If you’re looking to relive the old classic games from the Nintendo GameBoy era, you will find plenty of GBA emulators for Windows and Android. For this guide, we are using the VisualBoyAdvance-M (VBA-M) emulator and going over some of the features offered by emulators that make them worth your while.
How to Run VisualBoyAdvance Emulator in Windows
If you’re new to emulators, you don’t need to worry about a complex installation with the VisualBoyAdvance emulator. It is a portable software package and does not require installation.
- Download the ZIP file for the VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator from its official website.
- Extract the ZIP file.
- Once extracted, click on the “visualboyadvance-m.exe” file to launch the emulator.
How to Set Up Your Gamepad or Keyboard for VBA-M
Now that you’ve successfully started VisualBoyAdvance emulator on your PC, it’s time to pair and map your controller or keyboard to it.
- Once you launch the VisualBoyAdvance emulator, you will be greeted by a blank home screen.
- Navigate to “Options -> Input -> Configure.”
- A pop-up window will appear where you can set up different controls for up to four players. It’s compatible with both keyboards and gamepads.
- To make any changes to the default controls or create your own, click on the field displayed in front of the input commands and press the button you want to bind it to. For example: Up – W, Down – S, etc.
Note: click on the “Use as Default” checkbox to make these your default controls.
How to Download and Load GBA Games on Your VisualBoyAdvance Emulator
VisualBoyAdvance-M is just an emulator and does not come with any titles. For the purpose of this review, we are using some GameBoy Advanced ROMS that have been backed up.
- On your VisualBoyAdvance-M home screen, navigate to the “File” section. You will find three options:
- Open … – open any Game Boy Advance ROM.
- Open GB – open a Game Boy Color ROM.
- Open GBC – open a Game Boy Classic ROM.
- Navigate to the location of your game’s ROM file, select it and click “Open” to launch the game.
Also, note that the game will initially run in a windowed screen, and you will have to maximize the screen size manually. You can exit fullscreen mode by pressing ESC.
Modern GBA Emulator Features
The most exciting part when using emulators is that they allow you to optimize the gameplay according to your preferences and overcome hardware limitations from the original GameBoy. Here are a few features of VisualBoyAdvance-M.
Pixel filters, also called screen filters, are graphic enhancers that let you use visual presets to tinker with the in-game graphics. The VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator offers a handful of these filters, each drastically changing the feel and mood of the game. You can access these settings by going to “Options -> Video -> Change Pixel Filter” or pressing Ctrl + G to cycle between all the filters.
There are over 20 visual filters available with the VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator, and each provides a slightly different color mood.
If you owned the original GameBoy Advance handheld, you know that it lacked a screen backlight, which made it hard to see the games, especially in dimly lit areas. To fix this issue, game developers for the GBA purposefully made the games bright. It worked for the handheld, but that extra brightness is noticeable when playing on a PC.
For this reason, modern emulators like VisualBoyAdvance-M, mGBA, etc., provide an option to tinker with the in-game color correction. You can enable these settings in your VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator by going to “Options -> Gameboy -> Configure -> Custom Colors.”
Here, you can select the background and sprite colors to make the game look better.
Game Saved States
With the original GameBoy Advanced, you could only save the games at specific spots within the game. In comparison, emulators allow you to save the game at any point. It is an advantageous feature, as older games had significantly rare checkpoints, and one would often have to retry certain parts multiple times to get through them.
To save the game state in VisualBoyAdvance-M, you need to go to “File -> Save Game” and select a slot to save the game. You can save the instance in either an empty slot, by overwriting previous saves, or by pressing Shift + F1 (F2, F3…) to quickly save your game state.
To revisit that instance, go to “File -> Load Game” to start from where you left off. To load a particular slot, you can press F1, F2, F3, and so on.
Sometimes games have long and tedious sections, and it may start to feel repetitive to go through them again and again. If you’re stuck in such a situation or running low on time but still want to enjoy your favorite GBA game, you can use the fast-forward feature of the VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator.
To do that, go to “Options -> Speed/Turbo” and select the speed at which you want to run the game.
Alternatively, go to “Emulation” and enable “Turbo mode” to enter a preset turbo speed.
Even though cheats are mostly frowned on, they allow you to push the boundaries in certain games and give them a different feel. Fortunately, modern emulators cherish this feature and support many original Nintendo cheats for their GBA games. You will also find the option to add cheats in the VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator.
To add cheats to selected games, download a set of cheats from a classic gaming website (like GameGenie.com) and place them in the same folder as the emulator. In your VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator, navigate to “Tools -> Cheats -> List Cheats” to see a complete list of all your cheats.
V-Sync and Auto Skip Frames
If you are facing lag, frame rate drop and performance issues while running emulators on your PC, you can find a few settings embedded in them to optimize your gameplay. Modern emulators like VisualBoyAdvance-M offer Verticle Synchronization (V-Sync), which is a graphic setting that synchronizes your screen’s refresh rate with the game frame rate.
It can reduce screen-tearing and frame rate spikes for a smooth experience. If you’re not satisfied with the performance, you can also enable “Auto Frame Skip.” It allows the weak hardware to run games at a playable speed by skipping a few frames every now and then.
If you are experiencing choppy gameplay, you can enable them in your emulator. To access these settings in VisualBoyAdvance-M, head to the “Emulations” tab and navigate to “V-Sync” and “Auto Skip Frames.”
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is VisualBoyAdvance-M not saving anything?
If you cannot save your game state in the VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator, you might have extracted the contents of the VisualBoyAdvance-M ZIP folder in a read-only location. Move the extracted folder to your Downloads or Documents folder to fix this.
2. Are GBA emulators illegal?
GBA emulators are legal to download and run on your PC, though downloading game ROMs that you don’t own from shady websites is illegal. Without the ROMs, you cannot accomplish much with the emulator itself, making it a complicated matter.
3. How can I fix the “d3dx9_41.dll missing” issue?
If VisualBoyAdvance-M shows “d3dx9_41.dll missing” when you boot the emulator, you can quickly fix it by reinstalling the software or searching for the exact file on Google, then downloading it and placing it in the same folder as your VisualBoyAdvance-M emulator.
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