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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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    I'm going to start calling this the "Neo Kobe collection", since that's kinda what it's called, and realistically I won't be looking for others in the near future (if they even exist).

    I've spent a few days combing through this - we have about 600 PC-8800 series games documented on NEC Retro, and of those, about a third are missing from the archive. If you extrapolate that, it might suggest there's still a third of the system's library yet to be dumped, although we don't know how many games there are, and the state of current dumps could be all over the place too. The archive also contains a few scans and text files with bits of information (as well as loads of alternative dumps which may or may not have a use) - basically, I'm unlikely to get to all of it on my own, but I've done a good chunk so far.


    So the PC-8001 is best suited for text. The PC-6001 does very simple graphics but is perhaps a bit too basic for the masses to care about. What then, of the PC-8801? What's it doing, and what's the point?

    [​IMG]

    Typically there is only one reason anyone has cared about the PC-8801, and that's Super Mario Bros. Special. I was in the initial wave of Western users to find it back in 2005/2006, but over the last 15 years little has changed - Hardcore Gaming 101 wrote a few Japanese computer articles, but the main reason anyone even thinks about this machine is load up Super Mario Bros. Special, usually to laugh at COLOURS LOL and FRAME RATE LOL.

    Truth be told though, this is almost an engineering marvel. The PC-8801 as only really a "business machine" for a year or two, but you can tell that the number one priority is screen resolution - not just the fabled 80 columns mode, but enough pixels to draw kanji characters; something the PC-8001 can't really do without chunky add-ons and extra faff. But the 640x200 screen resolution (which is twice as many pixels as the IBM PC at the time) comes at a high price - it can't draw it quickly, so most games tend to be slower turn-based RPGs or simulations, adventure games, and various iterations of mahjong and shogi - where instant response is less of a thing.

    Genuinely, we can mock its lack of scrolling, but just the act of creating a platformer on this system is a hassle, let alone one that take place over multiple screens. It's honestly about as representitive of the PC-8801 as a platform as a potato is as a source of electricity.


    There's also a few weird discussion points that might explain why gaming as a whole is how it is:

    - Unlike the IBM PC, NEC never shipped PC-8801s with built-in hard drives. Disk drives always came in pairs, not because you needed to reserve one for the OS, but because most of the disks were formatted to 640KB, and I'm guessing that just wasn't enough for a lot of tasks.

    As such, towards the end of the 1980s, you have games shipping on 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 separate floppy disks, and you need two inserted at once (seriously, some games won't boot unless they detect both). The IBM PC had software shipping on multiple disks, but not really until the early 1990s, to appease those who hadn't bought into CD-ROM technology yet (and you were never expected to have more than one drive).

    - There are a lot of unskippable introductions and cutscenes, presumably because the way they're loaded means you can't quickly switch to different screens. It's actually a chore to start playing some of these games, to the point where "openings" often shipped on dedicated disks.

    - ^ this actually creates another problem - I don't know how to run some of this software. Like, you need the disks inserted in a certain order, and it's not always obvious where "system", "game" and "scenario" go if you don't have the original manuals.

    - Copy protection is less of a thing than on Western computers. You're very rarely forced to look up specific words in a manual, and there's no wacky code wheels or special bits of plastic or whatever.

    - There doesn't seem to be a lot stopping you from loading mkII SR software on an older PC-8801. Half the games have error screens, but many seem to boot anyway. One day I might get to this, but I've seen eight possible states so far of what the software might do, whereas on an IBM PC, it would either stop you at launch, or just move stupidly slowly.

    - There is quite a bit of consistency in keyboard controls, which is not always a given with computers. The directional keys on the num pad do directions, then it's Enter, Space, Shift and Ctrl, maybe Z, X, C, V if you're lucky. None of this QAOP nonsense you got with ZX Spectrums or BBC Micros or whatever.


    But were we missing out here in the West? eeeeh. If an IBM PC verson exists, it's usually better, though a lot of the earlier arcade-style games (and conversions of say, Pac-Man or Dig Dug) are more true to form on these Japanese systems. I mean these are genres I don't usually care for - RPGs, adventure games and super detailed simulations and strategy games - I would imagine the PC-8801 versions look prettier, but run worse, but until at least EGA cards were invented, I'd say the PC-8801 had quite a lot going for it. And hell, Adlib cards didn't arrive for IBMs until 1987 - the PC Speaker is better than the stock PC-8801 "beeper" but the mkII SR has proper FM synth just like the arcades.
     
