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Arcade Emulation: Kawaks Tutorial

About Kawaks

This tutorial is to help you with Kawaks, an excellent arcade game emulator for Capcom and NeoGeo games. When it comes to emulation of Capcom and NeoGeo games, the emulation enthusiast prefers Kawaks. Versus Mame32 it offers much more features.

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

Extracting & Placement

I suggest you make a new folder called "Arcade" within a folder called "Emulation". You don't have to, but it makes things a little easier for you if you're not too computer literate. Extract all the contents of this emulator's zip file into the Arcade folder. If you don't know how to extract files from a zip file then read this. Put all of your arcade ROMs into the "roms" folder. Double-click on "kawaks" to open it.

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Important arcade emulation tidbitsHighslide JS

• Never extract the contents of an arcade ROM zip file because arcade emulators run off of the zip file itself.

• Never rename an arcade zip file because its exact abbreviated name is how arcade emulators can detect it.

• You must familiarize yourself with the arcade emulation system or else you'll get confused very easily. Click on the File menu then Load Game. You will arrive at the screen displayed to the right of here (click it to enlarge). Here you see a loooong list of games. These are all the games that Kawaks supports. But why is each game listed several times? Ah, why indeed. Scroll down to "Dungeons & Dragons" and I'll tell you.

Each game is listed several times because those are different versions of the game(s), and Kawaks supports them all. Ah, but there's more to it. The game at the top of each list is the parent (which I highlighted in aqua blue for you). In this case, the Euro version is the parent for both of the Dungeons & Dragons games. All the other versions (US, Japan, Asia) will not work without the Euro version. So if you really want to play the US, Japan, or Asia version, the Euro version *must* be downloaded. However if you're American you don't *have* to download the US version, because the Euro version is in perfect English. This applies to every other Euro game besides D&D.

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'' - A must for NeoGeo games

NeoGeo games will not load until you download the NeoGeo BIOS, which is ''. You can download it right here (931 KB). Simply place it in the roms folder. Do not extract its contents, just place the zip file in the folder.

If for whatever reason you're using an older version of Kawaks, you may require the older NeoGeo BIOS, which you can download right here (341 KB). Rename it to '' for it to work.

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Loading a game

1. FIRST you must have all of your arcade ROMs in the "roms" folder within the Kawaks folder

2. Open Kawaks. Click on the File menu then Load Game.

3. Click on Only Available.

4. Your arcade ROMs should appear listed. Double-click on the one you want to play.

*Important Note: When you put new ROMs into the "roms" folder, you must click on Scan for new so that Kawaks adds it to the list. If Kawaks doesn't add it then that ROM probably isn't compatible with it.

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Q: Help! Kawaks refuses to detect my game(s)

• Double-check to make sure your arcade ROMs are indeed in the "roms" folder.

• Did you accidentally rename the game? If you did, look in the main game list for its proper name, or just re-download it.

• Did you scan for new games? Click on Scan for new in the Load Game screen to do so.

• If the above didn't work, try Rescan all then.

• If you did the above and Kawaks still doesn't detect your games, then you probably downloaded an older dump of the game. The only thing you can do is download the game from other sites, and cross your fingers and hope it's the newer dump. I talk a little more about this here.

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Setting up the keyboard or gamepad

When it comes to keyboard/gamepad configurations, Kawaks does something different than other emulators. Every time you play a game for the first time you need to reconfigure your keyboard (or gamepad) to your preferred settings. They did this so that every game can have a custom input configuration. It's annoying for people (like me) who just prefer for every game to have the same button configuration. Anyway, so to reconfigure the keys you need to:

1. First load a game.

2. Go to Game > Redefine Keys > Redefine Keys Player 1, as shown here.

3. You'll arrive here. By default Kawaks is already in "define all keys" mode. You'll see that the highlighting is on "Up". Press the keyboard key or gamepad button you want for Up. The highlighting when then jump to "Down". Continue the process to set up the key you want for each button.
*If you have a gamepad, it would be a good idea to set your spare buttons to to "Player 1 Coin" and "Player 1 Start".

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Video blitters (screen renders)

1. Go to Video then Select Video Blitter, as shown here.

2. Here you'll see a wide selection of wonderful screen renders. Simply click on the one you desire. Several of the renders look exactly the same, not sure why some are even there. I say just stick with good 'ol "2xSai". Below are thumbnails of most of the better renders.

