The NEC Retro topic

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

  1. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    Jack shit.
    The link to RetronCDN is "broken" on NEC Retro. There is an extra / in the URL for some reason and goes to a blank RetroCDN page, which you can just click the top left of to get to the CDN proper.
     
  2. Yeah, I definitely think that makes the most sense. The solution I posted felt too convoluted on thinking about it some more.

    Bleh, I went to make this change and my account's in a limbo; I can't set up a new account as username "SoNick" is already in use, but when I go to reset my password I'm getting an error saying that my username doesn't exist? I'll have to play around a bit later and see what I can do just to recover my account, or possibly just create a new account and go from there. I am seeing the same broken CAPTCHA issue on the Create a New Account page, though...
     
  3. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I fixed this, but it seems if you're not logged in, it's showing an earlier verison of the main page.

    It'll be tied to all the other problems being reported here :(
     
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  4. Black Squirrel

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    Found one:

    [​IMG]
    This is Minami Aoyama Adventure (南青山アドベンチャー), a 1983 game from ASCII. It's a text adventure game (in broken English), so doesn't occupy much space on the cassette. And that means...

    [​IMG]
    ... you can stick half a dozen versions on the tape!

    There's a lot of machines listed here but for our purposes, I think only the PC-8001 and PC-6001 versions matter (the PC-8801 is backwards compatible, as are all the mkIIs).


    As for the non-NEC machines that are listed here:

    [​IMG]
    We've got the "Pasopia", a 1981 computer from Toshiba. The 7 and 5 were successors and are fully backwards compatible. I think this was the third or fourth most popular line in Japan in the early 1980s.

    [​IMG]
    The "MZ-80B" from Sharp, also from 1981.

    [​IMG]
    And the MZ-2000 which is listed separately on the cassette (alongside the backwards compatible MZ-2200). Though this is meant to be able to run MZ-80B stuff, so perhaps there was an upgraded version just for this machine.

    Yes that is a vertically orientated built-in cassette deck. Sharp machines are fun like that.


    tl;dr: 12 computers listed on the box, secretly only 5: PC-8001, PC-6001, Pasopia, MZ-80B, MZ-2000.
     
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  5. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    The PC-9801 is not pleasant.

    It was envisoned as a top-tier business machine when it launched in 1982 - the Japanese equivalent of the IBM PC, and a very successful one at that. And because it wasn't strictly designed for games, NEC could continously update the system until 1995. It went through all the same beats as the Western PC compatibles - 8086, 286, 386, 486, Pentium, various flavours of Windows and even some clones, but not being built from off-the-shelf parts, it wasn't quite as versatile and ultimately lost the battle.

    Options were limited with the PC-8001 and PC-6001. The PC-8801 had options, but most developers ignored them for mass market appeal. The PC-9801 changed every year.

    [​IMG]

    Even if you discount all the portable and "special" models, there's a lot of letters. Each new model came with improved specifications, and while backwards compatibilty was (mostly) maintained throughout the run, when games inevitably arrived on the platform, there wasn't an obvious baseline to get behind. There were already three different PC-9800 models in the first two years - do you target the stock machine, the F or the E? Later on the question becames more awkward - the M? the VF? the VM? the VX? They're all different!

    This isn't super unusual of course - over in the West, developers often targeted newer IBM PC models as well, but it's a little easier to follow:

    [​IMG]

    Want to play Commander Keen 4 (which you do)? You need
    a) an IBM PC compatible (obviously)
    b) 640KB of RAM (the computer will tell you what it has when you turn it on)
    c) an EGA graphics card (it's big and obvious and you'll probably have one of these by 1991, although there is a CGA version of Keen 4 floating around for those really desperate)

    (everything else is optional)

    Conversely:

    [​IMG]

    I've got a PC-9801 E. Can I play Tetris? No, you need a PC-9801 M, because the E doesn't have enough RAM.
    I've got a PC-9801 U. Can I play Tetris? No. Because the U has 3½-inch disk drives and this is the 5¼-inch version of the game.
    I've got a PC-286C, a clone from Epson. Can it play Tetris? Christ knows.

