DEmul, Dreamcast and Arcade Emulator Review

asdf2Welcome to the first emulator review on casualemulationfan by a casual emulation fan! Reviews on this website will be a blend of offering tutorial and troubleshooting tips as well as broadly reviewing the emulator itself. Please keep in mind the support and review opinions on this site are subjective and not absolute! 😀

Today we will be taking a closer look at DEmul, a Dreamcast emulator which also emulates the arcade boards of Naomi 1, Naomi 2, Hikaru, and Atomiswave. This review will focus on DEmul 0.7 Alpha’s emulation of Dreamcast games as well as Naomi 1 and 2 games. For the DEmul Quick Start Guide please click here. To view other Emulator Reviews or Quick Start Guides in the future and see the review guidelines, click the Atlas of Judgment!


Emulator Version – DownloadMirror
DEmul 0.7 Alpha (Build July 31, 2015)

DEmul BIOS for Dreamcast, Naomi, Naomi 2, Hikaru, Atomiswave – Download

Test Machine
AMD 8320
Nvidia GTX 760
16 GB RAM

Games Tested for this review
18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker (Naomi 1 Arcade)
Alien Front (Naomi 1 Arcade)
Capcom Fighting Collection (Dreamcast)
Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast)
Crazy Taxi (Naomi 1 Arcade)
Daytona USA (Dreamcast)
Dead or Alive 2 (Dreamcast)
Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (Dreamcast)
Gauntlet Legends (Dreamcast)
House of the Dead 2, The (Dreamcast) – see example gameplay here
House of the Dead 2, The (Naomi 1 Arcade)
King of Route 66, The (Naomi 2 Arcade)
Quake 3: Arena (Dreamcast)
Resident Evil: Code Veronica (Dreamcast)
San Franciso Rush 2049 (Dreamcast)
Sega Rally 2 (Dreamcast)
Sega Strike Fighter (Naomi 1 Arcade)
Shenmue (Dreamcast) – see example gameplay here
Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast)
Spider-Man (Dreamcast)
Soul Surfer (Naomi 2 Arcade)
Super Runabout: San Francisco Edition (Dreamcast) – see example gameplay here
Typing of the Dead, The (Dreamcast)
Virtua NBA (Naomi 1 Arcade)
Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast)
Virtua Tennis 2 (Naomi 1 Arcade)
Virtua Fighter 3tb (Dreamcast)
Virtua Fighter 4 (Naomi 2 Arcade)


Files you will need
DEmul 0.7 Alpha (Build July 31, 2015) – DownloadMirror
DEmul BIOS for Dreamcast, Naomi, Naomi 2, Hikaru, Atomiswave – Download

Files you may need
DirectX Web Installer – Download
Visual C++ 2010 x86 – Download
Visual C++ 2010 x64 – Download
Visual C++ 2013 x86 & x64 – Download
.NET Framework 4 Web Installer – Download
Intel Video Drivers – Download
Nvidia Video Drivers – Download
AMD Video Drivers – Download

Files to open .rar, .zip, and .7z archives
Winrar – Download
7-Zip – Download


About DEmul

This guide and review is designed to help you to learn about DEmul and setup DEmul to play emulated games. DEmul is the latest updated Dreamcast emulator for Windows. Virtually all Dreamcast games are compatible with this emulator, though you may require mid-range or better PC hardware to run these games well through DEmul. DEmul also lets you emulate arcade hardware including Naomi 1, Naomi 2, Hikaru, and Atomiswave.

Typical use of this emulator to play Dreamcast games involves DEmul reading CD images of games in either .cdi or .gdi format from your hard drive. Other CD image formats may also work with DEmul include .mdf/mds, .bin/cue, and .iso. .gdi is usually the format for games dumped straight to the hard drive from the original Dreamcast discs, while .cdi is a conversion used to create new CDs to be used on real Dreamcast hardware. Dreamcast games are read with the help of GD-ROM plugins included with the emulator. DEmul can also emulate games from the arcade platforms listed earlier. DEmul can directly read .zip archived ROMs of arcade games or read them as ‘compressed hunks of data’ or CHDs through a plugin.

DEmul offers a reasonable degree of graphics customization as well as a more limited degree of audio and input customization. You will also be able to create and save games to virtual memory cards used by the emulator, as well as create save states To achieve this, DEmul uses a plugin system for the video, audio, and inputs and built-in systems to manage memory cards and save states.


DEmul 0.7 Alpha Setup – Download Mirror

The following will be a basic and easy-to-follow guide on setting up DEmul for the first time. It will walk you through with descriptions of DEmul’s BIOS setup, basic settings, audio, video, and image reading plugins, and some of its specialized features.


DEmul BIOS Setup – Download
DEmul requires BIOS files to emulate games. You can download the BIOS for Dreamcast, Naomi 1, Naomi 2, and Atomiswave from the links above.

