The NEC Retro topic

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Dec 31, 2021.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    No it's not Sega, but where else would it go? There's not enough fans to support its own forum, and it's not necessarily just game-related. Progress on NEC Retro helps Sega Retro, and vice versa, and I don't want to see this wiki forgotten about for years again.

    [​IMG]
    https://necretro.org/Main_Page

    As explained in the announcements topic, NEC ("neck" if you're cool) Retro is "hard mode", for people who like a challenge. We're starting from a base of literally nothing - it's a (mostly) Japanese system with a (mostly) Japanese history. However, if you were questioning the point of the Sega Mega-CD and half the games released for it, the PC Engine and its add-ons will provide an answer. It's also got computers you won't undersatnd, and the origins of games you might have heard of... as well as those you haven't.


    State of NEC Retro (December 2021)

    The passage of time makes me sad, so rather than be normal on new years eve, I stubbed up pages for every CD-based game for the PC Engine:

    One Two Three

    There's some unlicensed guff and demos still to do, but as we already had pages for every card-based game, the console's entire software library should be represented on NEC Retro now. There were already a good thousand pages prior to its collapse two years ago, so while Sega Retro is at least 20-30 times bigger, NEC Retro is chunky enough to be classed as "a wiki with things on it".

    What needs to be done? eeeverrrytthing.


    Why does it matter? Well it's an important piece of video game history that continues to influence how Japanese games are made today. It was only when this wiki was set up that I realised how unbelievably terrible most video game databases are. Most just glance over the bits they don't understand, and thus the ignorance spreads.

    For example, GameFAQs' coverage of classic Broderbund PC game Lode Runner:

    https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/nes/587420-lode-runner

    Oh there were "NEC PC88" and "NEC PC98" versions. How novel.

    Yeah no

    [​IMG]

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    They forgot the PC-8001 mkII, PC-6001, PC-6601 versions, and didn't make the distinction between the PC-9801F and PC-9801VF. And maybe some others. And there's a few models of PC-88s with different specs. And that's just the NEC side - they're missing versions from Sharp and Fujitsu and god knows what else.



    Anyway it's an interesting distraction. Sega Retro is far better equipped to deal with "things" but if you want to help the world, there's always this.
     
  2. Gestalt

    Gestalt

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    I'm so not in the loop concerning home computer based games, but I'm intrigued and can see a connection that should not be underplayed. Right now I'm a tad busy with school, but if there's something I can do, feel free to let me know. Things to mirror etc.
     
  3. Knucklez

    Knucklez

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    It's too bad that NEC never got the brand recognition it deserved, despite the tremendous impact it has had on the tech industry and the arts. I'm fortunate to have a complete backup of all PCE/TG16, PCE-CD and PC-FX games, among other NEC platforms.

    I really do appreciate the work you all put into the preservation side of things.

    On a side note, I have clean, factory-sealed copies of PC Genjin, PC Denjin, Bomberman, Bomberman '94, Galaga '88 and Wonder Momo for PC Engine. Not much, but a precious collection to me.
     
  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Japanese to English translations are a nightmare, especially when you don't know the language. For me it's "Google translate" + "second guessing Google translate" = "something that might be correct".

    I've come across a couple of nasty ones in the last few days:

    [​IMG]

    鬼神童子ZENKI FX 金剛炎闘

    No online translating tool can handle this title. It's thrown by the last two characters - some nuance I don't understand. It'll give you a literal translation ("Onigami Doji ZENKI FX Kongo Flame Fight" - not what we want) but it will not convert it to roumanji.

    There's been a couple of occasions where this happens to the point where I had to implement ruby annotations. In Japanese, there's a concept of "furigana" - little characters that are written above which assist readers in pronunciation. You can see it here for 鬼神童子 (きしんどうじ; "Kishin Douji") and ZENKI (ゼンキ; ... "Zenki"), but no clues for 金剛炎闘. It's "Kongo something-something" - others websites haven't translated it either, so it's a mystery for the ages.


    Underneath is the text "ヴァジュラファイト" or "Vajura (Vajara?) Fight". That line is also missing from other sources - not part of the game's title? idk.