    Some games aren't even nice enough to give you this much detail - they'll just say "VM" or "VX" or in some cases "PC-98 series" and make you guess.

    And then further down the line, you get this noise:

    [​IMG]

    PC-9821 machines, designed to run Windows. There are specific PC-9821 games, but they can also run PC-9800 series software. Can they run 1982-era PC-9800 software? No idea - it was touch and go at this point in history whether the IBM PC compatibles could run programs that old at the correct speeds, so there's a very real chance that you needed a specific set of letters from a specifc year to get good results for your specific game.

    Better yet, the successor line, the PC-98NX series... were IBM PC compatibles. So by 1998 it was possible to buy a PC-98 that wasn't a PC-98.


    And that's why I don't really trust our coverage - the only source I've ever had are grainy JPEGs on the internet.

    Which is kind-of a problem, because it's not just the most complex line of home computers from NEC, it's also the most popular. How popular? I found an incomplete list of games, and there are nearly 4000 of them.
     
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  6. doc eggfan

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  7. Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    No expenses spared, or indeed spent. "Tank Game" is one of several budget titles that wasn't even blessed with cover art - you really were buying a game on the name alone.

    I'm going to guess it's a "game" with a "tank" in it.
     
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  8. Black Squirrel

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    This is actually a real nightmare - because there was so little PC-8001 stuff online before this launched, this mini unit clogs up all the search results.

    Case in point, that's not just a mini PC-8001. It's a mini PCG 8100.


    [​IMG]

    Before they weren't making sequels to Earthbound, HAL Laboratory (or HAL Kenkyuujo, as it was more likely to be called then) used to make hardware. This is one such venture, a short black box that sits underneath a PC-8001 and... generates characters.

    A PCG or "Programmable Character Generator" in this context is an extra 128 characters to play with. As said, the original PC-8001 can't do "graphics" - everything on-screen is rendered by using text characters, not dissimilar to a Commodore PET (which HAL also released a PCG for). Better yet, I don't think you can change them on a stock system:

    [​IMG]

    So games end up looking like this:




    The PCG 8100 adds more characters, and lets you program them. And also slightly better sound capabilities - now you can generate an actual tone rather than just blips and blops.

    And that means

    [​IMG]

    Now I can play that totally original idea do not steal, "PCG Puckn Boy"! Why would you want to?



    Because you don't have to play as a square.


    We're not currently listing this as a separate thing on NEC Retro, because when you start taking into account add-ons, life gets complicated. For example, a good chunk of the games require 32KB of RAM, and the older units only shipped with 16KB. It's a hobbiest machine - you were expected to play with things.
     
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  9. Asagoth

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    Yep... it's a bit annoying ... we'll have to wait until someone fixes it...
     
  10. Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]
    Oh silly me, Earthbound came later and was made by Xtal Soft.



    [​IMG]
    This is a fascinating exercise - go to a Japanese auction site, search for "PC-8001" or "PC-6001" and you will almost certainly find completely undocumented video games. As in, there is no record of some of these things ever existing.

    And that's because the barrier for entry was so low that there are hundreds, if not thousands of cassettes. A lot of these seem to have been published by retail chains - it's almost the equivalent of Tesco or Wal-Mart own-brand software.


    Also bottom left, that's Technosoft's first game, based on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Supposedly Sega owns Technosoft's software back catalogue, so they presumably own the rights to that one too.
     
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  11. Xiao Hayes

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    Reminds me of what happened with Atari in the west, honestly.
     
  12. Overlord

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    I'd argue the Spectrum is a much better example.
     
  13. DigitalDuck

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    For context, we know of about 16,000 games published for the ZX Spectrum, but more than a thousand of those nobody knows anything about, and this is probably less than 20% of the total that were actually circulated during the 80s and early 90s (saying nothing of new games continually being made and published for it).

    When your computer costs much less than every competing product, comes with a programming environment built-in and a manual that teaches you how to use it, and has the ability to save to a cassette that you could literally buy from your corner shop for pennies, it's no wonder everyone and their gran were producing games for it.
     
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  14. Black Squirrel

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    Yes it's a little different as 48K Spectrum-compatible games were still being released ten years after the computer came to market (as in, by proper publishers with money, as opposed to individuals selling out of their bedrooms).

