You don't actually need any of the hardware at all. an emulator is just a
program on your pc which emulates the behaviour of a games console or old
computer. With it you run rom files which are like games and programs for
that console or computer.
Think of it like this, you can have a program like winamp or windows media
player on your computer which can play music in the absense of a cd player.
you don't physically need a cd, just the appropriate files in a format which
the music player can read such as mp3.
that's basically how emulators work.
On the joystick issue, if you have a pc joystick, most emulators I believe
have configuration files for them, but certainly you'd need a pc joystick
plugged into your usb or similar, an original snes, playstation or whatever
controller wouldn't do you much good.
Legality wise, well it's one of these grey areas as Tom said.
officially you need to legally own the console and games cartrage to have
the right to run an emulator with a rom, unofficially, lots of people do it
I will freely confess in the past I have run roms of some of my favourite
coin operated arcade games such as the simpsons and ninja turtles beat em
ups, and I certainly don't own several arcade cabinets.
Sinse however there were never any console versions released of these games
and sinse I don't know anywhere that actually stil has the machines
available to play (actually, arcade machines seem something of a thing of
the past now), I don't really feel too much compunction about running the
emulator in this case.
On the other hand, I personally find most emulators to be a litle buggy, and
in the case of a machine like an amigar, quite a pest to run and I prefer to
play the game on a console if at all possible.
I have! in perfect legality run the Turrican games with an amigar emulator
(sinse I did own all three of them and an amigar at one time), however this
was such a pain to do I pretty much stopped, pluss the freeware pc turrican
remake T2002 is easily as good as the original anyway.
That's why if I want to play marrio brothers (as in fact I have been quite
recently), I simply stick a copy of marrio all stars into my Snes.
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