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FinalBurn Alpha Tutorial

By Alejandro Rodriguez. Last revised July 10, 2016.

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About FinalBurn Alpha

This tutorial is to help you with Windows version of FinalBurn Alpha. Many consider it to be the #1 arcade emulator! Mame, of course, is a top arcade emulator. But Mame lacks in features. That's where FinalBurn Alpha shines. FinalBurn Alpha's only drawback is that it can be buggy. Certain features need to be tweaked in order to work.

*If you would like to download FinalBurn Alpha, I have it in my emulators page.

64-bit and 32-bit versions

When you go to download FinalBurn Alpha, the first thing you're going to see is two versions: 64-bit and 32-bit. So what is that and which version do you download? I won't drown you with technical jargon. In short: these are types of Windows systems. 64-bit is newer and faster, and 32-bit is older and slower. If you have 64-bit Windows, you need to download the 64-bit version of FinalBurn Alpha. And vice versa with 32-bit.

Not sure if you have 64-bit or 32-bit Windows? Here's how you can check:

Searching for '64-bit' to find the technical specs window
  1. On the bottom left where you see Search the web and Windows, do a search for “64-bit”.
  2. You'll see this come up: “See if you have a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows”. Click it.
  3. You'll arrive here . Look for “System type”. If it says “64-bit operating system” then you're using 64-bit Windows. If it says “32-bit operating system” then you're using 32-bit Windows.

Using Windows XP? Here are directions for that .

Installation

Windows versions of FinalBurn Alpha are all a standalone program so they do not have an install wizard. Installation is simple: just extract FinalBurn Alpha from its zip file. Not sure how to extract zip files? Here's a video tutorial showing you how: how to unzip files on Windows.

IMPORTANT! FinalBurn Alpha must be placed in a common folder on your computer. I recommend Documents, Downloads, or create a folder on your desktop. If you place FinalBurn Alpha somewhere else on your main C drive, then you may be restricting it to read-only access. Doing so prevents FinalBurn Alpha from saving anything.

To open FinalBurn Alpha, double-click on FinalBurn Alpha's EXE, or FinalBurnAlpha's 32-bit EXE if you have 32-bit Windows.

Understanding the ROM structure

Click Show Unavailable

Arcade emulation works differently than the emulation of other video game systems. I want you to open up FinalBurn Alpha's ROM list for this explanation. Go to Game > Load game, and click Show unavailable - as shown to the right.

Under “Select Game” you'll see a really long list of games:

All the arcade games that FinalBurn Alpha supports

This list is all the games that FinalBurn Alpha supports. Click on the '+' to expand a game.

Parent ROM and orphan ROMs

The first game at the top of the list is the parent ROM. All the games listed under it are the orphans.

In the picture below, I'm showing you how this parent/orphan relationship applies to actual ROMs in the roms folder. This is how all arcade emulators work with arcade ROMs.

Parent ROMs and Orphan ROMs in the roms folder

In other words:

  • If you want to play the parent of a game, you need to download the parent ROM.
  • If you want to play an orphan of a game, you need to download both the orphan ROM and the parent ROM.

You'll notice that all arcade ROMs are abbreviated. You must never rename or extract an arcade ROM! Its exact filename is how FinalBurn Alpha can detect it.

NeoGeo games need neogeo.zip

NeoGeo games require the NeoGeo BIOS in order to boot. You can download it below.

  • NeoGeo BIOS (931 KB) - Required in order to boot NeoGeo games. Do not rename or extract this zip file!

*To setup the NeoGeo BIOS with FinalBurn Alpha, simply move it into FinalBurn Alpha's ROMs folder . That's it!

Loading a game

  1. Before we do anything, I must first inform you to never extract or rename the zip file of an arcade ROM! The exact filename is how FinalBurn Alpha detects it.
  2. Move your arcade ROMs into FinalBurn Alpha's ROMs folder .
  3. Next, we need to have FinalBurn Alpha scan your ROMs folder for new games. First, go to Game > Load game, or press the F6 key:
    Accessing the Load Game screen
  4. Depending on the version of FinalBurn Alpha you have, after selecting Load game you may be prompted with the “Edit ROMs paths” window:
    Edit ROMs paths
    Click the Browse button and select the path where your arcade ROMs reside. Click OK when you're done.
  5. Next, you'll arrive at the ‘Select Game” screen. Click on the Scan ROMs button:
    Scan for new ROMs
    A “Scanning ROMs” box will appear:
    Scanning for new ROMs
    Depending on the amount of ROMs you have, this could take a few seconds or a minute.
  6. If successful, your ROMs would appear like shown below.
    ROMs as they would appear after a successful scan
    In my example, I have both the Dungeons & Dragons games. Currently, in the roms folder I have all 24 ROMs for them. FinalBurn Alpha consolidated the parent and all orphans into a single list item for each game. Click the '+' to expand it.
  7. Upon expanding the game you can see the parent and all its orphans:
    Clicking to load a game
    To load the game, double-click on the version you want to play.

*If your games are not being detected or giving you 'not found' errors, read the next section.

Q: FB Alpha isn't detecting any of my games!

