Eltechs gave me a free copy of their ExaGear v2.0 software for Raspberry Pi. It is marketed as a virtual macine to run Intel x86 applications on ARM-based mini PCs (like the Raspberry Pi!). Retro games is a big market, so I try some retro games with a humbling sucess rate. You could use other x86 applications, but why would you?
Disclaimer, this review is technically sponsored. I was compensated with a free license key for the Pi 3.
I installed the latest distro, March 2017,of Jesse [PIXEL] on my PI.
Then I followed Eltech's guide to install ExaGear. Their guide is spot on: https://eltechs.com/raspberry-pi-gaming-emulator/
Eltech demonstrates how to install from Good Old Game's self-contained install dumps, but I went for a more 'organic' approach. I have all my old DOS Win95/98 game CD-ROMS. I also have a USB CDROM drive. I connected my USB CDROM to my Pi.
Open Terminal and ready Exagear
Navigate the file manager to find the install/winstall/setup.exe file
run the install with the 'wine' prefix.
Pray it works. Shadow Warrior up first.
No dice :(
Spoiler: CARMAGEDDON did not work....
No Luck with Chex Quest...... I kinda expected this to fail as it's really for DOS, but it will install in Win 9x
SIN installed, but I cannot get past the game menu. Dang-it
My last resort was trying games Eltechs has already tested. Yeah, I am aware this doesnt really prove much.
Works just like it should. Pretty Cool.
Eltech contacted me out the blue and asked If I would checkout their software. I do not consider myself with much presence in the gaming or Raspberry Pi community nor am I very knowledgeable when it comes to Linux anything. It is super nice when a developer just wants to get their stuff out there and have people talk about it. Cool points have been awarded for this. I am going to talk about it now.
When it works, it works well. Installation is not complicated and Eltech's website has plenty of documentation- note it is somewhat hard to find the correct "How-to" for Windows game installs on their website. I had to use Google to drill down to the 'retro gaming' install guide. Having a virtual machine for x86 on an ARM platform is an impressive feat. The Raspberry Pi continues to get exemplary support in a wide range and this software shows it. However, this software comes at a price- $27.45 USD (April 2017 price), a standout amount mainly free applications in the Raspberry Pi arena.
The marketable use for ExaGear is to run x86 applications on your RPi, meaning practical applications. Gaming is just another bullet point to add the ExaGear uses. So, why would you want to play x86 games on your RPi? Let's skip the reasons and focus on expectations. I would not expect 100% compatibility for every x86 game within the realms of running on a single board ARM. Eltech's forums are slowly building a compatibility list for what games and other applications will run. This list is really the most important detail if you're looking into this software. If you don't see your game/app on the list, I would ground your expectations. However, that doesn't mean there isn't hope! ExaGear did raise my hopes as most install.exe or setup.exe processes completed without issue, but expectations were grounded as most games failed to launch or get past their in-game menu. This software is still in its infancy and it's within reason to see it get better, but my success rate was pretty low from the games I tried.
I tried the following from my CDROM collection; all of which have a 'wininstall' or are stated to run in a windows 9x platform:
Blood -> Failed to run ("...heap base address 0x80000000 not available")
SIN -> Failed to run past in game menu (WINE encountered serious problem)
CARMAGEDDON->Failed to run ("...heap base address 0x80000000 not available")
Virtua Squad aka Sega's Virtua Cop PC port -> Failed ("...heap base address 0x80000000 not available")
Shadow Warrior -> Failed to run ("...heap base address 0x80000000 not available")
Chex Quest -> Failed to run ("...heap base address 0x80000000 not available")
One-to-seven odds = I decide to stop trying.
The game that did work worked well and without issue. It's rather impressive to see Fallout for Windows 95/98 running on a Raspberry Pi 3. When it works, it works well, but compatibility has a way to go.