Contained in the archives are required BIOS files which are dcbios.zip for Dreamcast, naomi.zip for Naomi 1 Arcade hardware, naomi2.zip for Naomi 2 Arcade hardware, and awbin.zip for Atomiswave arcade hardware. For typical users you may only need dcbios.zip, though it does not cause problems to have the other BIOS files as well.

These files should be stored in the ‘roms’ folder in the DEmul emulator folder (…\[your-DEmul-emulator-folder]\roms\…). You may use a different folder, but for the purpose of simplicity and compatibilty, I recommend using this default folder.

The BIOS files are contained in .zip archives. You do not need to extract them from their .zip archives. In your ROM folders the files you should have in …\[yourDEmulemulatorfolder]\roms\… are dcbios.zip, naomi.zip, naomi2.zip, and awbios.zip

In the DEmul settings you will also have to make sure that DEmul is pointed to the folder in which the BIOS files are stored for Dreamcast and Naomi 1 and 2. To do this, start DEmul –> click on Config in the top menu bar –> click on Plugins and Paths. In the section ‘Roms and Bioses Paths’ select ‘add’ and then use the Windows Explorer window to search for and select the ‘roms’ folder in your DEmul emulator folder.


DEmul Plugins Setup
DEmul uses a plugin system for video, sound, reading CD or data images, and controls. These plugins are located in your …\[your-DEmul-emulator-folder]\plugins\….

To change these plugins start DEmul –> click on Config in the top menu bar –> click on Plugins and Paths. Using the dropdowns you can select the plugins you wish to use. Typical users will want to use gpuDX11, spuDemul, gdrImage, padDemul, and netDemul. Click OK to confirm your selections.


DEmul Video Plugins Setup
The video plugins compatible with DEmul 0.7 Alpha are included with the emulator. These plugins are gpuDX11 and gpuDX11ng. Both of these plugins use DirectX11 and emulate games with similar performance and accuracy. Of the two, gpuDX11ng is newer, but offers less customization than gpuDX11. With gpuDX11ng you may adjust the output resolution in a window or fullscreen, change the aspect ratio of the output image, rotate the output image, turn Vysnc on or off, and apply some hacks/tweaks/debug options seen as tickboxes.

gpuDX11 offers the same functionality (except for one tweak that is absent, Enable Translucent Join), and also allows you use post-processing effects (such as FXAA) and increase the internal resolution so the emulated games appear sharper. However, increasing internal resolution also comes at a performance cost. For mid-range hardware 2x resolution is a good balance to keep full emulation speed and increase image quality.

Both video plugins also have an option termed ‘Max Layers’ which can be set to 8, 16, 32, or 64. Adjusting this option higher has a significant impact on performance, possibly more than increasing internal resolution, and possibly compounds greater performance penalties with higher internal resolutions, but for the added benefit of greater graphics emulation accuracy in literally “layering” certain graphics and effects. For mid-range hardware, 16 layers with 2x internal resolution is a good balance to keep full emulation speed and avoid graphics bugs.


DEmul Sound Plugins Setup
The sound plugin spuDemul is included with the emulator. There are limited options and adjusting these may only be for advanced users. The default settings are all boxes unticked and buffer size at 2048.


DEmul Image Reading Plugins Setup (typical for Dreamcast games)
Three image reading plugins are included with DEmul. The plugins are gdrImage, gdrDemul, and gdrCHD. A typical user will be using gdrImage to read CD images of Dreamcast games from the hard drive. Typical formats are .cdi and .gdi, but may also include .mdf/mds, .bin/cue, and .iso.

gdrDemul reads CD drives such as a real CD drive which is capable of reading Dreamcast games (very rare), or an emulated CD drive to which a Dreamcast game is mounted. gdrCHD is used for reading ‘compressed hunks of data’ or CHDs which are compressed arcade games. You can read more about CHD format in the MAME romsets here.

To setup a CD image to be read under the gdrImage plugin, select Config in the top menu bar –> click GD-ROM –> use Windows Explore to browse to the folder containing your CD image file and select it. When you are ready to boot an emulated game with DEmul this is the image file that will be used. You can also change the selection in the same way to access another game, or clear the selection by clicking ‘Eject’. Booting DEmul with an empty disc drive will let you access the Dreamcast system menu.


DEmul ROM Launching Setup (typical for Arcade games)
Unlike for Dreamcast games, DEmul can read archived Arcade games directly. In this guide only ROM launching for Naomi 1 and Naomi 2 Arcade hardware will be the focus, though the process is very similar for Hikaru and Atomiswave arcade game launching. These Naomi 1 and Naomi 2 Arcade games are typically contained in .zip archives like those from MAME romsets. You can read more about .zip archives in the MAME romsets here.

Also unlike Dreamcast games launching, DEmul prefers arcade games to be launched from a specific folder within the DEmul emulator folder, which is the same folder in which you previously placed your BIOS files. This folder is found at  …\[your-DEmul-emulator-folder]\roms\….

You will need to move the archived arcade game you wish to emulate into the ‘roms’ folder as DEmul needs to access the BIOS files and arcade game archive in the default ‘roms’ folder at …\[your-DEmul-emulator-folder]\roms\…. This directory pointing seems to be specifically coded into the emulator.