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  2. Fax technology is... weird here in the US as well; I left the Help Desk at an ISP nearly five years ago now, but many businesses still required fax machines because it was the only method that was legally counted as "secure" for the purposes of sending private information. An IT guy for a health provider once noted that he really wished that encrypted links or something similar would be legally allowed as it would be a lot less hassle than continuing to support fax machines.
     
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  3. Overlord

    Overlord

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    Oh, yeah - as someone who's done a fair bit of work loosely related to the healthcare industry in the UK, they still widely use fax machines, about the only industry that does. It's madness.
     
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  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Just to mess with you a little:

    [​IMG]

    There's apparently copy protection in this version of Hacker.


    Originally released by Activision, brought to Japan by Pony Canyon. A good chunk of the PC-8801's library is from the West - moreso than the PC Engine for sure. But because these games weren't on consoles, they have a nasty habit of fading into complete obscurity even if there were half a dozen versions and several hundred thousand units sold.

    (also it only crossed my mind the other day that I'm completely desensitised to the fact this company was called "Pony Canyon")
     
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  5. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

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    I started linking my LD-ROM² scans to NEC Retro, but it doesn't seem to like creating thumbnails for large files. Is this something I should worry about, or it will sort itself out eventually (sorry if this has been mentioned before already).
     
  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    It's a bug, but it'll be fine.

    The software isn't good at generating thumbnails - sometimes it "fails", but doesn't actually fail, and depending on the state of the cache, some users can see things others can't for a bit. Never understood it.
     
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  7. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Telenet Japan's turn to be awkward:

    [​IMG]

    Albatross is a golf game. A good one? Well there weren't a huge amount of choices, but it seems competent enough. They made plenty of versions for NEC, Sharp and Fujitsu computers, as well as the MSX*, and extra course disks so you can... play on Charlie Chaplin's face.

    There's apparently a PC-8801 mkII SR version that shipped on three 5¼-inch floppy disks:

    [​IMG]

    Yep, looks like it. While the box is doing its best to confuse customers by mentioning SR, FR and MR, the disks themselves say PC-8801 mkII SR, so we can assume that's the target platform.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    The disks are dumped, the game can be emulated. Great. Except this isn't in mkII SR mode - this is regular old V1-S, standard PC-8801 hardware. I'm not seeing any obvious issues, so why is it labeled as needing the newer machine?

    Perhaps the manual will explain. It's multi-format but it has loading instructions:

    [​IMG]

    Instructions for all disk versions: put it in the disk drive and turn the machine on. Instructions for cassette versions: type things - wire up your cassette deck to your PC-8801, then type LOAD"CAS:", then RUN (this is standard for most games on the system). They've devoted two pages of the manual to cassette loading for all the different platforms... except they never released this game on cassette.

    So is this a standard PC-8801 game? Well an unreleased cassette version was, but as far as the actual disk version goes... maybe? I mean they'll spend time listing eight different models of PC-9801, but it's a guessing game if you have a PC-8801.

    And yes Fujitsu and Sharp were just as guilty in adding meaningless letters and numbers to hardware revisions.


    *always worth reminding that the reason the MSX exists was to unify the bazillion competing computing standards. It's clearly doing a fine job here.
     
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  8. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Sega Retro:Format codes

    Technology forbids me from doing something similar on NEC Retro, but the same rules will apply - in order to do format comparisons... we need to know what the formats look like.

    Remember this noise? That even though Advanced Fantasian is a PC-8801 mkII SR game, it lists every compatible computer to mitigate customer confusion (and create a different type of confusion in the process?



    [​IMG]

    Well Sharp's X1 is no better. In fact it's even less clear, because nobody gives a damn about Sharp computers.

    [​IMG]
    Which is unfortunate, because it's freaking red.

    The X1 line is probably going to turn up as enemy number #1 on NEC Retro. The first machine came out in 1982, with slightly better specs than the PC-8801 the year prior. Similar CPU, similar-ish graphics, but more memory, owing to the fact BASIC isn't built into ROM. Instead, you load BASIC from a cassette, and Sharp gave you a built-in deck as standard, rather than NEC's approach that had you pay extra.

    While I don't know the full story yet, word on the street is that X1 wasn't as successful, and despite being red (also available in lesser colours), may have even struggled to get a foothold in the crowded Japanese market. Still, a lot of PC-8801 games made it to the X1 - its version of Super Mario Bros. Special is better for the three people who might care.

