Last updated: 07AUG2021 (see Changelog for details)
The GameForce Chi shouldn’t exist — its design is garish, it runs the agin RK3326 chipset, and it looks like it traveled through time from the 1990s to reach us here in the 2020s. But somehow, it all seems to work out in the end. So in this guide I’ll show you how to set the device up, some tips and tricks, as well as a teardown video.
Table of Contents Before the GameForce arrives Unboxing and orientation Flash EmuELEC onto your microSD card Add game files to your microSD card Understanding the interface Understanding games settings Screen configuration Other features to explore Changelog
Before the GameForce arrives
The GameForce is unique in that it is completely open source, and does not come bundled with a microSD card. So for this device, I recommend you buy a new SD card from a reputable brand like SanDisk or Samsung to use in your device.
In general, I recommend the cards listed below, in order or preference. The prices fluctuate all the time, so keep an eye out for deals. In general, I would expect to pay $20 for a 128GB card, and $30 for a 256GB card. A 128GB card will allow you to load EVERY 8-bit and 16-bit game out there, all of the arcade games that work, and quite a few PS1, Dreamcast, PSP, and Sega CD games (those systems have the largest file sizes). A 256GB card will allow you to store even more of those larger games. You can also use larger cards (512GB, 1TB, and more) if you’re so inclined.
128GB cards: SanDisk Extreme Samsung EVO Select SanDisk Ultra 256GB cards: Samsung EVO Select SanDisk Ultra
One more accessory to consider: if you don’t have a nice microSD to USB adapter, you might want to think about getting one. A nice adapter like this one from Anker will give you the fastest transfer speeds possible, and won’t cause any corruption issues with your card.
Finally, I would recommend that you build your ROM library now, if you haven’t already. Make a folder called “Retro Games” or something like it, and make distinct folders for each of the systems you would like to play on your device. I recommend naming your game folders after the “Rom Path” names found in this guide, because that’s how they’ll be organized on your device. Also be sure to load the folders with ROMs of the correct file extension, which is also found in that guide. For example, NES games can be in .7z, .fds, .nes, or .zip format. As a reminder, here are some of the many systems that play on the GameForce:
Atari 5200 (and 800)
PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16)
PC Engine CD (TurboGrafx-CD)
Nintendo Entertainment System
Famicom Disk System
Sega Master System
Sega Saturn (poorly)
Neo-Geo / CD
Game and Watch
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy Color
Nintendo Game Boy Advance
Nintendo Virtual Boy
Sega Game Gear
Neo-Geo Pocket / Color
Wonderswan / Color
Commodore 64 (and C16/Plus4, C128)
Final Burn Neo
Neo-Geo / CD
Unboxing and orientation
Now that your device has arrived, let’s make sure everything is working. Unbox the device, and do a quick hardware check. Confirm that all of the buttons work/click as expected, look for any noticeable damage or cracks in the screen.
Also, if you haven’t already, watch the review video above, so you can get a feel for what to expect from your device in terms of build quality and performance.
Flash EmuELEC onto your microSD card
You will need to flash an operating system onto your microSD card, and EmuELEC is an excellent choice since it officially supports this device. As of July 16th, 2021, ArkOS is also now available for this device (check out the ArkOS FAQ for more details).
Head over to the EmuELEC releases page and download the latest GameForce IMG file. It will be between 700-800MB and will be named something like “EmuELEC-GameForce.aarch64-4.1-chi.img.gz”. Once downloaded, unzip this file using WinRAR or 7Zip so that the file extension is .img. Now, use a program such as Win32 Disk Imager, Rufus, or Balena Etcher to flash the image file onto your microSD card.
Once complete, eject the SD card and place it into your device, power the device on, and let it run through the installation process. After that, you’re ready to start loading your games onto the card. To power off the device, I strongly recommend you do a system shut down instead of just holding down the power button. Think of it like powering down a PC. To do a system shutdown, press START then select Quit > Shutdown System.
Add game files to your microSD card
When you insert the EmuELEC SD card into your computer, you will see several partitions — the one you want to use is the EEROMS partition. If you’re on Windows and get a bunch of popups and prompts to format the SD card, check out the quick video above which will show you how to fix this issue.
On your EEROMS partition, you will see a bunch of folders, which correspond to the systems listed in this guide. The most important folder to start with is the “bios” folder, which is where you will want to put the BIOS files for systems that require them (GBA, PS1, Sega CD, Dreamcast, and more). Here is a list of the required BIOS files for each system. You’ll need to find these files on your own and add them to this bios folder.
After you have your BIOS files added, go ahead and start adding your ROM files to their corresponding folder. Make sure you’re adding files with the correct file extensions, as listed in this table.
When you’re done adding files, eject the SD card and put it back into your device. You should now see menu items for every system for which you loaded game files. From here you can do things like apply shaders, adjust your button mapping, and more — all demonstrated in the Setup and Teardown video above.
There are many nice features of this device that can only be accessed via WiFi. For example, you can “scrape” (download) box art and other media for all of your games, or add new themes to your EmuELEC frontend, or even get achievements for classic games.
Understanding the interface
When you first power on the device, you will be greeted with a sleek user interface that will allow you to scroll through systems, and select games. You’ll also notice that the systems that appear on your device are only the ones that have games loaded — how convenient is that?
EmuELEC uses EmulationStation, which serves as a frontend interface for the user, while the games themselves are mostly loaded from an emulation system known as RetroArch. EmulationStation will allow you to navigate your menus, and make some initial settings configurations, but to really unlock the GameForce’s potential, you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with how RetroArch operates, too.
In general, the easiest way to think of this is that when you launch a game from the EmulationStation interface, it’s actually booting up into RetroArch, and everything you do within the game is within RetroArch until you quit it and go back to EmulationStation. This is important to know because there are certain settings you can only configure while in RetroArch.
