Figured I should make this thread after my "how come we don't have this yet?" moment.
As of now, all PS1, PS2 and PSP Ace Combat games can be emulated on PC in near perfect quality. The PS1 trio has been running perfectly for almost a decade now - ePSXe is a very well matured emulator.
PSP games have also been capable of perfect emulation for a few years now. The PPSSPP emulator is not that old, but it's very well built, with the particularity of demanding very little of the computer - even old machines should be able to emulate ACX and JA at full speed. PPSSPP is a high-level emulator: it means it makes no attempt to reproduce the PSP's system verbatim (and does not require a BIOS), but rather goes for a practical approach, attempting (and succeeding) to run games and apps as best in its environment - which has allowed it to be developed for all sorts of mobile devices as well. Further, unlike the PS1 emulator, it allows for multiple graphical improvements - most importantly, higher rendering resolution. In other words, it's possible to emulate the games as if they were running at 1080p native, dramatically improving graphical detail. Of course, their age and limitations is still evident, but it is outstanding how a decade old PSP game can look thanks to it. Here's an example:
But of course, the PS2 games are the dream. Now, not only are they more demanding, the PS2 itself is a very difficult system to emulate. Unlike today's consoles, which are basically PCs in a different shell, the PS2 uses a unique system architecture unlike anything a PC may use. PCSX2, the main emulator, has been in development for 14 years and there's still plenty of work ahead to perfect it. And Ace Combat games, as some of the most demanding games on the console, required that effort. The PS2 trio has been playable for some years now, after collision issues that caused missiles to fly through enemies were fixed, but they were still far from perfect, suffering from a number of graphical glitches: most notably, black lines streaking vertically across the screen, and glitched ground textures.
There was one solution for this: running the game in Software Mode. Simply put, Software Mode emulated the PS2 as if it was a single program, running entirely off the CPU, where Hardware Mode attempts to run it as any other PC game, placing the graphical load on the GPU. Software Mode permitted flawless gameplay, but without any graphical enhancements (the games' age really shows in native resolution), but more importantly, running the entire thing off the CPU causes an unacceptable load on it - only the best i7 CPUs were capable of running the games at full speed. Even with the graphical glitches, Hardware Mode was the best option.
But it is my pleasure to announce that as of last month, the latest PCSX2 beta build (obtainable here) all the major issues with Ace Combat 5 and Zero (they're the same engine-wise) in Hardware Mode have been solved, and the game runs simply marvellously. It's GPU demanding, requiring a mid-tier GPU to run at 4x native resolution (slightly more than 1080p), but most will be able to play at lower resolutions. If you can bump it up, though, it is absolutely gorgeous.
Edited by Broth3r, 12 December 2016 - 12:17 AM.