    This doesn't appear to be the case with any Japanese computer. While the PC-8800 and PC-9800 lines were supported for more than ten years, the original, stock machines were only supported for 4-5 years. But it's the same situation otherwise - relatively cheap machines with built-in BASIC + cassettes are in abundance = a low barrier for entry.


    I'd say there's about 10,000 games for all of NEC's home computers combined (not including multiple versions of said games). About 3-4 thousand PC-9800 series games, maybe 2-3 thousand PC-8800 series games, and a few hundred for the PC-8000 and PC-6000 series, respectively. But as I said, undocumented games are everywhere so the true figure is hard to guess.
     
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  15. Black Squirrel

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    Nihon Falcom make JRPGs. You may know them from the Ys series, or The Legend of Heroes - they're more important in Japan.

    [​IMG]

    And this is the first game they ever made - Galactic Wars 1 from 1982 (spoilers: there was no "Galactic Wars 2"). I was a bit lost with this for a while - the cover art looks like an advertisement and lists the prices of all the different versions.

    [​IMG]

    It was originally written for another Japanese home computer nobody has heard of, the FP-1100 by Casio, before being brought to the PC-8801 and PC-9801.


    What fascinates me here though is the fact they were selling it on 8-inch floppy disks.

    [​IMG]

    It's not totally surprising I suppose - the PC-8801 and PC-9801 were business machines, and NEC sold 8-inch drives, but I have never encountered a video game on one. As neither of the original machines came with built-in disk drives, you had to make a conscious decision to go out and buy a unit like the above, and given the 8-inch format has no advantages over the then ubiquitous 5¼-inch disk... I'm really not sure why you would.
     
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  16. Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    Okay fine, 8-inch disk from 1984, for the two people who might have bought a drive. I expect to find its soundtrack on shellac.
     
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  17. Pirate Dragon

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    They must be quite rare, as one of those disks is for the Sord M23 (markV seems to have been 8-inch drive version). Surprisingly it was also sold in the UK & New Zealand, although maybe not the markV version. As it was a business machine it's pretty uncommon outside of Japan at least. The consumer targetted M5 was far more popular, hardware was very similar to SG-1000 / SC-3000, even sharing some games such as Champion Tennis (called Real Tennis on M5). M5 was also released in the UK as the CGL M5.
     
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  18. Black Squirrel

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    (Those photos were unrelated - there's not many photos online of disk drives either :) )
     
  19. Black Squirrel

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    Games that would never be made today, volume #whatever:



    In "Internal Trouble", you pilot a ship shooting at things to protect... a PC-8801. You visit various chips on the board and make the green things go away.

    I have no idea how accurate the circuit diagrams are.
     
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  20. Black Squirrel

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

    A good chunk of the PC-8000, PC-6000 and PC-8800 series libraries are now represented in NEC Retro.

    Why so many red links? Well I can't currently prove most of those exist. The lists I've found are mostly on-point, but there have been plenty of errors regarding names, dates and platforms, so no photographic evidence, no page (yet).

    I have also avoided the vast majority of what the Japanese call "Bishoujo" games - gawking at anime girls. There are too many of these on Sega Retro too, but on the PC-8801 and PC-9801, this was an unregulated market full of... "unfortunate" software, and I don't need that noise in my life. After 1986 this genre of video games begins to dominate - as I've said before, it's all within scope and needs documenting, but it won't be me who documents it.

    Anyway RE: confusing naming schemes:

    [​IMG]

    This is a new one for me, by 1988 there had been so many PC-8800 series machines that rather than list every model, some companies made up their own designations.

    Arcus II is apparently compatible with "PC88R/H/A/E Series".

    "R series" being the SR, TR, FR and MR"
    "H series" being the FH and MH
    "A series" being the FA and MA (and FA2?)
    and "E series" being the FE (and FE2?)

    oh oh oh but is it compatible with the MC and VA and VA2 and VA3?? (answer: yes)

    Again, the real platform is the "PC-8801 mkII SR", but you have to cover all the bases because the lineage isn't obvious. Except terms like "R series" aren't official designators so it just raises more questions.