Given enough time and attention from the development community, it is practically inevitable that any video game console can and will be emulated on a general purpose computer. Hardware manufacturers, always wary of the piracy implications of such a development, may hope that this does not happen until many years after the console is no longer commercially viable. Unfortunately for Nintendo, that seems unlikely in the case of the 3DS.
The Citra emulation project has been in the works for at least a year, but developers achieved a breakthrough last December when they managed to Ocarina of time 3D For the first time. That title now runs at almost full speed on Citra using an OpenGL renderer (although some visual artifacts still exist).
Since then, compatibility work has seemingly continued game-by-game. Virtual Console titles were shown in February, and this week team members posted proof of them Animal Crossing new leaf, Super Monkey Ball 3D, and even the main menu of the system running through emulation. There are also some homebrew demos available, including emulators for it other systems running in the 3DS emulator and the kind Minecraft port that is apparently required for all emulation projects these days.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done before Citra’s 3DS emulation is perfected. Many games still rely on an inefficient software interpreter, which runs games like Super Monkey Ball 3D at “1 FPS to 5 FPS” on an Intel Core i5 processor, according to the poster of the (accelerated) video above. And the emulator still can’t recreate the sound effects or music from the 3DS either.
Still, the Citra project has progressed incredibly quickly for a community that only managed to decode 3DS ROMs just over a year ago and for a system that’s just over four years old. The rapid progress in 3DS emulation is even more impressive when you consider that developers are still struggling to get a functional emulator for the original Xbox almost 14 years after the system’s launch. Attempts to run commercial games on PS3 and Xbox 360 emulation projects are only now beginning to show the first signs of fruitful results.
However, with Citra, it looks like the 3DS will be more like the Wii, Gamecube, and PlayStation 2, all of which had relatively functional emulators while the original systems were still in the prime of their commercial lives. That certainly doesn’t make Nintendo happy, although in the past the company has taken legal action against makers of flashcarts and ROM distributors more often than against the makers of the PC emulators themselves.