As an example we will walk through launching of The House of the Dead 2 for Naomi 1 Arcade hardware.

The release of The House of the Dead 2 should be named as hotd2.zip. If you wish to boot this game, it should be stored in the same folder as your BIOS files at …\[your-DEmul-emulator-folder]\roms\…. So the two required files to launch The House of the Dead 2 for Naomi 1 Arcade are naomi.zip and hotd2.zip and both must be in the ‘roms’ folder.

To boot this game, click File from the top menu bar –> select ‘Run Naomi/Naomi2’. You will be presented with a dropdown list of arcade games supported by DEmul. You can organize this list alphabetically by archive name, game name, company name, year of release, or emulated machine by clicking the appropriate list heading at the top.

The entry we are looking for again is for The House of the Dead 2 which is hotd2.zip. Organize the list by archive name and scroll down to hotd2.zip, or simply type ‘hotd2’ to find the entry ‘hotd2 – House of the Dead 2 – Sega – 1998 – naomi.’ Select this entry and press ‘OK’ at the bottom-left, or double click this entry to start the emulation. If everything worked correctly, you will see the phrase ‘THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD 2 SYSTEM IS STARTING UP…’ and the game will boot.

You can follow essentially the same steps to boot other Naomi, Naomi 2, Hikaru, and Atomiswave Arcade games!


DEmul Controls & Inputs Setup
A DirectInput-based input plugin padDemul  is included with the emulator and is the only plugin compatible with DEmul as far as I am aware. This plugin will let you configure up to 4 controllers for Dreamcast, Arcade systems, and even a controller for Mahjong (lol). All of the controllers listed for Dreamcast, Arcade, and Mahjong allow you to save a primary setting and alternative setting if you wish to quickly swap between two control styles.

To access the controls menu click on Config in the top menu bar –> click on Controls –> then click on the emulated joypad you would like to configure. Click ‘Joy 1’ under Dreamcast or Arcade controls to begin configuring.

To configure your controls, click on a corresponding button or analog axis and then press the button on the keyboard or gamepad you wish to use with DEmul. Unfortunately, using padDEmul it does not appear possible to assign axes to the trigger paddles of the emulated Dreamcast controller. For Dreamcast controls try to assign keys only to buttons under the ‘Standard Controller buttons’ heading to maintain compatibility with all games.

For Arcade controls keep in mind controls for different games can vary greatly and more than typical between just Dreamcast games. For example, in driving games, the ‘up/down’ axis, emulating the pedal motions on the arcade system hardware, will be typically assigned to accelerate/brake, such as in 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker or Crazy Taxi for Arcade, while in the Dreamcast console version of Crazy Taxi the Dreamcast controller trigger axes are used for this function. Also keep in mind different games may use very different numbers or combinations of buttons from the 8 possible ‘face’ buttons you can assign (some may be for other players, or not used at all in some games).

There are also assignments available for buttons such as ‘JVS Test’ (a function to test the joystick input of the arcade board while DEmul is actively emulating) to help you set up an arcade game to play such as playing The House of the Dead 2 with 1:1 mouse input. While in this menu or similar service menu for Arcade games, you will have to press ‘Service’ to cycle between options and press ‘JVS Test’ to select an option. Exiting this service/debug/arcade setup menu will bring you back to the game proper.

Additionally, within each of Joy 1 to 4 setups for Arcade you can assign buttons for ‘COIN’ input (required to insert ‘Credit’ or ‘Coin’ to play an arcade game) and also ‘SERVICE’ to access service options for a specific arcade game during emulation.


DEmul Special Controls & Inputs Setup, The House of the Dead 2, a Lightgun Arcade Shooter
It is possible to configure games such as The House of the Dead 2 to use a mouse as a ‘lightgun’ in DEmul using the JVS Test service menu. Other games, such as driving arcade games Crazy Taxi or 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker will usually not need such special configuration beyond the DEmul controls configuration. Double check that you have assigned keys for ‘JVS Test’ and ‘Service’ in the Controls menu (click Config at the top menu bar –> Controls –> assign keys to JVS Test and Service).

First, boot up The House of the Dead 2 (see the DEmul ROM launching section on Arcade games for more information) and wait until you reach the game. Next press the button you assigned for ‘JVS Test’. This will open ‘NAOMI TEST MODE’ in which you will see white text with several options and a black background.

To cycle between options you need to press the button you assigned for ‘Service.’ To accept an option press the button you assigned for ‘JVS Test’

Cycle using the ‘Service’ key and until you reach ‘GAME TEST MODE’ and then hit the ‘JVS Test’ key to accept. In the next menu cycle to ‘INPUT TEST’ and select it. While in the ‘INPUT TEST’ screen, move the mouse over the DEmul emulator window to confirm that the mouse is working as the emulated lightgun input. You will know it is working if the values for ‘GUN-X’ and ‘GUN-Y’ are changing while you move the mouse over the DEmul window and stop changing when your mouse is off the window. The emulation will work accurately in both windowed mode and fullscreen.

