Please note that these are based off of MY results. Results WILL vary from computer to computer. If you want to research emulation processes and discover the best ways to emulate the games on your own, I'd actually encourage your curiosity. But this guide is here for the average user who is not sure about touching all of the various settings available. And rightfully so; there's a huge amount of them.
In general, you should have at least 2 GB of RAM, as well as a dedicated graphics card of at least 1 GB. Integrated graphics card (typically made by Intel and found on laptops) are highly discouraged. I'd also recommend a controller or joystick connected, whichever you prefer; Ace Combat shouldn't work well with mouse controls. But you're free to try it!
PS2 Emulation: PCSX2
PCSX2 is the most popular and most compatible PlayStation 2 emulator available. No, they are not paying me to say that. In fact, they probably couldn't afford to do so; the emulator still isn't perfect, and lots of development is still required. That being said, the latest stable version of the emulator is the best yet, and it's added lots of improvements that have fixed many issues with emulating various PS2 games.
For emulating the "Holy Trinity" of Ace Combat, look no further than PCSX2. It's powerful, it's expansive, and most of all, it's free. However, there is a lot of configuration necessary for a first-time user of this emulator.
- PCSX2 general installation and configuration guide coming soon!
Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies
Hardware Mode Status: Fully playable with minor visual glitches; severity depends on graphics card.
Software Mode Status: Fully playable, no visual glitches. Framerate will drop often, especially if looking at ground or water.
- AC04 setup guide coming soon!
Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War
- AC5 setup guide coming soon!
Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War
- ACZ setup guide coming soon!
PSP Emulation: PPSSPP
Say what you will about the portable Ace Combat games. But in my opinion, they (at least X and Legacy/Cross Rumble) can stand up to the console games sometimes. Maybe not in sheer performance, but definitely in the Ace Combat experience. There's still tunnels and canyons and superweapons!
For emulating PSP games, PPSSPP (as I like to call it, Double PSP) is the name you should be familiar with. Its latest update, 0.9.9, is what made me decide to write up this guide. X was mostly playable, and Joint Assault almost unplayable, but this latest update has taken the cake and fixed any outlying issues in the games at long last! I have not tested all of Joint Assault yet (only on Mission 3), and there is no complete online compatibility yet, but otherwise they work perfectly.
- PPSSPP general installation and configuration guide coming soon!
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception
Status: Fully playable, no visual glitches. No internet capabilities.
- ACX setup guide coming soon!
Ace Combat: Joint Assault
Status: Fully playable as far as tested, no visual glitches. No internet capabilities.
- ACJA setup guide coming soon!
There are no functional emulators for commercial games for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Nintendo 3DS, and there won't be any for quite some time. So anyone who wants to play Ace Combat games on their computer will be restricted to games released prior to Ace Combat 6 (not including the PSP games, which can be played). But hopefully, one day we'll have computers good enough to handle these platforms!
- ↑ Emulation is legal in the United States, according to precedents set by Sega v. Accolade 977 F.2d 1510 (9th Cir. 1992) and Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Corporation 203 F.3d 596 (2000). However, sharing/downloading copyrighted files (such as a video game or a console BIOS) is strictly illegal. This guide follows a completely legal process. (I know people will still go the illegal route. I can't stop you, and you probably won't get caught. But I needed to say that anyway.)