    Or at least I didn't know until I found a shot of the spine:

    [​IMG]

    You're meant to pronounce "金剛炎闘" as "Vajura Fight". So the full title is Kishin Douji Zenki FX: Vajura Fight. What a load of balls.



    [​IMG]

    バザールでござーるのゲームでござーる

    "Bazāru de go za ̄ru no gēmu de go za ̄ru"

    "Go to the bazaar game "

    Oh so a bazaar. "Bazaar de Gozaru no Game de Gozaru"? Are those words?

    No you fool, it's Bazar dé Gozarre, NEC's long-standing mascot. My educated guess is Bazar dé Gozarre no Game dé Gozarre, but we seem to be mixing languages and making up our own, so god knows. And that official biography is talking about "Zaire" so maybe there's a pun here... which doesn't work so well anymore because the country has been known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1997.

    Also it's a platformer by Game Freak before Pokémon fame. So an interesting footnote.


    Worryingly I don't remember having similar issues with Sega Retro back in the day, so either we're wrong, or Andlabs(?) is the best translator.
     
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  5. KMetalmind

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    Firstly, I'm a reader of Sonic Retro for too long, but I usually don't ever comment and just keep reading. I absolutely love your posts, Black Squirrel, you really manage to get things done that would be too tedious or boring for most people, and write everything in a interesting format. Really thanks for all your work.

    About the second title you mention, it got a translation on Romhacking not long ago. I don't really know how good or bad it may be, but it may help somehow for that title? https://www.romhacking.net/translations/6386/
     
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  6. Overlord

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    Not really a direct relevance to the topic I guess but I feel a script where you have to have a second script to tell you how to read it probably means the first script shouldn't be used any more.
     
  7. nineko

    nineko

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    Furigana can also override the intended pronunciation of a kanji, e.g. Light Yagami's name is actually written as Tsuki in kanji (月), but the furigana above overrides it with Raito (ライト). These things are of little interest here in the west, but they're often used to convey puns or double meanings in Japan, so I think that preserving them is the correct call.
     
  8. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I used to regularly commute to Alnwick, and nearby there's the village of Alnmouth. Despite both being named after the river Aln, one is "Annick", the other is "Aln-mouth", so maybe English place names could do with a bit of furigana!

    PC-FX games are now all accounted for, so it's only the computer games left. "Only".



    And so the games begin:

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    The original PC-8801. When was it released?

    November 1981.

    no wait

    December 1981.

    but wait didn't I read

    September 1981.

    This could take a while.
     
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  9. kitsunebi

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    You basically solved this yourself, but the thing to understand with kanji is that it's a Chinese writing system, so right from the very start, it has been used somewhat haphazardly to represent Japanese sounds/words. Most things you'd find in a dictionary have a standard use which has been universally implemented and agreed upon, but when it comes to things like names (be they people or video games), all bets are off, and kanji gets used in ways even Japanese people don't understand. There are literally game shows in Japan where people try to guess the reading of people's names from the kanji used. And this is where furigana comes into play - especially in situations like this one where the title is not supposed to be Japanese at all.

    金剛炎闘 isn't really a Japanese word/expression. The first half by itself is pronounced kongou and means vajra (yes, that's an English word), but the second half is essentially nonsense (though the kanji's meanings taken separately do indeed translate to "flame fight"). But in this case, the developers want you to read those 4 kanji as English words instead ("vajra fight"), so the furigana is necessary for the Japanese audience to know how to pronounce the title. The unusual nature of the kanji makes them stand out, and the gist of the meaning would be obvious to anyone fluent in the language, even if the pronunciation would be unknown. Having the actual pronunciation be English just makes it all the more cool and exotic-sounding to a Japanese speaker. I imagine stuff like this pops up all the time in games/manga/anime/anything fantasy or sci-fi.
     
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  10. DigitalDuck

    DigitalDuck

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    While we're on this tangent of ranting about the use of kanji in Japanese, I'd like to bring up one very common word I think shows the issues perfectly: 今日

    今 means "this" or "now"; it's pronounced jīn in Mandarin, and ima in Japanese.

