Review: Amiga Forever makes retro gaming painless
At a Glance
Personal computers have been around long enough to become a part of our history and shared social consciousness. As time marches on and older hardware dies, emulation is often the only way to experience these orphaned systems again. Amiga has been mourned more than most. Emulators are tricky business, however. Mastering and maintaining them can sap enough enthusiasm that you're left wondering why you bothered. Cloanto carefully sized up this common problem when putting together its Amiga Forever package, and the results are impressive. We looked at the $30 Plus edition ($10 Value and $50 Premium editions also available).
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Cloanto (which also makes the C64 Forever Commodore 64 emulator) uses the excellent WinUAE as the technical engine behind its Amiga suite. The main bulk of the package is a sizable collection of legal ROM images, games, classic demoscene releases, interviews, and more. An attractively designed multi-tabbed window, which resembles a media library more than an emulation interface, presents the information. There's a ton of Amiga-related stuff at your fingertips from the moment you install. Ratings, screenshots, and descriptive texts appear for each of the dozens of entries, and full social media support means everyone on Twitter will know when you're eaten by the giant ants.
Tinkering types and Amiga purists will be pleased to know that all the deeper settings are still available via the Tools menu (accessible during emulation using WinUAE's default F12 hotkey). That said, there's little to bother with here as Amiga Forever has most useful options preconfigured or easily selectable via icons placed around the emulation window itself. Full-screen controls, input devices, save states and more are all accessible here. Links to legal download repositories for many lost Amiga classics are built into the software, so when you tire of the included content, finding more isn't difficult. All standard Amiga formats are supported, so your own library of converted disks can be used as well. It's all designed to be as painless as possible, and it works.
The DVD edition has a number of interviews that are must-watch for Amiga aficionados. In addition to some early promotional materials, the famous "Deathbed Vigil" is included on the disc, in which Dave Haynie (the creator of the Amiga 3000) documents the fall of Commodore on video as it happens around him. This is riveting stuff for those wondering what was going on behind the scenes at the time. More material of this nature would be welcome, as this is the content that sets Cloanto's offering apart from other, more technically oriented packages. The gallery area in particular could use some back-issue libraries of Amiga-oriented publications such as .info magazine and similar materials.
Cloanto has a winning formula here that focuses on the softer side of the emulation equation and presents a package so authentic to the original experience that even old 3.5" disk drive sounds are reproduced with sound effects. At $30, the Plus edition is reasonably priced for the software library and ROM images it provides. The $50 Premium edition, which is on DVD, is a bigger stretch, but well worth it for fans for the extra video content. Either way it’s a small price to pay for the emulator you don't need to make excuses for when you show the kids how things used to be.
Note: The "Try it for free" button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.