal calendars and such, Xbox has already shown that it’s bucking the traditional release format as it is. With Xbox Game Pass becoming the main way in which Microsoft wants consumers to interact with its first-party titles, getting a game out before Black Friday, for instance, doesn’t carry the same weight as it would to another publisher. So why is there even so much urgency to ensure that Halo Infinite releases before 2021 comes to a close?

Logan nails exactly how I have felt about Halo Infinite since E3 2021. Clearly, there is pressure to get this game out. I imagine they feel multiplayer is in a good enough spot to release and start raking in the money from battle passes et al., since the whole multiplayer suite has switched to free-to-play. The game has cost hundreds of millions to make alongside the new Slipspace engine and Microsoft clearly wants to start recouping those costs.

Where it truly feels rushed is when considering that this game was supposed to launch last year, presumably with all its features in tow. Now it is coming in hot to December with two keystone features on the back burner for 6 months. I think they just need to delay the game and release 1.0 in a completed state. The game may be “living,” especially with its free-to-play nature, but launch is important. I know I won’t be playing the campaign until co-op launches.

Halo Infinite feels like it is going to be launching in a “early access” state.

It’s not too late for Microsoft to pull the plug on December 8. Honestly, I could see them doing that. They clearly had no confidence in a date for E3, but do for a massive RPG (Starfield) to give its date a year and half ahead. The would tease fans during their own Gamescom stream to turn into Opening Night Live. Microsoft just doesn’t seem to have any confidence in their biggest IP (all right, maybe their biggest IP before they bought Skyrim). It’s not a good look. A poor, incomplete launch won’t look good either.

Also, I promise this has nothing to do with a prediction riding on Halo being delayed again.

Exposing Fraud And Deception In The Retro Video Game Market – Karl Jobst

Exposing FRAUD And DECEPTION In The Retro Video Game Market by Karl Jobst on YouTube

You may have seen last month a copy of Super Mario 64 sell for $1.5 million. I even joked how my mostly sealed copy of Ocarina of Time could make me a millionaire. Well, Karl Jobst has dug into how the market has spiked so dramatically in the past couple of years all thanks to WATA Games and Heritage Auctions.

Karl’s research and reporting is thorough and damning. This video is well worth your time.

This helps explain (along with a spike in collecting due to people staying home during COVID-19) why game prices, even for loose games, has skyrocketed.

Since March 2021, I’ve been on a Pokémon game collecting kick. I know it is poor timing given the franchise’s 25th anniversary is this year, but some of the prices I have seen just don’t make sense. In March 2019, Pokémon Emerald was roughly $40~ loose, $100~ Complete-in-Box (CiB). Two and a half years later, it is $90~ and $400~. Pokémon Diamond was $15~ loose, $20~ CiB. Now it is going for $30~ and $60~, with a peak of nearly $100~ earlier in the year.

GameCube games have blown up. Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes has doubled. Billy Hatcher too. I understand those aren’t super popular GameCube games, but these spikes have never happened before.

This upward trend is clearly influenced by WATA Games grading and these extremely high, anonymous sales at Heritage Auctions. These auctions and grades are inflating the market until it will, eventually, burst.

Just the other day, I snagged a copy of Pokémon Silver at my favorite local shop. The owner shared with me how the prices have shot up and that even they have to pay heftier prices to get the trade-ins for their business. He talked about how just a couple years ago the Pokémon games were $20 maybe $30 a pop, now much more in the $70-100 range.

This also appears to solely be impacting the North American market. The same games for Japanese or European consoles have kept reasonable prices. Pokémon Diamond from Japan is selling for $35~ CiB. Emerald is $76~. That same store I shop at has all of Gen 1 and 2 cartridges for Pokémon at or below $30. If the game’s were for the North American market, the prices would double or triple.

Excellent reporting and research from Karl. I hope this bubble bursts sooner rather than later.

I Swear I Didn’t Know

Death’s Door Thoughts and Impressions by Me for Max Frequency

Hunting bosses down for their souls, reminds me of, well lots of games, but Titan Souls specifically comes to mind. I dabbled on Vita back when it came out.

Guess who made Titan Souls?

I had no idea that developer Acid Nerve made both Death’s Door and Titan Souls. I only found out today when I looked up the soundtrack for Death’s Door and the composer’s are the same person – David Fenn– aka 50% of Acid Nerve. David is their producer, designer, composer, and sound designer. Mark Foster is the programmer, writer, designer, and animator.

Out of all the kill-bosses-for-souls games, I chose to compare two from the same developer without even knowing.

Sinnoh Fusion Ensemble Live at Berklee Caf – insaneintherainmusic

Sinnoh Fusion Ensemble Live at Berklee Caf (October 11 2019) by insaneintherainmusic on YouTube

I know I am nearly two years late, but hot dog this is wonderful. I’ll forever be indebted to Logan Moore for introducing me to Carlos Eiene aka insaneintherainmusic last year when I was at his house for The Game Awards. These jazz arrangements quickly joined my regular rotation of music while working and traveling. 

Then while I’ve been reminiscing my days of play Pokémon Diamond on the Nintendo DS for my review of Delta, I also remembered Logan saying that insaneintherainmusic was spending 2020 recording an album of the Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum music. That would be Sinnohvation and I have been listening for over a week straight now. 

I really loving seeing these musicians in action. It’s a treat and I think you’d enjoy it too.

