The Sega Dreamcast was an excellent console. It ran Shenmue, the "forbidden game" even for the PSX. And Sega's bad luck ended prematurely its life when it could've become THE gaming machine. Luckily now, after Icarus' half delusion, we can revive those emotions on our PCs, thanks to the work of Garrofi and his team, with the help of some well known elements of the scene (*cough* ElSemi *cough cough*).
But what is Chanka exactly? An emulator. And the missing ring in emulation itself.
We are so used to look forward to next-gen consoles that we forgot about systems such Saturn and Dreamcast itself, milestones in home gaming with one single flaw, their bad luck, and while we were not looking Chanka was born.
The interface itself is quite simple: we are greeted with a pair of slippers (???) and an essential window to configure our gamepads or keyboard to suit the DC native joypad, and then just two voices over a menu bar. And yes, it's just that, more than enough.
Chankast is still in its early stages, and this is clearly shown by its peculiar way of loading program data: you place an image of the console's BIOS (its Operative System, to be clearer) and flash memory in its directory, then choose which CD-ROM drive contains the game you want to execute; after hitting Init, the show begins. And it's mesmerizing: apart from minor graphical glitches, the games are executed with the maximum fidelity to the originals, without noticeable errors or garbage on screen. According to preliminary tests from various users, the framerate reaches even 110% with high end machines such as a P4 3Ghz/Radeon 9800 combo, although (and that's a pleasant surprise) satisfacting results can be achieved even with low level computers; the compatibility list seems to have a life of its own, due to the fact that grows spontaneously. Ikaruga, Rez, SNK vs Capcom Pro, Psyvariar 2 and Shenmue 2 are just a few example of what the Chanka code can do.
A wonderful example of good programming? Sure. A PERFECT example? Not yet. Yes, Chanka still has flaws.
Mostly due to its early stages, keep this in mind: even though the code is excellently optimized, the choice to access data as if it was on a real GD-Rom unit slows the transfer data between the program code and the emulator code, even with fast Virtual CD programs like Alcohol or Daemon Tools, and the screen dimensions self-detect routines occasionally fail to determine the exact dimension of the game area (i.e. Ikaruga and Psyvariar). The data handling mechanism could "scare" the occasional user, due to a general lack of included documentation and no information about the specific needs of the emulator (in particular, the BIOS and Flash RAM images: I tried myself some of them graciously provided by friends and colleagues with little result).
However, this could be easily solved with the next, less hurried releases, since they are just a walk in the park if confronted with the difficulties of emulation; on a personal opinion though, a release of the source code would be of great help into the development of the program, since the emulation community could contribute, each member according to his/her knowledge, to polish off such minor flaws and - who knows? - make the future of Chanka shine even more.
An "A" rank, without doubts.
Lost_Angel aka Evrain