Towards the end of last year we shared some updates on Cemu, a prospective emulator for the Wii U. Though likely a significant amount of time away from delivering the kind of performance that Dolphin has with Wii and GameCube, it's proving to be an intriguing project for those involved and following it - once you step around debates around the morals of the whole practice.
When we last reported on Cemu it successfully ran the Wii U version of Shovel Knight, though unsurprisingly not at optimal levels; it was still failing to even load most major retail games. Now version 1.3.0 is out, and it appears to have brought further improvements for those dabbling in its possibilities; users still need hulking PCs to have games run at a particularly low framerate, but previous no-go games are now loading properly.
Two examples are Super Mario Maker and Mario Kart 8, which now both run in Cemu. You can see this below, but the first video has no sound while the second has some rather loud music - all to avoid YouTube copyright strikes.
A number of other games still seem to be unplayable in the latest build, failing to even get past loading screens or to generate visuals properly. Problem games with demonstration videos online include Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
As we always try to do when covering Cemu, let's clarify a few key points. Cemu is evidently a long way from being usable and genuinely replicating Wii U performance, and like Dolphin is unlikely to impact Wii U game sales due to timescales and the niche nature of the project. One of the programmers behind it also explained last year why development is closed source, due to a desire to stop the emulator being utilised in future for hacking and cheating.
But of course there are other concerns as well, like development suddenly focusing on a direction which is not favorable to the original intentions of the emulator. Example: Focus on hacky solutions to get games into playable state earlier. I can see this happen in a open-source environment more likely, because piracy can become the main source for development motivation. Another example: Splatoon is moving towards playability fast, but online features are of low priority to avoid people using the emulator to cheat in online-play and ruin the experience for everyone. With open-source code there is no easy way to steer the development focus away.
In any case it's rather intriguing to see how far this has progressed, and likewise how far it still has to go. We'll stick to our 60fps Wii U performance in these games, while keeping an eye on the emulator's ongoing - and potentially futile - battle to recreate the system's magic on a PC.