    日 means "day" or "sun"; it's pronounced in Mandarin, and hi in Japanese.

    So it makes sense that 今日 means "today". It makes sense that it's pronounced jīnrì in Mandarin. In Japanese you'd expect imahi (or actually imabi because of sound-combining rules) but instead it's kyou. And it's kyou because that's how "today" is said in Japanese, but it's written 今日 because that's how "today" was once written in Chinese. It's bad enough in English when we have loanwords and just spell them as the original language did, but imagine if when we started using "robot" we instead wrote it as "робот"...

    (ignore the fact that 今天 jīntiān is the more common version of "today" in modern Chinese)
     
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  11. Overlord

    Overlord

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    I don't think anyone can reasonably say that English isn't a fucking mess of pronunciation issues - the entire -ough group and places such as Frome spring to mind - but that's an entirely different problem to the scripting issues that DigitalDuck highlights. But yeah this is beginning to drift offtopic a bit =P
     
  12. nineko

    nineko

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    Indeed, let's just all enjoy some ghoti & chips.
     
  13. Black Squirrel

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    Com poo torz

    https://necretro.org/NEC_Retro:Todo#Computers

    I've spent too long on this today - compiling some Japanese lists of games, then trying to mass translate into English. It's quicker than checking each title sequentially but it still takes forever.


    These lists represent three of the four main NEC home computer lines during the 1980s; the PC-8000 series, PC-6000 series and PC-8800 series. The last one, the PC-9800 series, is incredibly complicated, and I think our coverage is wrong, but I can't explain why and ugh.


    NEC computers are problematic in that they're all have similar names, are all a bit utilitarian, and the capabilities of later low-end models out-class the earlier high-end ones. But if you don't think too hard about the PC-8800 series, it almost makes sense:

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    It's almost simple. First there was the PC-8001, which later became the PC-8001 mkII, and then the PC-8001 mkII SR. I read "SR" means "second revision".

    You can't really draw clean parallels with Western machines, but first model (from 1979) is a bit like a Commodore PET. The original can't do "graphics", and while the revisions added some very simple modes to get some very low resolution stuff on your screen, this was very much NEC testing the waters. Luckily for them, this line sold pretty well - more of a hobbiest machine than anything else, but there are plenty of games for it, all of which are on cassette (I think).

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    The PC-6001 (mkII/mkII SR) is your typical 1981 budget machine. A bit like a VIC-20 or an Acorn Electron, you can play some low resolution things on it.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    But if you wanted to do some spreadsheets, you needed a PC-8801. And there's eight years worth of models.

    This is a bit like an IBM PC with an EGA graphics card (which is pretty decent for 1981), but it's sacrificing colours and speed for resolution (which is needed for the Japanese character set). This was the high-end business machine... until it stopped being high-end. If your Dad brought a computer home from work, it might have been one of these.

    [​IMG]
    The PC-9801 and its successors (1982) are what your Dad's boss might have had. It keeps going until the mid-1990s, at which point it's basically an IBM PC (with its own flavours of Windows), just not.
     
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  14. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    I was going to make a list of "games you would never see in the West", then I discovered that "Kabul Spy" originated on the Apple II. Boring!

    But it does highlight a problem that was never fully addressed on Sega Retro - the multi-platform release. When you bought this game, you got both PC-8801 and PC-9801 versions - two different platforms in the same physical package.

    I've never found a good solution to this kind of thing. Ideally we don't want separate entries in the releases table because it's duplicate information that can mislead, but to present it as a multi-platform release without it looking confusing and/or ugly is tricky. Sega Retro has a small handful of games that share this concern, including "Windows/Mac/Linux" games which is even more awkward.


    How common will this be on NEC Retro? Very. And not just with PC-8801/PC-9801 packages, but I envision this being a thing for cassette-based games too. I know in the UK some publishers would put, say, the ZX Spectrum version on one side of the cassette, and the Amstrad CPC version on the other - I'd be amazed if it wasn't the same in Japan.