    The X1 naming scheme makes a little more sense than PC-8800 series. After this "standard" X1, there was the X1C, X1D, X1F and X1G (the "E" is unaccounted for). Technically they're pretty much identical, just with different form factors, optional I/O extras and some equally wacky designs:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    The first real upgrade came in 1984 with the X1turbo. These are high-end, fairly conventional designs, and despite being called "Turbo", the CPU is identical to the older model. Instead you get a new, higher resolution graphics mode, FM sound, and a bit more RAM. This was followed by the Turbo II and Turbo III - again, mostly cosmetic changes than anything important, but it's nice to have options. My understanding is this was the popular one, or "more popular" than the stock machine, but given most Japanese electronics giants had their own, totally incompatible home computer at the time, it's safe to say that by actually having heard of this one, it probably did better than most.


    [​IMG]
    The "third generation" of X1 came in 1986 with the X1turboZ. Now we can display 4096 colours instead of... 8... except it's really slow and might not be viable for games. Slight improvements to sound, definitely the "definitive" X1 machine, but from what I understand, a complete waste of everyone's time because...


    [​IMG]
    ...it was announced at the same time as the 16-bit X68000. This might have been the best home system for playing video games in the world back in 1987, but it's its own beast that didn't really compete directly with anything on the NEC side. This one happens to be running Akumajou Dracula (on a NEC display no less), later known as Castlevania Chronicles. It's pretty great. Especially the soundtrack.

    Supposedly there's not much X1turboZ software out there as a result. But plenty for the two previous iterations.


    So X1 Advanced Fantasian lists 10 computers, there are only 3 formats the range, and the game runs on all of them. Probably.


    Oh and the other reason we care about the X1?

    [​IMG]

    The X1 Twin. It has a PC Engine in it. I'll let you work that one out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2022
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  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Hey what's your favourite number? Is it 7? I bet it's 7.

    [​IMG]

    Mach 7, compatible with the FM-7, FM-New7 and FM-77 (and FM-77AV). This is Fujitsu's line of home computers, which are even less well known in the West because there wasn't a port of Super Mario Bros. Special to these systems. Though regular old Mario Bros. got a port. Kinda.


    So 7 7 7 7 - where' the 8?

    [​IMG]

    Following some success with its kit computer, the LKIT-8 in 1977, Fujitsu's released their first "complete" home micro, Fujitsu Micro-8 in 1981. I'm only really determining platforms here, rather than getting bogged down with research, but I'm at a loss of what to say about the FM-8 - there's basically nothing about it on the internet, and while it absolutely had software, nobody seems to care. Apparently it made it to the UK, so uh, yeah - a project.

    [​IMG]

    Anyway because Fujitsu can't count, the FM-7 came after the FM-8, in 1982. And there's kind-of a reason for this - the FM-7 is meant to be a "stripped down" version of the FM-8, but it sort-of... isn't. It has less memory to play with, but a proper sound chip faster processors mean it's better for playing games. Either way, most FM-8 software works on the FM-7, and from what Iv'e read, the computer was just generally better designed all around.

    And so the not-so-holy trinity was born; NEC, Sharp and Fujitsu selling incompatible computers, all with very similar specifications. This one might have been more popular than the X1, but less popular than the PC-8801 - it's too early to tell, but it was a viable platform to support at the time. Apparently it was competitively priced for what you got. So hurray.

    The other "successor" to the FM-8 is a business machine called the "FM-11" - I don't think, from a gaming perspective, we have to care too much about that one.

    In 1984 Fujitsu released the "FM-New 7", which is just a cost-reduced model in more-or-less the same shell. It's only worth mentioning because some software lists it, but as the hardware is near-enough identical, there are no "New 7-exclusive" games out there.


    [​IMG]
    Also released in 1984 was the FM-77 (F M seven seven). I was half under the impression this was a next generation model, but I suspect it's really a "more expandable". For example, you can up the RAM to 256KB, which you can't do with a standard FM-7, but you have to buy this upgrade separately and there's no guarantee software will make use of it.

    That being said, it could be classed as a separate platform because it shipped with 3½ floppy disk drives, which the FM-7 didn't have. I don't know the full details.


    [​IMG]
    1985's FM77AV (now without hypens!) is a proper upgrade though, with new graphics modes, more memory and FM sound. I have basically no experience with this thing - it was probably top of the world for a few months until the X68000 launched, but as far as lasting legacy goes, it's just another Japanese computer that's poorly understood.


