In the world of handheld gaming PCs, the ASUS ROG Ally stands out for its impressive performance and versatility. To enhance your gaming experience, installing a reliable and user-friendly front-end launcher is key. While Asus Armory Crate is not bad, it doesn't handle emulators and self installed games that are not from a game store app like steam all so well. That's where LaunchBox comes in – a powerful tool that not only organizes your game library but also enhances your gaming sessions with its rich set of features.
Whether you're a seasoned gamer looking to streamline your collection or a newcomer eager to dive into the world of PC gaming, this guide will walk you through the process of installing LaunchBox on your ASUS ROG Ally. We'll cover everything from the basics of downloading LaunchBox from its official site (https://www.launchbox-app.com/) to the intricacies of setting it up as your default launcher, ensuring a seamless integration with your handheld gaming PC.
So, grab your ASUS ROG Ally, and let's embark on this journey to elevate your gaming experience with LaunchBox. For the sake of ease with this tutorial, we will be using our Rog Ally in Docked Mode. This will also require a licensed copy of LaunchBox, as we will be using BigBox as our front end. Currently, the 1 year license is an upfront cost of $30.00, with a yearly renewal of $15.00 or you can purchase the "Forever" license for $75.00.
Lets get started by downloading the Windows version of the app ( download ).
Install LaunchBox to your desktop as shown in the picture.
Once the installation process is finalized, transfer the license.xml file, which you received via email after purchasing the premium version, into the LaunchBox directory on your desktop. Then, proceed to launch LaunchBox. You'll notice that it has automatically detected and included any games you've installed via Steam. At this point, LaunchBox will begin to seamlessly download metadata and artwork for your game collection, enriching your gaming library with detailed information and visuals.
Now, let's move on to configuring some emulators and transferring your ROM files.
For the majority of retro gaming systems, we'll be using RetroArch, which supports a wide array of platforms including Atari, various Nintendo systems (NES, SNES, N64, GameBoy, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance), Sega (Genesis/MegaDrive, GameGear, Saturn, CD, 32X), TurboGrafx, Neo Geo, Sony Playstation, and more. These systems utilize an emulator "Core" file, essentially a compact standalone emulator in the form of a single DLL file, designed to function within the RetroArch framework.
Now, let's begin importing games. We'll use the Nintendo Entertainment System as our first example.
Go to the top header bar in LaunchBox, and follow this path: Tools > Import > Rom Files.
A setup wizard will now appear to assist us with importing our first batch of ROMs. This wizard will also handle the automatic installation of RetroArch.
Next, add the folder where your NES ROMs are stored.
Ensure that "Nintendo Entertainment System" is chosen on the following screen, which inquires about the gaming system for which you are importing titles.
Subsequently, you will be prompted to decide if you want RetroArch to be installed automatically. It's advisable to select the recommended option here.
At this stage, you will be given a choice: either keep the ROM files in their current location or allow LaunchBox to move them to a dedicated games folder within the LaunchBox installation directory. Personally, I prefer to let LaunchBox organize my files, but it's completely acceptable if you choose to keep them in their original location.
On the following screen, you'll be prompted to search the local database for metadata. Check the box to enable this scan and then proceed by clicking 'Next'.
After that, a new screen will appear asking which artwork you'd like to download. I suggest clicking the 'Check All' button to select all options. Having more artwork is beneficial, especially when using BigBox, as it utilizes much of this artwork in its graphical user interface, depending on the theme you choose.
The next prompt will inquire if you want to download movies for each game. Considering the storage capacity of your ROG Ally, I suggest bypassing this step. However, if you're interested and have adequate space, feel free to set up your EmuMovies account for this purpose.
Following that, you'll encounter a screen regarding the download of Bezels from The Bezel Project. This decision is entirely yours. For the next few option screens, proceed by clicking 'Next', maintaining the default settings.
You'll then see a list of the ROM files that have been scanned. Carefully review this list to ensure everything is correctly named, and then select 'Finish'. The system will start downloading all the artwork and metadata for your games. It's important to let this process complete entirely before adding another game system to your RetroArch Big Box setup. Interrupting this process to start with another system can complicate things, as it's more efficient to avoid going back and restarting.
Once completed, you'll notice a "Consoles" tab in the left menu of your LaunchBox interface, displaying the Nintendo Entertainment System and the titles you've added. You can repeat this process for other RetroArch-compatible systems.