After confirming the mouse is working as the emulated lightgun, press ‘JVS Test’ again to exit, then cycle down to ‘EXIT’ in the ‘INPUT TEST SCREEN’ and select, and again cycle to ‘EXIT’ and select in the main ‘GAME TEST MODE’ service menu and the game will reboot with lightgun emulation with the mouse! Left-clicking will shoot while Right-clicking the mouse will reload in The House of the Dead 2 now.


DEmul Special Controls & Inputs Setup, Alien Front, a combined Analog and Pedal Arcade game
Similar to The House of the Dead 2, Alien Front for Naomi 1 Arcade is another arcade game which may require special analog configuration before playing correctly.

To configure the analog controls you will need to use the JVS Test service menu like with The House of the Dead 2. From here you will be able to fully configure left and right turning analog function, with resting position, as well as two pedal emulation for forward and backward acceleration, also with resting position.

After booting the game, press the ‘JVS Test’ key you previously assigned to access the the JVS Test service menu. When you reach the service menu, again use the ‘Service’ key to cycle through options to select the option ‘GAME TEST MODE’ with the ‘JVS Test’ key you assigned earlier.

Next, cycle through the options in the ‘TEST MODE’ menu to find ‘CONTROLLER SETTINGS’ and select it. In this next menu, select ‘CONTROLLER SETTINGS’ again to access the menu required to configure the analog controls.

Cycle to the top option ‘Wheel (right end)’ and while on this option, move your analog controller stick all the way to the right and hold it there (you will notice the left-hand column value changing rapidly while moving your analog stick if your controller input is being registered). While still holding this rightward analog motion, press the ‘JVS Test’ key to confirm your input for ‘Wheel (right end)’. After you press ‘JVS Test’ key the value in the right-hand column will match the value in the left-hand column while you had held the rightward analog motion, and this means the setting is saved.

Continue through the next options in the same way. Press ‘Service’ to cycle to the next option (here it is ‘Wheel (left end)), then hold the analog stick towards the left, and press ‘JVS Test’ key to confirm the setting. Cycle again with ‘Service’ to hit ‘Wheel (center)’ and then keep the analog stick in a rest position, and save the setting again.

Continue in the same manner for your desired controls for Right and Left Pedals in their pressed and released positions. In this game the Right Pedal is used for acceleration, and the Left Pedal is used for reverse acceleration, so you may want to assign a forward motion on your analog stick to the Right Pedal, and a backward motion on your analog stick to the Left Pedal. For Right and Left Pedal ‘released’ settings simply leave your analog sticks or triggers in their rest position and confirm the setting. When you are done, cycle down to ‘Exit’ with the ‘Service’ key three times to return to the game.

Other games with similar controls setup with analog steering and pedal controls might be configured in a similar way. Always check the options in the JVS Test service menu when playing an arcade game for the first time, especially with arcade games designed with unique analog and pedal controls, or other uncommon or non-standard inputs, to ensure a smooth arcade experience!


Tips & Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I make the emulator go full-screen?
Press Alt-Enter to go fullscreen (this is common to many emulators, PC games, and programs). Press Alt-Enter again to return to windowed mode.

Q: How do I pause the emulator?
You can click on File in the top menu bar –> tick Pause.

Alternatively you can make the emulator pause when you click off-screen/outside the emulator window by clicking on Config in the top menu bar –> tick Pause when Focus is Lost.

Q: How do I change the aspect ratio?
Press F6 to alternate aspect ratio during emulation between 4:3 scaled, 16:9 scaled, and stretch to full window. You can also access this option by clicking Config in the top menu bar –> Video –> adjust the radio buttons under ‘Aspect Ratio’ to the desired setting.

Q: How do I manually flip or rotate the screen (useful for shoot-em-ups/shmups)?
Press F5 to rotate the screen. You can also access this option in the video plugin menu by clicking Config in the top menu bar –> click Video –> adjust the rotation with the radio buttons 0, 90, 180, 270 under the Rotate heading. You can also tick an option to disable auto-rotate by the emulator here.

Q: How do I take screenshots?
At the moment there is no key configured to take screenshots. However, you can press Print Screen at any time in windowed mode or full-screen and paste into a drawing program like MS Paint to take a screenshot. You can combine this with the pause feature to make taking screenshots easier.

Q: How do I make a save state?
You can configure the keyboard shortcuts to Save State, Load State, and move to Next or Previous State in the menu. To get to this menu click on Config in the top menu bar –> click Controls and then enter keys for the corresponding action.

You can also cycle between Save States by clicking File in the top menu bar –> click Save States –> select the desired Save State Slot (from 0 to 9). Then click the keys you configured previously to save or load a Save State.

Unfortunately, as of this writing the Save State function of DEmul is not working. The emulator allows saving of states, but upon loading the emulator crashes.