    [​IMG]
    And in 1989 all of this noise is dropped in favour of the FM Towns, a 16-bit machine pushing CD-ROM technology that is almost entirely unrelated to previous Fujitsu computers. I think this one's standing well enough on its own two feet though - it's not a household name, but some Westerners at least know it exists.
     
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  10. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    This is the icon we're using for the MSX. It's a PV-7 by Casio:

    [​IMG]

    Why did we go with this? I mean it's not like we didn't have a choice:

    [​IMG]

    Everyone and their aunt released an MSX machine in 1983/1984. Sony even released models to compete with itself:

    [​IMG]

    Because you remember the SMC-777 right? We're going to support a standard, but also do our own thing with our "Sony Micro Computer", with an array of incompatible software. Just ignore the fact we already tried and failed with the SMC-70 a year earlier - this time it'll be different!.. but just in case, here's a Hit Bit.



    We went with the PV-7, probably because it's at the top of this list and nobody wants to wade through the bazillion other models.

    In reality, the first MSX to be released, according to the internet, was the ML-8000 by Mitsubishi
    [​IMG]
    I might change the icon since this one's a bit more notable, but ehh. Just because the ML-8000 was the first doesn't mean it's the most suitable - there were a lot of black machines with red highlights, so maybe the PV-7 does a better job at representing the brand. Hell most MSX games Sega Retro cares about were released in Europe, so maybe a Toshiba machine would be more appropriate. Who knows.

    But while it wasn't worth doing on Sega Retro, NEC Retro is going to want a distinction between the MSX and its updates, the first being the MSX2. So what machine should represent the MSX2?

    erm.

    uh.

    Which MSX2 machine was the first to market? Nobody knows. When was it released? 1985! No... 1986!... no wait maybe 1985... or was that just the "standard" and not an actual computer. ????

    On a whim I went with the HB-F1, because there's an icon in that set and it looks suitably... MSX2-ish:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    At some point, the choice will be important. The MSX was designed to unify the Japanese electronics giants under one set of standards, and while it was able to court a good chunk of them, NEC, Sharp and Fujitsu stuck with their own machines (although Fujitsu did dabble with the FM-X, and a different division of Sharp made an MSX computer in Brazil). We're not here to tell the MSX story per se, but I'm curious to know whether this thing actually achieved its goals.

    The next standard, the MSX2+ doesn't overlap much with NEC Retro. There's a game about naked ladies in space, but that's about it. I don't think there's any crossover with the MSX Turbo R, but I don't know enough about the later PC-9801 library to say for sure.
     
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  11. Overlord

    Overlord

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    You have my attention *shot*

    The MSX is a minefield of questions and shockers. I very briefly looked into buying one for Metal Gear a few years ago and when I saw the prices nope'd out pretty much immediately, but you're 100% right about the story of the system and the MSX2 being worth reading about.

    Also yeah the FM Towns series (because FM Towns Marty is also a thing) is the only part of that entire line I've heard of.
     
  12. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]
    Yep, there was FM-77-exclusive software.

    It's like a different world.
     
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  13. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Because nobody talked to each other, Sharp had a couple of divisions working on computers. The X1 line was supposedly invented by its TV division, but Sharp had a perfectly serviceable computer division too, and funnily enough, it made computers. Computers it prefixed with the letters "MZ". Computers which are very confusing.

    [​IMG]
    But it didn't start that way. In 1978 Sharp released the MZ-40K, a 4-bit (yes really) kit computer. You can program it to make noises - it doesn't do "video", and certainly isn't a games platform, but it is a piece of history that might explain something.


    [​IMG]
    So when you release an 8-bit computer, call it the MZ-80K! 1978 also saw this released as a fully assembled machine, complete with built-in monitor and cassette deck, and some text modes. It's entirely monochrome, so probably the closest Japan got to producing their own take on the Commodore PET. It also marks the start of Sharp selling MZ machines in Germany and the UK too, which will be on the exam later - it's not a classic gaming platform (although it did have games) but it had quite a bit of reach and sold a fair number of units.

    Sharp called these things "clean computers" because rather than build an operating system into ROM, you had to load BASIC off a cassette. But honestly this series is anything but.


    [​IMG]
    There's an MZ-80K2 and an MZ-80K2E with differing amounts of RAM, and there's the MZ-80C from 1979... which also has a different amount of RAM. This is the high-end model with 48KB and a green screen (not sure why green was better than "white" but whatever). Changing RAM configurations in theory splits the software market, but from what I've seen so far, I don't think there were ever any MZ-80C-exclusive video games, just MZ-80K ones. Still, the C gets a mention every now and then.