Normal: no renders enabled; the default.

Alternate scanlines: basic scanlines.

Software Zoom 2x...

     • Plain: zoomed in two times.

     • With scanlines: 2x zoom with basic scanlines.

     • With 50% scanlines: 2x zoom with 50% scanlines.

Kreed Blitters...

     • 2xSai: smears pixels together with a slight blur, and does so diagonally in attempt to round every edge.

     • Super 2xSai: combines 2xSai and Eagle.

     • Super Eagle: same as 2xSai but the screen is less blurred and not all the edges are rounded off.

     • 2xSai with 75% scanlines: ditto.

Monitor dot matrix blitter: attempts to simulate an arcade dot matrix monitor.


     • Plain: attempts to round pixels together without any smearing or blurring.

     • With 25% scanlines: ditto.

     • With 50% scanlines: ditto.

     • With 75% scanlines: ditto.

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Full screen / stretch to full screen

You can enter full screen mode by pressing Alt+Enter. Press it again or press the Esc key to go back to window mode.
• Ah, but entering full screen for the first time, you see that it's so tiny and weird lookin. How do you blow it up? Simple! Just enable stretch to full screen. You'll find it by going to Video > Correct full screen ratio > Stretch to full screen

*Having problems with full screen? Is Kawaks crashing? Continue reading here

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By default transparency is disabled. You can enable it by going to the Video menu, then Transparencies. Although if you have a not-so-fast computer, I wouldn't recommend enabling transparency. Not all games have transparency. I suppose games from the mid 90's and above usually have it. I know Dungeons & Dragons has it.

What's transparency? Transparency are graphics that are see-through; graphics with opacity/alpha. For example, in Dungeons & Dragons the spells have transparency, like, through bolts of lightning you can still see the background behind them.

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Save states

Save states save the exact spot you are in a game.

• You can save up to 10 different games per game, press F6 and F8 to switch between the slots (which are from 0-9).

• Press F5 to save your state.

• Press F7 to recall your saved state.

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Screen capture

Go to Tools then Screenshot (unfiltered), or press Ctrl+P. Kawaks will toss the shots into the "capture" folder, which is within the Kawaks folder.

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Q: Where's "Start"? How the heck do I play an arcade game?

Yeah, arcade emulation is a tad bit different than playing SNES or Genesis. There's two buttons to keep in mind: Player 1 Coin and Player 1 Start. As you see in the button configuration window, "F3" is Player 1 Coin and "F1" is Player 1 Start. Once a game is loaded press Player 1 Coin as many times as your heart desires. It doesn't matter if you press it 1 time or 100 times. This enters virtual coins into Kawaks (a la an arcade machine). That also means you can toss in coins whenever you want, so it doesn't matter to toss all of them in before you start the game. Anyway, once you've finished inserting your coins, go ahead and press "F1" for Player 1 Start. The game will now begin. Remember, you can change Player 1 Coin and Player 1 Start to different keyboard keys if you'd like, or even gamepad buttons.

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Q: I'm getting errors! How come my games are missing files?

More than one thing could be causing this:
• You do have all of your arcade ROMs in the "roms" folder, right? Make sure of that first. =P
• Are you trying to play the orphan of a game? If so, you need to download the parent of it in order for it to work. Go here to learn more about parents and orphans.
• Are you trying to play a NeoGeo game? Make sure you have the NeoGeo BIOS.
• If you're ok on the two above possibilities, then that means your arcade ROM is an older dump. Unfortunately, the Kawaks programmers (as well as other arcade emulator authors) are purists who insist on everything to be perfect. Once someone dumps an arcade game 'better', the Kawaks authors update the code to support the newer dump, rendering the older dump incompatible. Hence you get the missing files errors. You're not really missing files, that's just another way of saying your arcade ROM is old. The only way to resolve this is to download the arcade ROM from other arcade ROM sites, and cross your fingers and hope it's the newer dump. Yeah, this sucks. >_< But it's something we all have to live with.

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Q: Under Windows 8/10, having problems with full screen!

When using Windows 8 or 10, you may encounter problems when entering full screen. Problem #1 is that Kawaks enters full screen in a weird way where you still see the border of the program window. Problem #2 is that when you exit full screen mode, Kawaks crashes. Unfortunately there is not a fix for this problem. Kawaks is an old emulator and has not been updated to work with new video cards. Kawaks works fine in window mode, so just don't enter full screen and everything will be fine.

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