Delta 1.3 Thoughts & Impressions

I’ve been on a bit of a journey with my game collection over the past year or so. Kickstarted by my Super NT, I’ve been chasing after preserving and digitizing my physical game collection. From the Game Boy to the Wii, I’ve found solutions for backing tons of my games up. A natural side effect of all this has been finding new ways to play my games.

Personally, I have been and am a proponent of real hardware, followed by hardware emulation, and then software emulation. Through all this archiving, my monkey brain has come around on emulation on the whole. With my save data and my digitized copy of a game, I am wholeheartedly accepting of emulation now.

So on Connected 357: I Need My Hands, Especially in the Summer when Federico Vitcci talked about his journey to play the Metroid games before Dread, he landed on using Delta on iOS.

Delta is a game emulator from Riley Testut for iOS that can be installed on iPhones through Riley’s alternative app store, aptly titled AltStore.

I had installed AltStore before. I used it to run Dolphin on my iPhone, thanks to Snazzy Labs. I never kept up with it. Now that my collection is backed up, I thought it’d be fun to see what Delta offered. I reinstalled AltStore and Delta this past week and have been delighted by Riley’s work.

The very first element I noticed was how Delta feels. This has a beautiful design that employs plenty of native iOS features. Riley has implemented Peek & Pop, haptic feedback for the on-screen buttons, shortcuts, and more. I’m not sure how much, if any, of the code is Swift or SwiftUI, but Delta has that native iOS feel that is polished, and what I would consider essential.

The set-up was simple, but did have some hiccups along the way. Delta created a folder in my iCloud drive. It actually created six; Delta, then Delta 2-6. The data lives in “Delta 3,” but I’m worried the app will be confused if I delete the other five folders and just drop the “3” from the folder name. I migrated all of my game ROMs into the folder and then began importing.

Delta automatically categorized the ROMs by platform. It even found art for some of the games. Most however, did not have any art. Thankfully, this is easily remedied with a Force Touch (or long press) on the game and selecting “Change Artwork.” I picked “Game Database” and picked the art I preferred. I do wish Delta was better at finding the art to begin with, but I am super happy I can use whatever art I’d like for the games.

Importing save data is just as easy with a Force Touch and selecting “Import Save Data, then you navigate to the data in Files and import. You can also sync your ROMs and save data. I hooked up Dropbox and Delta began syncing the data right away. This easily allows me to manage the save between Delta, my MiSTer, and the physical cartridge.

Actually playing the games is simple. Just tap and go. A beautiful controller skin pops up with the game above, when the iPhone is in a vertical orientation. Flipping the device sideways displays a transparent layout over the game. For touch-based controls, they work quite well. Riley has implemented wonderful haptic feedback to help simulate a real button press. The buttons are spaced well and I don’t find myself making many accidental presses. The down sides revealed themselves when I needed to press more than 3 or 4 buttons at once. Like in Metroid: Zero Mission, if I want to run to the right, aim up or down on the diagonal and shoot missiles, that is a 4 button combo and my two thumbs can’t pull it off. The loss of proper shoulder buttons, etc. is heavy.

Thankfully, bluetooth controllers can be synced up! This really helps with NES through GBA games. I was even able to connect a real N64 controller to my phone and play with it! I did have some issues getting some buttons to work. I am not sure if this is Delta, the iOS 15 beta, or the 8bitDo SN30 Pro itself. For example, the “Start” button would not work with “pause” or “start” , which is kind of the standard. This resulted in up on the D-Pad being “start” for Super Mario 64.

Now for the real reason to install Delta — to play games! From the NES up through the GBA, the games look and run nicely. I’m not sure at what scale they are running at; there are no settings to adjust output. But on an iPhone Xs Max in my hands, I’m not sure that matters. The OLED screen is brighter and clearer than any official GameBoy screen. Pixels are sharp and the emulation appears to run accurately, at least to my eye.

I am excited to compare it to the Analogue Pocket later this year, since they are both handheld devices, and the Pocket’s resolution is close to my iPhone Xs Max with a superior pixel density. I also wish there were some filters that we could use – gridlines, CRTs, etc.

The best system to emulate in Delta has to be the Nintendo DS. With touch being an integral part of the DS, the iPhone makes for a perfect emulation device. The DS screens are close and look wonderful on an iPhone with the gorgeous layout designed by Riley. Touch just makes sense.

Now, the DS was designed with a stylus in mind, not pudgy fingers, and that can be felt in Delta. Elite Beat Agents is tougher with my index finger tapping along instead of the tiny stylus every DS came with. This could be mitigated with a capacitive stylus – or even the Apple Pencil when iPad support comes to Delta someday.

The DS emulation also runs into similar “too many buttons and too few fingers” problems. This is more situational though. Metroid Prime Hunters? That seems to be quite playable since touch was essentially take up one hand at all times. Phantom Hourglass? Very doable. Even the slower-paced Pokémon games are easy to control. Super Mario 64 DS on the other hand, is a bit more finicky. I haven’t figured out how to “close” the DS, which is essential in some games, like Phantom Hourglass. I’d assume there is a way, I just haven’t found it yet (Update: Found it! Simply sleep & wake the phone itself, very slick).

This is, by far, the easiest way to play DS games today, outside of real hardware. Even using homebrew on the 3DS to keep my collection accessible digitally is a far more involved process. The same goes for playing my games on the Wii U, where you have to use a PC to package the game up in a special format. I can’t see myself wanting to pick up and play a DS game any other way.

Delta is a wonderful app. I have been completely won over and it has earned a spot right on my home screen. I can’t think of higher praise when it comes to an iOS app; I’m pretty picky.If you’d like your collection in your pocket, there’s no better app.