You can configure about 80% of everything in EmulationStation, but the rest must be done in RetroArch. Note that if you adjust a setting in EmulationStation, it’ll override any setting you make in RetroArch; so if you set something in RetroArch and it’s not working when you jump back into a game, you likely have something going on in EmulationStation that is overriding the RetroArch tweak.
Note that some emulators don’t use RetroArch at all: Nintendo DS and PSP all use standalone emulators that won’t follow the same configuration requirements as RetroArch.
Understanding games settings
Before we dive into screen configuration, I think it’s important to note that for the most part, there are SIX different ways to save settings on the GameForce. I want to break them down now, since I will refer to them later in this guide.
The three settings in EmuELEC:
- “Games Settings” (EmulationStation): Press START on the GameForce while in the main operating system, and the Main Menu will appear. The second setting is “Games Settings”. Here you can change overall settings across the entire device: desired aspect ratio, graphics effects, and more.
- “Per System Advanced Configuration” (EmulationStation). This setting is found in the “Games Settings” menu. This allows you to make the same changes as found in the “Games Settings” menu but by SYSTEM (NES, SNES, etc), as well as to choose which emulator (core) . This is helpful if you want to tweak most of your system’s settings, but it doesn’t cover everything (see the RetroArch overrides below). You can also get to this settings menu by hovering over a game and then pressing SELECT and selecting “Advanced System Options”.
- “Advanced Game Options” (EmulationStation): You can also adjust settings by game. To do so, navigate to the game you want to adjust, then press SELECT and go into the “Advanced Games Options” menu and make your adjustments there — they will save only for that game.
The other three settings are done in RetroArch, which is the backend system that runs most of the emulators (called “cores”) on the GameForce. This is done via the “override” settings. These are kind of confusing, but essential if you want the best settings, so let’s discuss for a moment.
To override core settings means you can set up settings for an entire core (say, FCEUMM for the NES) and those settings will be persistent for every game that launches with that core. You can also override content directories, which is handy if you have a core (like Genesis Plus GX) that emulates multiple systems, but you only want one system to have specific settings — this option will save a whole directory (like “Sega Genesis”) and not touch the other directories that use the same core (Sega CD, Game Gear, etc). Finally, you can also override game settings, so that specific games have their own settings. For example, Star Fox plays best on the SNES 9x 2010 core, but you probably don’t want to use that core for every SNES game. For more information on override hierarchy, check out this guide from RetroArch themselves. Long story short: RetroArch’s “override” settings are more robust than what you’ll find in EmuELEC, but the EmulationStation settings will override the RetroArch settings. But in order to make EmuELEC more simple, it appears the developer hid the override settings on the device, so we need to set that up if you want to do some deep diving into the settings.
Go into RetroArch without a core loaded. You can do this by pressing START while in EmulationStation to get to the EmuELEC main menu , then select Quit > Start RetroArch. Or you can select “Close Content” in the Quick Menu when you have a game loaded in RetroArch. Once you’re in RetroArch, go to Settings > User Interface > Menu Item Visibility > Quick Menu. Scroll down until you find “Show Save Core Overrides”, then turn that ON, as well as “Save Game Overrides”. Back out to the Main Menu (on the far left) and select Configuration File > Save Current Configuration. Now, you will have the option to save overrides that are specific to that core or game (and the content directory option also works).
The three settings in RetroArch:
- “Save core overrides” (RetroArch): Once you have the game settings the way you’d like, go to the game’s quick menu (on the far left of the RetroArch menu bar) and scroll down until you find Overrides > Save Core Override. Choose that and you should get a confirmation that the core override was saved. At this point, every time you open a game from that particular core/system, you will have those settings.
- “Save content directory overrides” (RetroArch): Follow the instructions above, but select Save Content Directory Overrides. This will save the settings for every ROM in that same folder as the ROM you’ve just adjusted.
- “Save game overrides” (RetroArch): Follow the instructions above, but select Save Game Overrides. This will save the settings for this specific ROM, and no others.
The GameForce shares the same 640×480 4:3 display characteristics as the Anbernic RG351V, so we’ll borrow those settings for this device, too. In a nutshell, I would recommend that you set the system aspect ratio to “Core Provided” so that the emulator can decide the best aspect ratio, with some exceptions:
- SNES usually looks best in 4:3, but some games are designed for 8:7. There’s a whole world of debate about this, so adjust as you prefer. I use 4:3 myself. If you want to play a specific game in 8:7, you could always go into the per-game settings and adjust the ratio for only that game.
- Game Gear is traditionally considered to be a 10:9 aspect ratio device, but the recent consensus is that 4:3 is a better aspect ratio. So you could use either “Core Provided” or 4:3 for this system.
- I wouldn’t mess with the aspect ratio or scaling on PSP or Nintendo DS, they are fine where they are and messing with them just causes issues.
In terms of integer scaling, I recommend you turn it ON for everything except for GBA, which has bezels that are very large with integer scaling. Everything else will have thin black bezels, but a superior pixel balance. If you don’t really see the difference, and would like to fill up your whole screen, then go for it. Also, you can stretch the screen and then apply shaders to balance the pixel distortion, too. I recommend trying the GLSL > Interpolation > sharp-bilinear-2x-prescale.glslp shader, which you can find in the “Shaders Set” section of the Games Settings > Advanced Per System Configuration menu.
I have also added a collection of overlays made by artist J.dewitz which will work with GB, GBC, Game Gear, and Neo Geo Pocket Color.
Other features to explore
Because the GameForce shares the same chipset as many other popular devices, you can use these guides which will apply to the GameForce, too:
– added link to ArkOS
– published guide