Q: How do I create a new blank memory card?
Click on Config in the top menu bar –> click on Maple Device Manager –> click on ‘Edit’ for the desired Port and VMU slot –> click ‘Create Vms’ –> use Windows Explorer to find the folder you want to save the memory card in (suggested …\[your-DEmul-emulator-folder]\memsaves\…) –> type in a name for your new memory card such as ‘vms 01’ or ‘PALvms00’ –> click ‘Save’ to create the memory card. Now press ‘OK’ This new memory card will be in use.

It is important to format the memory card now. Some games will let you format the memory card at the start of the game, but many will not. To format the memory card yourself you should boot the Dreamcast without a game in the tray. To do this while ‘gdrImage’ plugin is being used, click on Config in the top menu bar –> click on GD-ROM –> click on ‘Eject’ to remove the disc.

Now press File in the top menu bar –> click on ‘Run Dreamcast’ and the emulator will boot the Dreamcast main menu. Configure a time and date if you have not previously done so. Then select ‘File’ (press A to select) and enter the File manager –> select the desired memory card –> select ‘ALL’ –> select ‘Delete all (memory reset) –> confirm the selection with ‘Yes’ –> select a VMU icon and then select ‘Select’ –> select a VMU colour and then select ‘Select’ –> select ‘Yes’. A progress bar should appear and a message stating ‘All files were deleted and the memory card was reset.’ You can now use the memory card!

You may want to keep a backup of this formatted memory card to copy quickly and rename if you want to create several blank memory cards in the future.

Remember that game saves on one memory card should be from the same region to avoid incompatibility of the memory card with future games you play! If you plan on playing games from multiple regions I suggest making unique memory cards for each region.

Q: How do I change the memory card?
Follow the same steps in making a new blank memory card, except this time pick ‘Select Vms’ –> use Windows Explorer to browse to the directory of your desired memory card and select it.

Q: How do I manage memory card saves?
You can manage memory card saves from either the emulator’s Maple Device Manager or using the Dreamcast system menu by booting the emulated Dreamcast with an empty CD drive.

To use Maple Device Manager, click on Config in the top menu bar –> click on Maple Device Manager –> click ‘Edit’ next to the VMU memory card you want to manage and you will see the memory card saves on that memory card. From here you can  ‘Format Vms’ to delete all save data on the selected memory card or ‘Create Vms’ (see Q: How do I create a new blank memory card?).

To use the Dreamcast system menu, you need to first empty the CD drive. With ‘gdrImage’ plugin, click on Config in the top menu bar –> click on GD-ROM –> click on ‘Eject’ to remove the disc. Now click on File in the top menu bar –> click ‘Run Dreamcast’ to access the Dreamcast system menu. Now you can select the File menu to manage memory cards. From here you will be able to copy memory card saves to other VMU memory cards or delete saves.

Q: How do I change the region of the emulated Dreamcast?
You can change the region of the emulated Dreamcast by clicking on Config in the top menu bar –> click Dreamcast Region/Broadcast –> select your desired Dreamcast region and broadcast mode. It is recommended to keep the Dreamcast region and broadcast mode on ‘Auto Region’ and ‘Auto Broadcast’ unless you are an advanced user.


Troubleshooting Guide

I can’t open the archives to extract the emulator!
Download and install Winrar or 7-Zip to open and extract archive files.

The DEmul emulator won’t start!
Most emulators may require one or many of Windows libraries for DirectX, Visual C++, and .NET framework to be installed. Click the following to download DirectX Web Installer, Visual C++ 2010 x86, Visual C++ 2010 x64, Visual C++ 2013 x86 and x64, and .NET Framework 4 Web Installer.

Make sure to run the programs to install the libraries on your computer after downloading. I also recommended installing both x86 and x64 versions of Visual C++ 2010 even if you are on Windows 64-bit for best compatibility with DEmul and other emulators. You do not need the ARM version of Visual C++ 2013 on Windows PC.

It is a good idea to update your video card drivers as well. Click the following to download drivers for graphics cards from Intel, Nvidia, and AMD.

The DEmul Dreamcast VMU Screen is still running even after I exited the emulator!
DEmul does not shutdown properly when you click the ‘Window Exit’ button of the emulator Window, so DEmul is actually still running!

You can close down the process in Windows Task Manager. To open Windows Task Manager press ‘Ctrl-Shift-Esc’ or right-click your Windows Ribbon –> click Start Task Manager. In the Task Manager go to the ‘Processes’ tab and look for demul.exe –> right click demul.exe –> select end-process or end-process tree to shut down the process.

To avoid this process every time, while DEmul’s window is still open, click on File in the top menu bar –> click on Stop. Now it is safe to close the emulator without the process continuing!

In DEmul 0.7 Alpha (Build July 31, 2015) this bug should be fixed, so you can click the Windows exit button (or Alt-F4) on the DEmul window to fully shutdown the emulator process.

My game is not accepting any inputs/tells me to plug in a regular Dreamcast controller!
You may have configured some non-standard Dreamcast controls in the Controls settings. Games such as Spider-Man do not support ‘Extended Controller buttons’ and will reject all inputs while in-game if any of these extended buttons have assignments.

