Citra, Nintendo 3DS emulator for Android, gets new feature that dramatically reduces lag

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Citra for Android is a Nintendo 3DS emulator which you can install from the Google Play Store and which has been in development for quite some time. With the unofficial Citra ports marking the start of 3DS emulation on Android, we’ve come a long way, long way in the viability of playing 3DS games on your phone. Now, the popular 3DS emulator is getting one of the most requested features which is expected to dramatically improve performance.

The latest beta of Citra for Android supports shader caching, which is a huge boon for emulation performance. Shader caches efficiently store all compiled shaders on your device’s storage, shifting a lot of the graphics load from your phone’s GPU. Once a shader has been compiled, Citra will read it from your phone’s storage the next time it needs it, rather than compiling it again. If you have noticed frequent stuttering when playing a game, this should now be fixed if you have created a large shader cache while playing for a while.

Beta 15 Change Log:

  • Implements a GPU shader cache, which improves performance and reduces frame rate “stuttering”.
  • Fixes various crashes related to GPU.
  • Merges the latest fixes and improvements from Citra upstream.

Tested on both the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the OPPO Find X3 Pro, the difference is extremely perceptible. You’ll see that there are some pretty big slowdowns in some areas, but that seems to be the case when it compiles the shader and saves it to device storage. Once you engage in the same action again or enter the same area that caused the slowdown, you will see that it is working perfectly. This is extremely noticeable in Pokémon X crossing the bridge to the town of Aquacorde. The game hangs for a few seconds, however, it works fine on round trips afterwards. This is because the game crashes while it is compiling the shaders that are used in the next section of the game, and it crashes when it’s finished. You can see in the video above that once you do a round trip it spins at a perfectly stable 100% speed after that.

The best part about shader caches is that you can save them and transfer them to new devices, however they contain copyrighted material and should not be shared with others. They are stored in the citra-emu folder on your phone’s storage, and it should be borne in mind that using a shader on the device will be limited by your smartphone’s storage speed. You need to install Citra beta 15 from the Google Play Store to try it out, but you’ll need to decipher your own 3DS ROMs using your own Nintendo 3DS to play games on your smartphone. A common thing for people is to save their shader cache when using Citra on their PC, so that if they want to come back to playing the game in the future, the game will run almost flawlessly thanks to the already-compiled shaders that can be used by the emulator.

The shader cache is enabled by default in Citra, and the performance is already significantly improved thanks to my tests in both A’snimal Crossing: New Leaf and in Pokémon X. While it certainly helps that I’m using a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 device with fast storage, Reddit users have reported that there are noticeable improvements in performance even on weaker devices. Your mileage will vary though, and for now performance is still far from optimal on non-Qualcomm chipsets. If your smartphone has a Mali GPU (found in the Kirin and Exynos SoCs), you might be better off trying the unofficial Citra MMJ, as it comes with a number of mods and patches that are used. specifically to get more performance. For example, Citra MMJ had already implemented a shader cache. Still, if you liked what you saw in the videos above, be sure to give the official emulator a try! Citra is one step ahead of what it once was, and with more and more powerful smartphones, 3DS emulation is almost as good as Nintendo DS emulation these days.

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