The Amiga CD32 console, released in 1993, was Commodore’s follow-up to the CDTV. Essentially, it was a repackaged Amiga 1200 with a built in CD-ROM drive and a bespoke 6-button joypad controller. Indeed, by plugging in a keyboard, mouse and floppy drive, you pretty much had a fully functioning A1200. Marketed as “the world’s first 32-bit CD games console” (although this wasn’t strictly true), it was pretty short lived, being discontinued in 1994 when Commodore went bankrupt.
Personally, I never owned a CD32 (or knew anyone that did!) but I did have a CD-ROM drive for my A1200, which allowed me to play CD32 games. Disappointingly, most CD32 titles were just pre-existing Amiga games (both OCS/ECS and AGA) lazily shoved onto a CD with no additional content or functionality. Although, at the time this did allow for some nice compilation disks and obviously there was no disk swapping. However, some developers did take advantage of this new medium, with CD32 versions of their games benefiting from expanded or alternative intros (e.g. Alien Breed Tower Assault, Theme Park, UFO:Enemy Unknown) as well as CD-quality music, speech and sound effects (e.g. Diggers, The Chaos Engine). And there were a handful of CD32 exclusive titles such as Defender of the Crown II, Pirates! Gold, and The Labyrinth Of Time.
For these reasons it can be worth emulating the CD32, so I thought I’d write a short guide on how to do this using WinUAE. Fortunately, it’s pretty straightforward and won’t take long. You may also be interested in my guide to building a virtual Amiga for retrogaming.
What you will need
1. If you haven’t done so already you will need to download and install the WinUAE emulator. At the time of writing I’m using version 3.2.2, but it’s usually worth installing the latest version.
2. Kickstart ROM 3.1 rev 40.60 and CD32 Extended ROM rev 40.60. As with all Amiga ROMs, these are still under copyright but can be obtained legally through purchasing the plus (or premium) edition of Amiga Forever from Cloanto. If you already have Amiga Forever installed, WinUAE should automatically detect the available kickstart ROMs that come with the package. Otherwise you will need to direct it to where you have them stored – this is done under System ROMs: in the Paths tab.
3. A CD32 game! WinUAE can use both actual CDs as well as disk images. If using an image, you will need a cue file for games that use CD audio tracks. WinUAE can also use cue + img + mp3/wav. All 178 CD32 games can be downloaded legally and for free from Emuparadise CD32 section. For this guide I will be using The Chaos Engine, which in my opinion is the definitive version of the game thanks to its AGA graphics, CD-quality music and atmospheric background sounds (I prefer it over the Steam re-release) – download it here and extract the files to a folder of your choice.
The easiest way to get started is to use the CD32 template from the Quickstart tab. This will generate a basic CD32 configuration and should choose the correct ROMs automatically. You can then tweak the options to your needs/tastes and then save the configuration for future use. Be sure to untick the NTSC option, otherwise you’ll end up staring at a black screen when you boot up because most CD32 games are in PAL format.
Anyway, the basic settings are:
- CPU and FPU tab: 68020 CPU with 24-bit addressing, more compatible, no FPU and emulation speed set to “Approximate A500/A1200 or cycle-exact”
- Chipset tab: AGA chipset and CD32 for chipset extra
- ROM tab:
- Main ROM file: Kickstart ROM 3.1 rev 40.60
- Extended ROM file: CD32 Extended ROM rev 40.60
- RAM tab: 2MB chip
Test this configuration by directing WinUAE to your CD32 game in the CD & Hard drives tab. In our case there is a cue file because The Chaos Engine uses CD audio tracks, so select that (see screenshot). If using an actual CD, you need direct it to the specific drive on your computer (you can check the turbo CD read speed option to speed up disk access). Note that if you want to swap games during the emulation then you will need to also mount your CD or image as a drive by clicking the Add SCSI/IDE CD Drive button. But it’s just as easy to to restart the emulation and “insert” a new CD/image.
Once you’ve done that, press start. If you see this screen (below), the CD/image is booting and you’re in business. This should be followed shortly by The Chaos Engine logo and then the game intro. If you don’t hear any sound then you’ve probably selected the image instead of the cue file.
Customising your configuration
The first thing you will probably want to do is change the full screen and windowed resolution in the Display tab (by the way you can switch between full screen and windowed mode anytime by pressing CTRL + F12 and to the WinUAE GUI by pressing F12). In my case this is 1920×1080. I would suggest leaving other settings in this tab to their default values.
For the Sound tab, leave the frequency at 44100 as changing this seems to cause the CD32 emulation to freeze. Here you can also choose your preferred speaker config, for me this is 5.1 channels. I also suggest turning off the audio filter, as these tend to reduce sound crispness (though it may help reduce unwanted noise/distortion). Choose the Interpolation method that gives you the best sound, I normally stick to Anti.
The Filters tab affects screen scaling and can be customised to your taste. Personally I switch between default and automatic scaling depending on which provides the most satisfactory results. You can also manually adjust resizing and centring. Personally I don’t use a filter, but feel free to experiment.
You will also need to setup a control method for non-mouse games in the Game ports tab. If you don’t have joypad, then you’ll need to choose one of the keyboard layouts or map your own. If you have an Xbox controller or something similar, you can simply select this from the drop down menu for Port 2 and select CD32 pad from the menu directly below (see screenshot). This will automatically map the CD32 controller’s buttons to your gamepad. Autofire can be useful in some shooters, but is not needed for The Chaos Engine.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can play around with the settings in the CPU and FPU and Chipset tabs to speed up the emulation. Although a CD32 setup is unlikely to benefit much from this. However, if you experience problems, then you can try slowing down the emulation and enabling the various compatibility options.
Once happy with your set-up, head to the Configurations tab, give it a name (and description if you want) and save it. Then you can just load your config, pop in an image or CD and away you go. And don’t forget to have fun playing The Chaos Engine 🙂