Go to ‘Config’ in the top file menu –> click on Controls –> click on Joy 1 (or any offending joypad) –> disable any of the buttons in the category ‘Extended Controller buttons’ by holding down the Shift key and left-clicking each key to remove the keys/values.

My game is telling me ‘This game doesn’t support the AV cable that is currently connected to the main console. Turn off the power and replace the AV cable’!
Some games do not support all video output modes offered by the real Dreamcast. The emulated Dreamcast can also ‘output’ in VGA and TV (RGB) modes. Some games, such as Soul Calibur for Dreamcast, do not support output by VGA and you must change the output option to TV (RGB) mode to play. To change the video mode click Config in the top menu bar –> click Video Mode –> tick the desired output mode and it will be applied the next time you start emulation. It is recommended to shutdown emulation, exit the emulator, and then start up the emulator again when resetting.

My games are running very slow!
Your computer hardware may not be powerful to run DEmul at full speed with the current video settings. Try lowering the number of ‘layers’ in the gpuDX11 or gpuDX11ng video plugin you are using. To get here press ‘Config’ in the top menu bar –> click on Video. From here you can adjust the layers to a lower value.

If you are using the gpuDX11 plugin, you can also try lowering the internal rendering resolution from the same window. Some games still may not have full speed performance despite dropping these settings as much as possible unless you have a very powerful CPU & GPU.

My games are stuttering!
This is normal on first boot of games in DEmul. After the first couple or few minutes, the stuttering should become significantly less or stop entirely. After playing the game for several minutes, and on next boot of the same games, the stuttering should be absent.

If the stuttering persists for much longer than a few minutes, it may be related to laptop or desktop performance settings. Make sure your GPU profile and operating system power profiles are set to maximum performance. For laptops you may need to keep your computer plugged in to maintain a maximum performance profile, because laptops may automatically throttle performance while running only on battery.

My arcade game inputs for [analog/pedal/lightgun input game] are not working!
In some arcade games, particularly ones which use analog steering or pedal controls, which you first boot you may find the inputs are not registering at all or in other cases inputs are registering nonsense input such as steering in one direction without your own active input.

To configure controls correctly, these games requires you to enter the arcade board service menus specific to each game. You can access these menus by pressing the ‘JVS Test’ key which can be assigned in the ‘Controls’ settings for the emulator.

Consult the ‘DEmul Special Controls Input & Setup’ in the setup guide earlier for full details on how to configure controls with The House of the Dead 2 and Alien Front. Similar methods can be used to set up other arcade games which use special or non-standard arcade controls.


DEMul 0.7 Alpha (Build July 31, 2015) Review, Summary & Grading

The following is a rough review and guide on my experience with DEmul 0.7 Alpha intended for novice emulator end-users. Please consult the Atlas of Judgment for more information on the mostly subjective emulator review grading system and also to see more casualemulationfan emulator guides and reviews in the future! 😀

★  ★  ★  ★  ★  –  ★  ★  ★  ★  –  ★  ★  ★  –  ★  ★  – 


Ease of Use:  ★  ★  ★  –  Almost Ready!
DEmul uses a plugin system. The plugins are included with the download of the emulator. Plugins are required to be configured before booting a game or the Dreamcast menu. If the plugins have not been configured before trying to boot a game, a semi-wizard will bring up the plugin prompts through which you can change and accept settings.

DEmul also requires BIOS files for the systems it emulates. The location of the BIOS files can be changed or configured, but for best compatibility the BIOS files, as well as arcade game ROM files, should be restricted to the ‘rom’ folder in the DEmul emulator parent folder. This restriction makes the emulator more difficult to use for novice end-users.

In previous DEmul 0.7 Alpha versions, the program would not fully shutdown when pressing Exit on the DEmul Window, but this issue appears to be fixed in DEmul 0.7 Alpha (Build July 31, 2015). Currently there are some missing shortcut keys for functions such as pause or take a screenshot as well.

Though the emulator works great, some or many aspects are poorly documented and this is a barrier for novice users. For example, there is no guide included with the emulator for indicating shortcut keys for certain functions such as F5 to rotate the screen. In general, documentation on this emulator may be difficult to find, and if available, such as the FAQ included in the emulator, it may not be written in English.


Stability:  ★  ★  ★  ★  –  Works Great!
I did not notice any major stability problems or crashing of the program while adjusting settings during or outside of emulation, or while playing emulated games. Occasionally games may hang if the emulator is left on certain looping menus. Crashing is uncommon while playing games or using functions such as the Dreamcast system menu to manage memory cards, or saving and loading games during gameplay.


Games Compatibility (Dreamcast):  ★  ★  ★  ★  –  Near Perfect!
Many Dreamcast games are playable without any immediately noticeable problems and gameplay is smooth for most games. Bugs are not easily noticeable if they are present, though there is little documentation on this subject concerning DEmul. Some documentation or information around the internet may not be available at all, or if it is may not be available in English.