FinalBurn Alpha is a weird emulator. As of the date this tutorial was written, version 0.2.97.39 has problems detecting games. You may find that it refuses to detect all of your games. If this is happening to you, the first thing you should do is run through the troubleshooting checklist in “Troubleshooting loading errors” right below. If FinalBurn Alpha still refuses to detect all your games, go to my emulators page and download the slightly older version of FinalBurn Alpha.

Troubleshooting loading errors

A sample prompt of 'missing file' errors A sample prompt of 'missing file' errors

Upon loading a game, FinalBurn Alpha might slap you with an error window stating that files are missing. This is happening because the authors of arcade emulators are purists who insist on everything to be perfect. As soon as an arcade game has a better ROM dump, the emulator is updated to support the newer dump. This renders older ROMs incompatible. This problem gets more complicated with the reality that pretty much every ROM site distributes only old ROMs. These old ROMs may not work with FinalBurn Alpha.

The first step in troubleshooting this is to run through the following checklist:

  • Make sure the game is supported by FinalBurn Alpha! It doesn't support everything. Look for your game in the unavailable games list.
  • Double-check to make sure your arcade ROMs are indeed in the ROMs folder .
  • Did you rename or extract your arcade ROMs? You must never do that! If you did then that's why they're not working.
  • Is it a NeoGeo game? Make sure neogeo.zip is in the ROMs folder.
  • Did you scan for new games? Go back to the “Select Game” screen and click on the Scan ROMs button. I explain this process in Loading a game.
  • Make sure you have the parent of the game you're trying to play. Learn more about parents and orphans in Understanding the ROM structure.
  • Still getting errors? Try downloading all versions of the game you're trying to play. Meaning, download its parent and all of its orphans. MameUI can help you find all the ROMs that belong to a specific game.

Still no luck? If you're good on the above bullet points then you're doing everything correctly. This means the arcade ROMs you downloaded are definitely old. So how do you get old ROMs to work? Well, FinalBurn Alpha is a relatively new emulator. Typically, falling back to an older version of an arcade emulator resolves the “old ROM” problem. But that's not a sure fix with FinalBurn Alpha. What I recommend doing is switching to Mame. Particularly, to an old version of Mame. I have one in my emulators page from 2007. It has a high success rate of detecting ROMs that are commonly being distributed in popular ROM sites.

How to play games

Arcade games on FinalBurn Alpha work in the same fashion as the real thing. Upon loading an arcade game, to play you must insert virtual coins. You can insert as many as you want (which gives you infinite lives). Then press Start to begin. Each player has their own coin bank and Start button.

A sample of an arcade deck A sample of an arcade deck

Players 1-4

  • Player 1 Start = 1
  • Player 2 Start = 2
  • Player 3 Start = 3
  • Player 4 Start = 4
  • Player 1 Coin = 5
  • Player 2 Coin = 6
  • Player 3 Coin = 7
  • Player 4 Coin = 8

Player 1 Keys

  • Button 1 = A
  • Button 2 = S
  • Button 3 = D
  • Button 4 = Z

Reconfiguring the keyboard or gamepad

Redefining buttons are on a per-game basis. So if you change buttons for one game, the changed buttons will only apply to that specific game. So to change buttons:

  1. Open the game you want to change the buttons for.
  2. Go to Input > Map game inputs, or press the F5 key - as shown here .
  3. You'll arrive here:
    The Map Game Inputs window
    To redefine a button, just double-click on it and press the new keyboard key or gamepad pad to replace it.

*If you have a gamepad, it would be a good idea to set your spare buttons to “Player 1 Coin” and “Player 1 Start”.

Screen blitters

FinalBurn Alpha has a weird system with their screen blitters (a.k.a. screen filters). It comes equipped with a wide selection of blitters - but most of them don't work! In my research, I only found three of them to be sure to work on every machine. Here's how to enable them:

Scanlines

This blitter adds scanlines to subtly simulate a TV. By default, Video > Select Blitter is set to Basic, as shown here . If you changed it, to enable scanlines you need to switch it back to Basic. To enable scanlines, go to Video > Blitter options and select Scanlines or Scanlines 50% (50% lighter scanlines):

Enabling scanlines

Preview: Sample of Scanlines 50%

DirectX9 blur

This isn't necessarily a blitter. Simply switching the video mode to DirectX9 gives the screen a slight blur. Select it by going to Video > Select Blitter > DirectX9 Alt, as shown below:

Selecting DirectX9

Preview: Sample of DirectX9 blur

Hq2xS

This is the nicest filter of the bunch. It attempts to round pixels together. There are two ways to enable this filter, depending if you want it sharp or slightly blurry:

Sample of hq2xS (VBA) FilterPreview of Sharp Hq2xS
  1. For sharp Hq2xS, set the blitter to SoftFX by going to Video > Select Blitter > SoftFX, as shown here . Then select Video > Blitter options > hq2xS (VBA) Filter, as shown here .
  2. For slightly blurry Hq2xS, set the blitter to DirectX9 by going to Video > Select Blitter > DirectX9 Alt, as shown here . Then select Video > Blitter options > SoftFX algorithm > hq2xS (VBA) Filter, as shown here .

