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Dolphin Tutorial

By Alejandro Rodriguez. Last revised December 4, 2018.

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About Dolphin

Dolphin is an impressive emulator. It's always been the #1 GameCube emulator. And just when we thought it couldn't get better, they added support for Wii! Dolphin allows PC (and Mac) gamers to enjoy games for these two consoles in full HD (1080p) with several enhancements: compatibility with all PC controllers, turbo speed, networked multiplayer, and more!

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

Installation

Dolphin is a standalone program so it does not have an install wizard. Installation is simple: just extract Dolphin 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! Dolphin must be placed in a common folder on your computer. I recommend Documents, Downloads, or create a folder on your desktop. If you place Dolphin somewhere else on your main C drive, then you may be restricting it to read-only access. Doing so prevents DeSmuME from saving anything.

To open Dolphin, double-click on Dolphin's EXE.

How Dolphin handles the controls

Keep in mind the differences between the GameCube controller and the Wii Remote. Particularly, remember that the Wii Remote uses motion sensing for directional interaction.

The GameCube controller and Wii remote

GameCube controller

Check out the default GameCube button configurations . This is found by going to Options > Controller Settings > GameCube Controllers > Port 1 > Configure.

Wii Remote

Check out the default Wii button configurations . This is found by going to Options > Controller Settings > Wii Remotes > Wii Remote 1 > Configure.

Motion sensing tester

Click on the Motion Controls and IR tab to view the default configurations for motion controls . As you move your mouse around, you'll notice a red dot in a diagram moving along with you (as shown to the right). This is how Dolphin handles emulating the Wii Remote's motion sensing - with your mouse.

Reconfiguring keyboard or gamepad for GameCube

  1. Click Controllers or go to Options > Controller settings - as shown here .
  2. Under “GameCube Controllers”, click the Configure button for “Port 1” (player 1) - as shown here .
  3. You'll arrive at the controller configuration screen (shown below). To reconfigure a button, simply click on it then press the new keyboard key or press a button on your gamepad. Repeat for every button you want to be reconfigured. When you're done click Close.

Reconfiguring keyboard or gamepad for Wii

  1. Click Controllers or go to Options > Controller settings - as shown here .
  2. Under “Wii Remotes”, click the Configure button for “Wii Remote 1” (player 1) - as shown here .
  3. You'll arrive at the controller configuration screen (shown below). To reconfigure a button, simply click on it then press the new keyboard key or press a button on your gamepad. Repeat for every button you want to be reconfigured.
  4. Next, you may want to reconfigure the motion control for the Wii Remote (if you don't want to use your mouse). That's found by clicking on the Motion Controls and IR tab. Take notice of the “IR” area:

    Motion sensing tester
    You could reconfigure these four buttons to a D-pad, but I recommend a joystick. For example, if you're using a PlayStation 3 controller, you could configure these buttons to one of the joysticks . After configuring the buttons, make use of the motion sensing tester to ensure it's working properly.
  5. When you're done click Close.

Setting the games directory

Before/after with a set games directory

This step is optional. You have the option of loading your list of games directly into Dolphin so that you don't have to fuss with loading a game manually. It takes 2 seconds to do. First, make sure your games are extracted from their ZIP, RAR, or 7Z files. 7-Zip can be used to extract any compression format (it's free).

After opening Dolphin, you'll see this message:

Dolphin could not find any GameCube/Wii ISOs or WADs.
Double-click here to set a games directory...

As it says, double-click on it. You'll be prompted to select the folder where your ISOs/WADs reside. Go ahead and do so. That's it! Dolphin will immediately be populated with your games. To play a game, just double-click on it.

Loading a game

  1. So you've downloaded a few GameCube games and you're ready to load them with Dolphin. The games you downloaded are most likely compressed in a ZIP, RAR, or 7Z file. 7-Zip can be used to extract any compression format (it's free).
  2. Using 7-Zip is easy. Just right-click the RAR or 7Z file and go to 7-Zip > Extract Here, as shown here .
  3. If you read the above about setting the games directory, all you do to load a game is double-click on it. Otherwise, to manually load a game click on The 'Open' icon or go to File > Open.
  4. After clicking Open you'll be prompted to the “Select a file” window. Navigate to the folder where your GameCube or Wii games are. Click on the game you want to play, then click Open - as shown here .
  5. Your game will begin. It normally loads instantly. Enjoy!

To close a game, click the “X” on its window or press the Esc key.

Q: Games are stuck at a black screen!

Does Dolphin get stuck at a black screen after loading games? Below are some possible reasons for this.

  • This might sound silly, but make sure the game you're trying to load is actually a GameCube or Wii game :)
  • Rule out if this black screen issue is specific to a single game or all your games. If it's happening to only one game then it could be that it's corrupt. That should be an easy fix by simply downloading the game from another website. Otherwise, if the black screen issue is happening to all your games then keep reading.
  • Try installing the full DirectX package to ensure DirectX is running the best it can. You can download it here: DirectX End-User Runtime Web Installer (284 KB).
  • Is your computer kind of old? Make sure it's fully updated. Dolphin is programmed to work with the latest version of Windows. A decent video card is necessary as well. If your computer is old or it's a low-end machine (cheap), the black screens could be that Dolphin is not compatible.

Q: I get 'Failed to load D3DCompiler_42.dll'!

If Dolphin returns the following error upon loading a game: “Failed to load D3DCompiler_42.dll” - this is a DirectX issue. This should be resolved by installing the full DirectX package. You can download it here: DirectX End-User Runtime Web Installer (284 KB). This installer promises to install all the files that correct issues such as this.