Some games such as Runabout: San Francisco Edition have minor visual bugs such as z-fighting between textures and reflection effects on the player car. Other games such as Capcom Fighting Collection have problems drawing some 2D menus under gpuDX11, but this is very uncommon, and this problem with Capcom Fighting Collection does not happen with gpuDX11ng.

The only Dreamcast game tested for this review which did not reach in-game stage under DEmul is the USA version of San Francisco Rush 2049 (the PAL version of this game did work under DEmul when tested later), which was not able to boot, though this version of the game boots in NullDC. All other Dreamcast games tested including Shenmue, Crazy Taxi, The House of the Dead 2, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Quake 3: ArenaSkies of Arcadia, Spider-Man, and Virtua Tennis ran full speed on the test system and with no noticeable compatibility or stability issues.

The native Dreamcast also supported games based on WinCE. Many of these WinCE games such as SEGA Rally 2 may have more graphics bugs, performance problems, and compatibility issues than Dreamcast games which are not based on WinCE. However, WinCE games are in the minority for Dreamcast games.

Consult here for more information on Dreamcast games compatibility.


Games Compatibility (Naomi 1 and Naomi 2 Arcade):  ★  ★  ★  –  Pretty Good!
Of the games which were tested, most Naomi 1 and Naomi 2 Arcade games were emulating very well. For example Crazy Taxi, The House of the Dead 218 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker, and Soul Surfer for Naomi 1 and Naomi 2 Arcade systems booted, were playable, and ran full speed with DEmul.

Some games such as Virtua Tennis 2 and Virtua Strikers 3 for Naomi 1 and Naomi 2 Arcade hardware respectively also booted and were emulating well, and were playable, but did not run full speed on the test machine at 2x internal resolution and 16 layers with gpuDX11 video plugin. Other games such as The King of Route 66 booted properly and were being emulated correctly, but did not reach the game stage, because of issues with analog emulation.

Some games such as Sega Strike Fighter for Naomi 1 Arcade, which use multi-monitor setups, are also supported in DEmul. In these games, multiple DEmul windows will be generated and act as three separate processes in Windows Task Manager. You may have to arrange the multiple DEmul windows by dragging them on your desktop manually to place them in the correct arrangement.

In the latest versions, some games have also become playable such as Cracking DJ and Cracking DJ 2 while others have seen improvements such as Ferrari F355 Deluxe which now has sound and music.


Performance:  ★  ★  ★  –  Breaking a Sweat!
This emulator may give mid-range or lesser hardware a tough time in emulating some or many games. With mid-range or better hardware, and with appropriate settings adjustments (such as limiting to 2x internal resolution and 16 or fewer layers in the video plugins), running games should be mostly smooth for this bracket of PC hardware.

If a game is giving you performance problems making the game emulate at less than full speed, try adjusting the internal resolution and layers options in the video plugins even further. However, some games may persist with less than full speed performance on even the best currently available hardware and despite video settings adjustments to their lowest thresholds.


Emulation Accuracy:  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  –  Unknown!
This is a very subjective impression on my part, as I do not have an objective method available to assess this aspect of the emulation under DEmul, and I have relatively little experience with the emulator DEmul as well as real Dreamcast hardware. It is even more difficult to assess the emulation accuracy of arcade hardware which DEmul emulates, as I have little to no experience with real arcade hardware.

However, based on my experiences so far with DEmul, I get a strong impression DEmul is able to emulate Dreamcast accurately enough to offer a great experience of Dreamcast games that is extremely close to what I have seen with real Dreamcast hardware.

Additionally, this emulator has the advantage over other Dreamcast emulators currently available for PC such as Chankast and NullDC in that it emulates certain visual effects such as transparencies and shadows more accurately. The most recognizable graphics example I noticed in reviewing was the emulation of shadows in Crazy Taxi for Dreamcast. On NullDC there are always z-fighting issues and ‘layering’ issues with the shadows of the vehicles and certain elements on the road such as lane stripes, while on DEmul the ‘layering’ of the effect of the shadow is correctly transposed on all elements of the road and lane stripe textures beneath it.

However, emulation accuracy of all effects in Dreamcast and Naomi games is not always perfect. For example, in Dead or Alive 2 for Dreamcast the rendering of shadows is much darker than it is on real Dreamcast hardware, though the outline of the shadow is correct. An example of lesser emulation accuracy in Naomi 2 Arcade games is in Virtua Fighter 4. Though performance is great on the test machine, there are issues with z-fighting between the 3D backgrounds and character models and 2D elements of the on-screen display/heads up display (OSD/HUD) such as the character life bars, black screen bars during level introductions, and ‘Ready,’ ‘Go,’ and ‘You Win/Lose’ notifications. This visual bug is common to all levels, but is most pronounced in the marine level in which the background covers virtually the all elements of the OSD/HUD and 2D notifications.