For platforms like the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, PSP, PS Vita, and Sega Dreamcast, standalone emulators are recommended for optimal performance.
For Dolphin, we will be using a stand alone emulator called Dolphin, which is designed to emulate the Nintendo Wii and GameCube systems. For this article we will only be covering the GameCube portion, as you really should be using an actual WiiMote for Nintendo Wii Games, however once you get Dolphin Setup, you can easily scan in your Nintendo Wii library the same way, as the emulator will already be configured for usage.
Lets get started by downloading the latest beta version of Dolphin Emulator for Windows x64 ( download ) , it will come 7zipped , so you will need some type of uncompressing tool such as WinRar, uncompressing everything to C:\Emulators\
Navigate to C:\Emulators\Dolphin-x64 folder, and open the Dolphin executable. Under the menu bar, select Options > Configuration, now click on the Paths tab, and add the path to your Gamecube Games ROM folder.
Exit the Dolphin emulator and ensure it is completely closed. Then, return to the LaunchBox application.
In LaunchBox, navigate to the menu bar and select Tools > Manage > Emulators. A window will open; click on "Add". In the Emulator section, use the dropdown menu to select Dolphin. This will automatically fill in all necessary configurations for Dolphin. Next, direct the application path to the location of your Dolphin executable file.
Switch over to the 'Associated Platforms' tab on the left side. Make sure the 'default emulator' box is checked for both Nintendo Wii and Nintendo GameCube.
Click 'OK', and you're all set to import your GameCube and Nintendo Wii ROMs into LaunchBox, following the same procedure you used for the earlier systems.
Now that you got the hang of how to add an emulator for usage within the LaunchBox ecosystem, you should breeze through the rest of our recommended stand alone emulators that work in conjunction with LaunchBox / BigBox on the Rog Ally. Just simply follow the same setup routine that was used during the Dolphin configuration.
Here is a recommended list that we are currently using in our setup:
In the main menu, go to Tools > Import > Manually Add Game. This will open a new window. Here, type in the title of the game and then click the 'Search Metadata' button. Choose the appropriate game from the options provided. Next, click on the 'Images' tab, which is located under the media list on the left-hand menu. Press the 'Download Media' button, select 'Check All', and then click 'Download'. Afterwards, under the 'Launching' tab, direct the application path to the game's executable file. Once done, click 'OK', and your game is all set up and ready to play!
To enhance compatibility and reduce system stability issues during emulation, it's advisable to acquire the RetroArch BIOS pack. A quick search online should lead you to it. After downloading, place all the files in the LaunchBox\Emulators\RetroArch\System folder on your desktop.
BIOS files play a crucial role in emulation, acting as the bridge between the software (the emulator) and the hardware (your gaming PC). These files contain essential system data and configurations necessary for accurately mimicking the original gaming consoles. By ensuring you have the correct BIOS files for each system you're emulating, you significantly improve the chances of games running smoothly and authentically. It's important to use BIOS files responsibly and legally, keeping in mind the copyright laws regarding their distribution and use.
Upon launching BigBox on your ROG Ally, your first step should be to switch the system to Gamepad Mode. If not, the system will default to keyboard mappings linked to game controller buttons, which can lead to erratic behavior, such as unintentionally closing games during launch attempts.
To access the settings menu, you can either press the escape key on your keyboard or the B button on your gamepad. Once there, navigate to Options > Controller Mappings.
Browse through the options until you find 'Close the Active Window'. Press the A button, which will prompt you to choose the button combination for this shortcut. Press and hold the start button, then press the select button. This combination will now allow you to smoothly exit games using those buttons.
After returning to the main menu from the options menu, you have the option to manage and select themes. This feature enables you to install various themes. Select one that appeals to you, and remember to apply it as the main theme post-installation. In our video demonstration, we're using the 'BannerBox' theme, coupled with a ListView in the in-system menus. This theme particularly complements the display size of the ROG Ally, offering a visually pleasing and functional user experience.
To proceed, access the Task Manager by pressing Control-Alt-Delete. Within Task Manager, click on the 'Startup Apps' tab on the left side of the window. Here, you have the option to disable 'Armory Crate' from launching at startup and instead, set up BigBox to launch when your system starts. This adjustment won't affect your ability to use the ROG Ally's quick menu, which is accessible via the triangle button. This quick menu lets you view the FPS counter, system information, adjust operating wattage, and select the control mode.
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