    You'll also notice the PC-8801 mkII is listed on this box as well. Now my hope is this is just a formality - the PC-8801 mkII is backwards compatible with the PC-8801, but if it turns some releases bundle a mkII version on a separate disk, who even knows at that point.
     
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  15. That is... difficult. If the versions are near-identical I could see them as a single entry, but if there are noticeable variations then I can see that messing up releases tables like you said. My knowledge of wiki software is super out-of-date and mostly forgotten, but is there a way to add an entry to the category while also simultaneously saying "Hey, this article is the same as [other article], only list one of them in the table" at all? I feel like that would cover these situations, but if it's not doable then I'm stumped as well.
     
  16. Hivebrain

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    This is the only sensible solution I could come up with. Listing a single release twice didn't seem right at all. I also did something similar with CD/DVD bundles.
     
  17. So I'm still able to get one of these for RRP from Amazon (since the JP and US models are being scalped), so I got one for the benefit of NEC Retro:

    20220108_172945.jpg

    Konami does not deserve any of my money for the kind of crap they've done recently, but to be able to buy this for a non-scalped price so I can document more on it and get 300dpi scans of the whole box (and maybe the manual too) to upload to NEC Retro is a necessary evil.

    EDIT: Box scans are now up!
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2022
  18. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I'm running a competition with myself for best box art.

    [​IMG]

    It's the totally original game do not steal "Pack'n Boy" (パックンボーイ)






    Surprisingly fewer Pac-Man clones than you'd perhaps think.
     
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  19. Asagoth

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    wiki stuff... and a beer... or two... or more...
  20. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    You may have noticed the terrible naming scheme for NEC computers. For example, the PC-8801 mkII SR can play PC-8001 games, but not PC-8001 mkII SR games. It's like an early 80s Xbox.

    But because it's a computer competing with everything, NEC also released minor hardware revisions every year.

    [​IMG]

    And this is what ends up happening.

    PC-88SR/TR/MR/FR/MH/FH/MA/FA/MA2/FE
    VA/VA2/VA3, 2 disk drives

    You what.


    For all intents and purposes, most of this is unnecessary, but some games felt the need to cover all bases just in case. There are dozen PC-8800 models but when it comes to games, developers typically only targeted two "standards":

    a) The original PC-8801 (1981). Every PC-8800 machine can theoretically run "classic" PC-8801 software (although you might have to get inventive with cassette interfaces since I think they removed suppport in later models).
    b) The PC-8801 mkII SR (1985). This added the "V2" graphics mode and a few other things that made it more suitable for gaming. Every PC-8800 machine released after 1985 is backwards compatible with these standards.

    So Advanced Fantasian here could have left it at "PC-88SR", but it instead chose to include every model had produced at that point (1988). And I mean if you weren't into the history, you'd probably question whether your "MA" is "SR" compatible too. You're more likely to have a hard time with the need for 2 disk drives - some of these models only shipped with one (or none at all).

    This actually makes things less complicated than the IBM PC. Although you wouldn't know it at first glance.


    And there are some really tedious exceptions to this rule. Anything that isn't a TR or an MR is technically more advanced than an SR (isn't this fun), so if you needed a bit more RAM or a faster CPU, you could limit yourself to newer models. It's not super common, but it does happen.

    [​IMG]
    "Fangs" by Enix says you need PC-8801 mkII FH. I say you're making my life difficult.

    [​IMG]
    "Mirrors" ships on a CD, which means you need a PC-8801 MC. The one that shipped with a disc drive (because you could buy one that didn't).

    [​IMG]
    And this bloody thing, the PC-88 VA, also known as "let's make a 16-bit computer even though we already make those", "third generation" PC-8800 series machine that kinda didn't go anywhere but kinda didn't go away (that's why it was listed on a separate line). It has its own software library, though it's not very big.


    Basically you can't say "I've got a PC-88 game" because it could mean anything. It's actually a similar story for other computers of this era, but there it's less of a case of "being mistaken" as "not knowing they exist".


    Next time: the PC-9800 series or "I sure do like hurting myself".
     
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