Video Options:  ★  ★  ★  –  Acceptable! 
DEmul includes two compatible video plugins gpuDX11 and gpuDX11ng. Using these plugins it is possible to adjust a few settings such as hacks/tweaks/debug options, rotate the screen, and adjust the aspect ratio. Additionally, using gpuDX11 plugin it is possible to change the internal resolution of the games to increase image quality, and also apply some post-processing filters such as FXAA.


Audio Options:  ★  –  Limited!
DEmul has one compatible sound plugin spuDemul which offers a select few options including adjusting a sound buffer which may affect sound latency, an alternate filter for audio, sound recording, and options to disable some sources of sound.


Input Support, Customization & Accessibility Features:  ★  –  Limited!
DEmul includes one compatible input plugin padDemul which offers customization for standard and extended buttons for Dreamcast controllers, arcade game and servicing inputs and even Mahjong game inputs. This plugin uses DirectInput and does not accept other types of input libraries such as Xinput.

Unfortunately, using this plugin it is not possible to assign analog axis/trigger functionality to the emulated Dreamcast triggers. Emulators which support Xinput through plugins, such as NullDC, will allow analog function for emulating trigger analog pressure, while DEmul is not able to.

Additionally, playing The Typing of the Dead is difficult using DEmul, because the emulator is not able to keep up with rapid key inputs from keyboard typing, even though the game emulation itself is virtually perfect. This game is easier to play on NullDC which is more capable of accepting rapid key inputs from keyboard.

As far as I am aware there are no other compatible input plugins with DEmul and this may limit options for some players and limits options for accessibility by less-abled and disabled persons. I am not aware of any specific customizations designed for colour-blind individuals either.


Final Verdict!

DEmul is currently the best and most accurate emulator for emulating Dreamcast games, and offers additional (but possibly more limited) emulation of Arcade games from Naomi 1 and Naomi 2 arcade hardware, as well as Atomiswave and Hikaru hardware. Though there are currently limited input options and some less desirable or currently non-functional aspects of the interface that limit the grading in certain aspects, it is probably the single-best option for emulating Dreamcast as well as Naomi 1 and Naomi 2 arcade hardware, because of its reasonable performance and very strong and seemingly accurate emulation. DEmul is already a very strong emulator and this casual emulation fan hopes that for all fans of Dreamcast and arcade games emulation that DEmul continues to improve in the near future! 😀


Resources & Extras

DEmul Home Page
DEmul English forum / Russian forum
DEmul Compatibility List
DEmul 0.7 Alpha (Build July 31, 2015) DownloadMirror
DEmul BIOSMirror
House of the Dead (Dreamcast) running on DEmul (gameplay video)
Shenmue running on DEmul (gameplay video)
Super Runabout: San Francisco Edition running on DEmul (gameplay video)

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13 thoughts on “DEmul, Dreamcast and Arcade Emulator Review

  1. Thanks for this mate, seems like a clear and concise guide, I have bookmarked the page and when I have some more spare time to use it (the emu), I will be back here for tips! Cheers!

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  2. Big thanks from me, too. I thought I would never understand the Demul concept as I was lost in their lack of documentation, incomplete or even misleading english forum posts and probably my complete lack of russian language skills. You really shed some light on it for me and tonight I will start my second attempt with Demul. I’m pretty confident that, with your great help, I may even see something working this time.

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  3. Hey very new at this I have Demul set up and i can play the dreamcast games with ease. my question is me and my friend are trying to Play fire Pro wrestling D on net play we try P2P can get tthat to work so then we tryed to go to the client we got to the Create game and hit start we got a message that “waiting on people to Drop”
    anyone have any incite in how i can solve my problem ?

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    • I have no experience with the net play aspect so I can’t help you there, sorry! Maybe someone else can respond to your question or you could try asking on another website too and you may get an answer then. At best I can suggest checking to make sure none of the non-standard Dreamcast buttons are assigned in the controller configuration sections on either emulator you are using.

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  4. I have an i3-6100 and a geforce gtx 750 ti..I’d like to run Demul on my 55″ 4k display but not sure what settings I would be able to get away with to have it running at fullspeed. Any ideas what a good starting point? What are the fps and quality @ 2x internal res x 16 layers like?

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    • I can’t be certain, because I don’t have this hardware or similar hardware about unfortunately, but if you try 2x internal resolution with 8 or 16 layers that might be a good starting point. It may be limited by the single or dual-threaded performance of your i3, but hopefully it can manage at those resolutions. Let me know how it works out, I am curious too 🙂

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  5. I experienced strange behaviour of Demul build 07A_221215. After hours of gaming, suddenly the VMU file gets corrupted in some way. 1st experience, it doesn’t load anymore. 2nd experience, it either loops restart or hangs.

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    • I’m not sure about this one, sorry. Maybe try a different build, or try to backup your VMUs every hour maybe. Unfortunately I do not know a fix for this at the moment 😦

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  6. Hi, i have the latest Demul build and can´t use the mouse for the naomi lightgun games. I go to the test menu and it detects the mouse movements but the trigger or reload aren´t working in the mouse buttons…i have tried avery steps and even changed my wireless mouse to a wired ps2 one but no luck…any ideas?? Thx.

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