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During 2016 we provided a few status updates on CEMU, essentially the Wii U spin on the Dolphin emulator - in spirit at least. A team of enthusiasts has been working on running Wii U titles on PC, and results range from playable to sketchy; progress was certainly made, however.

The release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Wii U has undoubtedly been a key point for the emulator, though. Pretty much right after launch the game was ripped and plugged into CEMU, and was sort of functional - a low framerate and a series of bugs and issues with the game's physics meant it was very limited in performance. The team behind the emulation, though, stated it wanted to get the game playable within a couple of months.

Recent updates have been making rapid progress, though, and interest has been spiking. A Cemu Patreon page has nearly tripled in numbers of backers - at the time of writing drawing in just under $22,000 per month - in the past two weeks. The CEMU team has evidently been using these resources, as it set off a lot of excitement on its Subreddit with the following video.

Breath of the Wild, as the final blockbuster Wii U release, is naturally at the core of what the CEMU team is now trying to achieve. In a little over two weeks the game has gone from being a buggy proof of concept to having relatively solid physics and a playable framerate; the sheer size and scope of the game mean the emulated version will have a way to go yet, but evidently the building blocks are in place.

Nintendo, officially, is naturally opposed to emulators, though little action - if even possible - has been notable in all the years of the Dolphin emulator - which is still making strides of its own - and in the progress CEMU has been making in the Wii U generation. Nintendo is against emulators, but isn't actively pursuing or able to do anything about them, it seems.

It's all a notorious grey area, of course. Browsing the emulator's sub-reddit, plenty say they've bought a copy of Breath of the Wild in order to have done the right thing, before then dreaming of playing the game in enhanced form on their PCs. Of course, the act of ripping the game files itself means using a modded Wii U and unofficial tools, so that's all violating user agreements. Some, inevitably, use emulators and related tools with no intention of buying the originals, hence the accusations of piracy and theft that then get voiced. Meanwhile the effective monetisation of CEMU, through that Patreon, perhaps opens a separate can of worms.

Ultimately, emulation like this is still relatively niche, and you typically need a powerful PC to even get modest results (as some definitions of 'cheap PC' in the scene attest). Intriguing on a technical level, it'll be fascinating to see how far this Breath of the Wild project goes, and whether it continues its progress undisturbed by takedowns and legal notices.

[source, via]