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ZX Planet - Spectrum Heaven! - MESS Emulator Review

MESS is a multiple system emulator but in the case of this review we are only looking at the ZX Spectrum emulation. Based very closely on the MAME program core those that have used MAME will be familiar with the way this program works.

Like MAME it is designed for MS-DOS and therefore shouldn't be attempted by those that don't know much about the DOS platform.

MESS is capabale of emulating:

ZX80/ZX81/Spectrum 48K/Spectrum 128K & Many Other Platforms

And the requirements? well slightly higher than your average Spectrum emulator:

P166 CPU, 16MB RAM, DOS Compatible Sound Card.

Emulator Installation
Requires WinZIP to decrunch, also requires separate rom images for machine emulation.
Emulator Ease Of Use
Ease Of Use

If you are familiar with MAME then the emulator is pretty simple to use, however if you have never used MS-DOS or you simply don't like the MS-DOS prompt too much then this one can be tricky. First of all download the emulator from their home page then find the spectrum.rom (a search on Google will find them) zx128_0.rom and zx128_1.rom - these are for 48K & 128K models from another site. Unzip the spectrum.rom to a folder named SPECTRUM and both the zx128.roms to a folder named SPEC128, now you can start the emulator by typing:

MESS SPECTRUM -SNAP (*.SNA/*.Z80) - replace the * with the name of the file you wish to run.
MESS SPECTRUM -CASS (*.TAP) - replace the * with the name of the file you wish to run.
MESS SPEC128 -SNAP (*.SNA/*.Z80) - replace the * with the name of the file you wish to run.
MESS SPEC128 -CASS (*.TAP) - replace the * with the name of the file you wish to run.

SPECTRUM = 48K Model
SPEC128 = 128K Model

Pretty simple once you get the hang of it, I recommend you read the MESS.TXT that comes with the distribution if you still have problems.

Emulator Compatibility
We tested MESS with 20 Spectrum images and almost every one of the 48K images worked fine and looked great, however many of the 128K images (in particular Z80 files) didn't want to load or would simply produce a blank screen after the title had appeared (Dizzy.sna).
Emulator Graphics

The graphics are SUPERB! - MESS uses Scan Lines to pretty much enhance the display and give it that TV like feeling on your monitor, this normally over enhances the display and doesn't give you an accurate screen reproduction (when compared to the real thing) but it still looks great. I just wish Dizzy worked with graphics this good!.

You can of course use the advanced display options found in MAME (change resolution etc).

Emulator Sound
Very crisp and clear sound with no break ups or crackling noises in the background. This is an MS-DOS based program and of course runs best under MS-DOS and not Windows.
Emulator Speed
Perfect emulation of the Z80 in terms of speed allows MESS to have great overall emulation and provide a true retro feeling to all the software you run. You can of course skip frames and push the emulation speed over 400% but this kind of speed is just a little bit too fast, remember the ZX was only just over 3Mhz in terms of speed.
Emulator Registration
The beauty of emulation is that most authors create these superb programs in their free time and therefore expect nothing in return. MESS does not have a registration fee and is 100% free.
Emulator Download

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