Some wonderful maniac is developing an emulator that will one day let people play Zeebo games. And…oh wait, you might be asking “What’s a Zeebo?” Fair question! Well, it’s a fairly obscure digital-only console released outside of the United States in 2009 in just two countries. And while it’s not a great console with a library of beloved classics, it’s still nice to see that someone is working hard to preserve this odd piece of gaming history.
The Zeebo launched in Brazil in June 2009, and later that year came out in Mexico. (And by 2011 it was all over.) The budget console was basically a phone with a controller that connected to your TV. Games and apps on the Zeebo were built using BREW, the same software that powered many early flip-phone games, though the specs inside the Zeebo were a bit more powerful than your average non-smartphone. Still, it wasn’t a powerhouse of a console, and that was kind of the point: to provide people in parts of the world who might not be able to afford expensive, imported consoles with a way to play video games and surf the web via 3G. It was also digital-only to circumvent piracy, forcing players to buy games through its online store. And now, someone is building a PC-based emulator for this strange, nearly-forgotten machine.
As spotted by GamesRadar, on August 1 developer Tuxality uploaded a video of themselves fiddling around with their made-from-scratch Zeebo emulator. While only a few games will boot in the emulator—and they don’t work very well yet—it’s still impressive to even see this much work being put into a device that most folks haven’t even heard of.
In the video, we see Tuxality boot up Zeebo Family Fun Pack and Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D. While Family Fun Pack loads up fine, Crash Nitro Kart 3D displays some intense graphical issues. Still, progress is progress. And yes, big publishers and studios including Activision, Capcom, EA, Disney Interactive Studios, and id Software saw their games released on the Zeebo.
Tuxality calls their emulator Infuse, and says it’s a “high-level” Zeebo emulator that’s been written entirely from scratch based on “clean reverse engineering attempts.” The developer also says that Infuse supports macOS and Linux and could (in the future) be easily ported to the Nintendo 3DS as a fully native application.
As for when you’ll be able to play the Zeebo edition of Resident Evil 4, aka the worst way to play that game, Tuxality doesn’t say. It’s likely at least a year or more away from being fully released to the public.
While some might post the very overused Ryan Reynolds “Why?” gif in response to someone making a Zeebo emulator, I’m excited that fan developers and modders out there are continuing to do the work that game companies won’t do to preserve video game history. Yes, even the weird and less-than-great parts of game history need to be preserved. If anything, those are the bits that will disappear first, and that would be even worse than playing Crash Bandicoot on a flip phone console from 2009.