Screwtape's Notepad

Getting Started with higan v106.217

higan, the multi-system emulator, has changed a whole lot since v106 when the documentation was last updated. As a starting point for new documentation, and to help people test higan for themselves, this tutorial will show you how to run a SNES ROM in higan v106.217 on Linux.

What you need

To follow this tutorial exactly, you will need:

If you don’t have exactly all these things, you can still try to follow along with what you have, and let me know if you run into problems.

Installing things

When you download the higan nightly build, it should be a file named Extract it to create a higan-nightly directory, containing higan and icarus executables, and Database, Firmware, and System directories.

Unfortunately, higan does not yet support a “portable” mode where it reads required data from beside the executable, so we’re going to have to install all the bits and pieces manually.

From the directory where you extracted, run the following commands:

# Make sure our executables are on $PATH
mkdir -p ~/.local/bin/
mv higan icarus ~/.local/bin/
# icarus needs its game database and firmware files to import games
mkdir -p ~/.local/share/icarus/
mv Database Firmware ~/.local/share/icarus/
# higan needs a template for each system it supports
mkdir -p ~/.local/share/higan/
mv System/* ~/.local/share/higan

Setting up a system

Now that everything’s installed, you should be able to launch higan and see the main window. It consists of the following parts:

We want to play a SNES game, so we’ll need a SNES system. From the “System” menu, choose “Create”, and a list of known system will appear in the details pane.

Because of higan’s country-of-origin naming policy, the SNES is listed as “Super Famicom”, so scroll down and select that item in the list. When an system is selected in the list, a “Name” field appears below, so we can actually name this system “SNES” like we wanted.

When you have the name the way you want it, click the “Create” button in the bottom right, and a new “SNES” system will appear in the system pane. Select it, and the details pane will show details of the selected system. Because we haven’t configured anything about the system yet, there’s no details other than “Super Famicom”.

Double-click the “SNES” item in the system pane, and higan will switch to system mode, listing all the components of this system in the component pane. In system mode, the “System” menu has been replaced by a “SNES” menu (since that’s what we named the system), and there’s a new Tools menu.

Setting up a controller

In the component pane, select “Controller Port 1”. A list of possible controllers appears in the Details pane.

We want to create a new controller configuration, based on the “Gamepad” template, so select the entry with the “plus” icon that’s named “Gamepad”, and click “Create” at the bottom. higan prompts for the name of this new configuration, but “Gamepad” is fine for now.

Once the new configuration is created, it is automatically connected to Controller Port 1, and it appears beneath it in the component list. Select the new “Gamepad” component, and all the mappable buttons are shown in the details pane.

Connecting a cartridge

In the component pane, select “Cartridge Port”. A list of available cartridges appears in the details pane (probably empty). Like previous versions of higan, game ROMs must be imported to higan’s native format before they can be played.

At the bottom of the detail pane, click “Import …” to open a file-picker dialog, and choose the SNES ROM you want to import. It’s not added to the list immediately, but if you select a different component then switch back to “Cartridge Port”, the ROM you imported should appear in the list.

Select it, then click “Connect” in the bottom right. Like the gamepad did, the selected cartridge should appear in the component list.

Playing the game

Now that we have a system with a cartridge and a controller connected, we can turn it on and see what happens. From the “SNES” menu, choose “Power”. For the SNES Speed Test, you can switch pages of results with the left and right buttons on the emulated gamepad.