Full screen

By default, Dolphin loads games in a window. Press Alt+Enter to enter full screen. Press Alt+Enter again to go back to window mode. You can also click on Full Screen to enter full screen.

Pressing the Esc key can exit full screen. Doing so will also have Dolphin prompt you asking if you want to close the game. It's kind of annoying; pressing Alt+Enter to exit full screen is better.

Improving graphics

Dophin's graphics from default to higher settings

Upon entering full screen, the first thing you're going to notice is that the quality of the graphics looks somewhat low grade and pixel-ish. Dolphin can be a CPU heavy emulator, so by default its settings are low to be as compatible as possible for most computers. Fortunately, as shown in the above sample picture, Dolphin's graphics can be improved (if your computer can handle it).

  1. Click on The 'Graphics' icon or go to Options > Graphics Settings.
  2. You'll arrive at the “OpenGL Graphics Configuration” window. Click on the Enhancements tab:
    OpenGL Graphics Configuration - Enhancements tab
    The options of importance here are “Internal Resolution”, “Anti-aliasing”, “Anisotrophic Filtering” (ignore this one), and “Post-processing Effect”. For now, let's focus on Internal Resolution.
  3. Click on the drop-down field for “Internal Resolution.” You'll get these options: Options for Internal Resolution
    In general, 2x Native (1280x1056) for 720p should run well on any modern, average computer. High-end computers should be able to handle 3x Native (1920x1584) for 1080p. But if your device is low end or a tablet, you might be stuck with the default: Native (640x528). If you have a game running, you can click among these options and Dolphin will immediately apply the changed resolution for you to preview. Clearly, if you hear the music start playing jumpy then you chose a resolution that your computer can't handle.
  4. When you've selected a resolution that works well for your computer, go ahead and close this window. If you jump between GameCube and Wii games regularly, you may have to return to this screen to change the resolution. For example, if you set it to 2x Native (1280x1056) for 720p and all your GameCube games run fine, but once you open a Wii game you find it running sluggish. In this case, you'd need to roll back the resolution to Native (640x528) for Wii games, then switch it back to 2x Native (1280x1056) for 720p when you decide to play GameCube games.

Anti-aliasing

Anti-aliasing

Enabling anti-aliasing works well for GameCube games. Although with Wii games only high-end computers can handle them with anti-aliasing. It's a pretty subtle feature. Unless you're particular about rendering quality, you probably wouldn't notice the difference with or without anti-aliasing. Anyway, here's how to enable anti-aliasing:

  1. Click on The 'Graphics' icon or go to Options > Graphics Settings.
  2. You'll arrive at the “OpenGL Graphics Configuration” window. Click on the Enhancements tab.
  3. Click on the drop-down field for “Anti-Aliasing.” You'll get these options: Options for Anti-Aliasing
    Select 2x MSAA, or select anything higher if you want to test your CPU. Like when changing the resolution, Dolphin will give you an immediate preview of the anti-aliasing you select.

Post-processing effect

Post-processing effect

Post-processing effect doesn't do anything to enhance the graphics. It's just a fun feature that applies a wacky filter. Here's how to enable it:

  1. Click on The 'Graphics' icon or go to Options > Graphics Settings.
  2. You'll arrive at the “OpenGL Graphics Configuration” window. Click on the Enhancements tab.
  3. Click on the drop-down field for “Post-processing Effect” and select whatever you want. Like when changing the resolution, Dolphin will give you an immediate preview of the effect you select.

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.

Using the save state feature via the File menu

Using save states

  • Capturing a save state: To capture a save state go to Emulation > Save State > Save State to Slot > Save to Slot 1 - as shown here . The keyboard shortcut for saving a save state is Shift+F1.
  • Loading a save state: To load a save state that you previously saved, go to Emulation > Load State > Load State to Slot > Load to Slot 1. The keyboard shortcut for loading a save state is F1.
  • Ten save slots! Dolphin allows you to save up to 10 different save states. By default, it is set to slot “1”. You can change the slot by going to Emulation > Select save slot. Then select the desired slot.

Save to file

Dolphin also gives you the option to save to a file. This lets you collect an infinite amount of save states. This is also helpful to transfer a saved game to another computer or let you collect saves with specific names.

  • Save to file by going to Emulation > Save State > Save State to File. You'll be prompted to enter a custom filename for your save.
  • Load a save file by going to Emulation > Load State > Load State from File and navigate to your save file to load it.

Fast forward

Fast forward is the feature that speeds up the game. To activate it, hold down the Tab key.

Using cheats

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Dolphin's cheats feature is awesome. Cheats are pre-loaded with every game; you simply select the cheats you want to use. The bad news is that cheats are only offered with GameCube games, not Wii games. Here's how to use cheats with GameCube games:

  1. First, you need to set the game directory to have your list of GameCube games appearing within Dolphin.
  2. Click Config or go to Options > Configuration.
  3. In the Settings window, put a check in Enable Cheats - as shown here .
  4. Right-click a GameCube game in your games list, then left-click on Properties - as shown here .
  5. In the window that pops up, click the AR Codes tab. You'll see something like below:
    Enabling cheats
    Select the cheats you would like to enable, and that's it! Close this window and open the game to enjoy the cheats.

Capturing screen shots

Capturing a screenshot

Press F9 to capture a screenshot. You can also do it from the menu by going to Emulation > Take Screenshot. Dolphin sends the screenshot to Documents > Dolphin Emulator > ScreenShots as a PNG image. Here's a visual of this location .

Finding ISOs

In my links page, I have some good links to sites where you can download ISOs. 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 Mario Kart Wii just Google “download mario kart wii”.