A Super Nintendo emulator for Windows reviewed on 7/26/2003 by Vincent T. Vantine.
"ZSNES is an Open-Source SNES emulator released under the GNU Public License, built to run on Windows, DOS, Linux and FreeBSD Unix and coded by zsKnight, _Demo_, and pagefault. This review will be focusing on the Windows version of ZSNES."
ZSNES is by far the best SNES emulator available. It excels in virtually all aspects including compatibility, stability, graphics, audio, and usability as well as extra features. ZSNES started as a DOS-based emulator and was later ported to both Windows and Linux flawlessly. Now, all three variations of ZSNES are updated almost simultaneously.
The first thing that most people will notice with ZSNES is the GUI. ZSNES uses a proprietary GUI that is OS independent, meaning that ZSNES will preserve its appearance on whatever it’s used on, regardless of platform or visual settings on the platform in question. The GUI is extremely clean and to-the-point, keeping usability at a maximum. Aside from the general appearance, ZSNES’s GUI is also very customizable in appearance and functionality, such as the ability to configure ZSNES to be entirely controlled through a Gamepad, allowing you to switch games and change settings without even needing to touch a keyboard or a mouse.
With the GUI out of the way, another aesthetic detail is the general video performance. ZSNES supports a wide array of graphical filters and video-enhancing features such as Vsync to prevent video from splitting horizontally and triple-buffering to smooth out frame transitions and give the video a feel of “liquid smoothness”. The availability of these features however is entirely dependant on your system’s configuration; so it would be wise to only use these settings on higher end video cards.
Aesthetics aside, the one thing that makes or breaks any emulator is compatibility. In this department, ZSNES is the best, hands down. Part of the problem developers have faced in the past is the fact that the SNES used so many hardware-based effects and on-cartridge technologies to squeeze extra performance out of the system. ZSNES emulates virtually all of those technologies used perfectly, the primary one being the SuperFX chip. You’ll be hard pressed to find a game that flat-out will not run on this emulator. All of the titles we tested came out perfectly, even including some very late and higher end games that hit the platform.
Audio is another strong suit of ZSNES which has the most accurate SNES sound emulation out of all of the emulators available. Most of the emulators come quite close to excellent sound emulation, but all of them miss just a few details here and there. ZSNES covers those details completely. ZSNES also uses various interpolation methods to boost quality even higher. Full control of the sampling rate as well as the option for sound buffering is also provided.
One of the most overlooked features in most emulators is the netplay function for those that include it. Netplay allows you to play a two-player game of your choice with an opponent over the internet. Most emulators that include this function are almost unplayable over a netplay session due to poor synchronization and compensation techniques. ZSNES is the exception to this rule with one of the best netplay systems amongst any emulator. Using just a mediocre residential DSL connection, ZSNES’ netplay function was fully playable and rarely skipped, even when playing fast-paced games such as platformers.
If simply the ability to use netplay reasonably weren’t enough, there’s more. If you have trouble finding an opponent to play against, there is even a ZSNES netplay matching service called zBattle.net which allows players to find other players in a fashion similar to many online games. ZSNES also includes a chat module in its netplay function which allows you and your opponent to communicate before a game, after a game, or even in the middle of the game with the text line appearing in a subtle location at the bottom of the screen. If you have a craving to relive the old X-Band days, then ZSNES is coming to the rescue. The only difference is that unlike with X-Band, it will actually work this time.
In the end, ZSNES is by far the best choice for an SNES emulator. In our testing, the only issue that was encountered was a severe slowdown on systems without a video card capable of hardware acceleration. To correct this, ZSNES’ preferences need to be changed to disable hardware accelerated functions.