One reason that most people will claim they play their retro games via an emulator of some sort is due to “save states”. A save state is just what it sounds like, a save anywhere in the game that can be loaded later. This allows players to make a save state right before fighting a boss, before entering a door in a role playing game or somewhere else that is a known troublesome area. Many claim that this cheapens the challenge of the games while others feel it is totally against the nature of the game itself. Thanks to the SNES-Tap purist Super Nintendo gamers will be able to partake in the “save state” technology.
The SNES-Tap is a hardware add-on that is currently in development. The SNES-Tap works through the, completely ignored in the United States, expansion port on the bottom of the Super Nintendo (in Japan it at least had a use or two). The SNES-Tap is a field programmable gate array (FPGA) device that watches the instruction set that is being sent to the Super Nintendo CPU and then allows the player to drop back to a previous set (say before you made that colossal screw up in Super Mario World).
You may recognize FPGA from the upcoming RETRO Video Game System, which is basing their whole console on this technology. More on the RETRO VGS is available here.
There is a video of the SNES-Tap in action on Youtube uploaded by developer Evan Custodio. He has chosen Mega Man X2 to show off the SNES-Tap’s capabilities and a brief bit on how to make it do its magic.
This type of add-on is quite interesting as it allows players of the original hardware to partake in things that normally would not be possible. I will keep my eyes on this one and update it as more info becomes available.