Full screen

Entering full screen is tricky. What makes it tricky is that the default settings slap you with this error when you attempt to enter full screen:

Full screen error

Fortunately, this is resolved with some tweaking.

  1. First, set the blitter to DirectX9 by going to Video > Select Blitter > DirectX9 Alt, as shown below: Selecting DirectX9
  2. Next, we need to change the bitdepth. Go to Video > Fullscreen bitdepth and select either 24bit or 32bit, as shown below:
    Selecting the bitdepth
  3. Now you can enter full screen mode! Go ahead and press Alt+Enter. This isn't instant; wait a few seconds and your screen will appear. To exit full screen, press Alt+Enter again.

Save states

Save states is a feature that saves the exact spot you are in any game. You can use this feature manually by going into the File menu or by quick keyboard shortcuts.

Accessing the save state features

FinalBurn Alpha offers two ways to use save states. You have quick saves and save state files.

Quick saves

If you want instant gratification, quick saves are the instant saving you want.

  • Capturing a quick save: To capture a quick save go to Game > Save states > Save slots > Save state to active slot (no 1), or press the F10 key. FinalBurn Alpha lets you save up to 8 different saves (8 different slots). You can switch between them by pressing the F8 and F11 keys.
  • Loading a quick save: To load a quick save that you previously saved, go to Game > Save states > Save slots > Load state to active slot (no 1). The keyboard shortcut for loading a quick save is F9.

Save state files

These saves require an extra step but allow you to save a state as a file with a custom name.

  • Capturing a save state: To capture a save state go to Game > Save states > Save state. Type in a name for the save then click Save or press the Enter key.
  • Loading a save state: To load a save state that you previously saved, go to Game > Save states > Load state. Select the save you want to load. Note that FinalBurn Alpha can only load FinalBurn Alpha save states; not save states from other emulators. Also, it can only load a save state from a specific ROM. For example, if you captured a save from the Euro version of Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara and you try to load it for the US version, it won't work.

Fast forward

To enable fast forward, press and hold the F1 key. Let it go when you want it to stop.

Screen capture

Go to Misc > Save snapshot, or press the F12 key. FinalBurn Alpha will save the screen shot as a PNG image and toss it into the “screenshots” folder, which is within the FinalBurn Alpha folder.

Recording AVI movies

Want to upload your own arcade gameplay videos to YouTube? Well, FinalBurn Alpha will let you capture them! Here's how you do it:

  1. Play a game up to the point you want to start recording.
  2. Go to Game > Record AVI.
  3. Set video compression option
    You'll be prompted with the “Set video compression option” window (shown to the right). Make sure under “Compressor” it's set to Full Frames (Uncompressed). Just note with full frames a few seconds would take up maybe 1 GB of harddrive space. You can try experimenting with different compressors if you want to record longer movies that aren't so large in size. Click OK to proceed.
  4. The recording will begin. FinalBurn Alpha will be running a bit sluggish. Don't worry! That doesn't mean your movie will come out the same way. When you're ready to stop the recording, go to Game > Stop recording.
  5. You will find your movie in FinalBurn Alpha's “avi” folder. By default, it saves AVI recordings in double the size of the screen. For example, the 1x size for Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara is 384x224. So AVI recordings will come out in 768x448.

Converting AVI movies

YouTube won't have a problem playing your video after you upload it. But, yet if you want to edit your AVI recording in a video editor, it might be rejected and not work. In that case, just convert your AVI recording to a more compatible format such as MP4. A great, free video converter is Miro Video Converter. With Miro, all you need to do is drag the AVI over to it, select Format > Video > MP4, and click Convert.

Finding ROMs

In my links page, I have some good links to sites where you can download arcade ROMs. If you want to try to find more sites than what's in my collection of links, just Google around. For example, if you want to download Metal Slug┬ájust Google “download metal slug arcade” or “download metal slug mame”.

Knowing which ROMs to download

Downloading arcade games can be confusing. If you read this tutorial, you know that downloading a single ROM for a game doesn't mean you've downloaded the game. You need to download maybe 3-8 separate files in order for a game to work with Mame. ROM sites don't make it any easier for you by separating every piece of an arcade game as a separate ROM. How could you quickly & easily find out exactly which ROM files belong a game?

This is where FinalBurn Alpha's sister emulator, MameUI, comes to the rescue! (Remember, you can download it from my site.) MameUI has a search at the top. Start typing in the game in question, and you'll see it appear. In the “Directory” column you'll see the filenames for the ROM files.

Finding out which ROMs to download

Q: FB Alpha isn't saving anything!

If you're using FinalBurn Alpha for the first time and you're finding that you have all these problems:

  1. Save states aren't working. You save a state, then when you try to reload it nothing happens.
  2. Configurations such as screen blitters that you changed aren't saved. When you close/re-open FinalBurn Alpha, you have to make those configuration changes again.

Then your problem is that you currently have FinalBurn Alpha in a read-only location on your computer. You must move FinalBurn Alpha to a more common location such as Documents, Downloads, or a folder on your desktop.