Front Ends

Posted by S3xySeele on Oct. 9, 2016, 8:47 p.m.

So after finally getting fed up with the organization (or lack thereof) of my various games and emulators, I decided it's time to set up an emulator front end on my Windows machine.

I looked into several, even tried a handful of them in rapid fire succession… and ultimately I've decided to settle on LaunchBox.

Retroarch's XMB-esque frontend is pretty solid, but the fact that it can only be used for launching games that currently have Retroarch cores kills it for me. I want to be able to launch my PS2, Gamecube and Wii games too!

EmulationStation, the first one I tried outside of Retroarch, looks nice and I was about to stop my search there… but just as I was reconsidering due to ES being a bit too basic for my taste, I ran into some issues that sealed its fate: The metadata scraper is too bare bones. For instance, no matter how hard I tried, it could not scrape metadata for Ico despite the fact that I know the database it's using has it…. I'm guessing the short 3-letter name is the culprit. But the real big issue is that sometimes scraped metadata wouldn't stick. I tried multiple things (giving administrator privileges to ES, saving and resaving metadata, quitting the app "properly" through its menu option) and nothing seemed to resolve the issue… sometimes metadata would stick, other times it wouldn't. Not worth the hassle of trying to figure out what's causing it, and not worth having to worry whether my metadata's gonna stay or not.

LaunchBox, the second one I tried and the one I ultimately came back to, is essentially OpenEmu for Windows minus the built-in emulator cores… it's also a bit uglier than OpenEmu, but a bit more flexible. Though the issue I have with it, which is what made me keep looking for alternatives, is that a lot of features and options are locked behind a paywall… including its entire Big Picture equivalent mode (called Big Box). At the end of the day though, I can live with that… So I've gotta use keyboard and mouse to launch my games for the time being, big deal.

Briefly tried GameEx and Attract Mode, and looked at a few other frontends like Hyperspin and mGalaxy before deciding LaunchBox is the overall best option despite some valuable features and options being inaccessible.