    [​IMG]
    In 1981, there is the MZ-80B, where "B" stands for "business". It's faster and has graphics and should be the logical base for all MZ machines going forward, but it won't be. Still two-colour monochrome with a green screen, but generally more capable than the MZ-80K.



    Now we take a walk down stupid street.

    Sharp restructured itself in 1982, and from this point onwards, all its MZ machines would have two 0s at the end of their names. But Sharp also had subsidiaries abroad that had didn't get this memo, or were releasing products ahead of Japan, or something complicated and tedious I don't want to get into. On that note, the MZ-80A:

    [​IMG]
    Rather than build off the MZ-80B, the MZ-80A builds off the MZ-80K. So from a technical standpoint, that's B > A > C > K. When it was released in Japan, that restructuring had happened, and so it was known in this region as the MZ-1200. It's got its own software, but thankfully not huge amounts of it.

    But anyway this is good, right? We can use numbers to determine which systems are better. Right?.. right?


    [​IMG]
    Time to replace the MZ-80B; the MZ-2000, originally known as the MZ-80B2. More graphics etc., just to fracture the market a bit more. It's the first MZ computer to be able do output in colour, but the monitor supplied was monochrome, something not fixed until the the MZ-2200 in 1983. From what I understand, the 2000 and 2200 are pretty much the same system, but if a game was emphasising colour graphics, it might list the 2200 first since you didn't have to buy a second monitor to see it.


    [​IMG]
    "We can do colour too", said Sharp to itself, so it released the MZ-700 as a successor the the MZ-1200. "What are you doing" said the world, "are any of these systems compatible with each other?". Well yes, to a degree, but because perfect accuracy not guaranteed you have to know that 700 > 1200. And even though this line of computers has become impenetrable at this point, the MZ-700 was quite successful and was released in a bunch of other countries. We can't call it stupid, because it might be the best one.


    [​IMG]
    We don't have to care about every MZ computer, but Hudson Soft released a few titles for the MZ-5500 (including a port of Bomberman), so even though I'd like to ignore it, we can't.


    [​IMG]
    Several MZ computers were exclusive to Japan, but only the MZ-800 from 1984 was exclusive to Europe. It's a successor to the MZ-700, and while a bit behind the curve, existed long enough for people to notice it. Not enough to take on Sinclair, Amstrad and Commodore, but it was there. Not being Japanese-focused, I'm not totally sure if this effects our wikis, but it could, so here it is.


    [​IMG]
    Japan had its own MZ-700 successor, the MZ-1500. This one has proper sound, and Dempa published some Namco arcade games for it which means we have to care. Given they recycled the chassis you'd think the innards would be similar, but nope, different platform.


    [​IMG]
    And finally, as far as games are concerned, the MZ-2500 from 1985, also known as the "Super MZ", and a successor to the MZ-2000. It's perhaps questionable why this exists - while you could make the claim that the X1 machines were the high end gaming platforms (the MZ line instead being for spreadsheet enthusiasts), this seems to be going after that market too. But it does exist and there are games and that means coverage.


    There were others; the MZ-3500, MZ-5600 and MZ-6500 didn't do much for gaming, and with the the MZ-8000, the MZ moniker started being applied to IBM PC compatibles.


    tl;dr

    MZ-80K -> MZ-80A/MZ-1200 -> MZ-700 -> MZ-800 -> MZ-1500

    MZ-80B -> MZ-2000/MZ-2200 -> MZ-2500 (Super MZ)

    MZ-5500

    9 platforms. Kill me.

    At least they look nice.
     
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  14. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    I was hoping we could avoid this. This is "Kidou Senshi Gundam Luna Tsuu no Tatakai" (機動戦士ガンダム ルナ・ツーの戦い). Unelss it's meant to be "Luna II" or "Luna 2" - I don't know - it's bascially Space Invaders or Galaxian with a Gundam theme.

    In terms of ports, there's the usual suspects:

    [​IMG]
    ... X1...

    [​IMG]

    ... FM-7...

    [​IMG]

    ... RX-78...

    wait what


    [​IMG]
    +1 to the list of obscure Japanese computers - the RX-78 from Bandai, which yes, is also called "Gundam", because if you've got a popular IP, you might as well use it I guess. There aren't many games for this thing (~20 in total?), but apparently "Gundam for the Gundam" is one shared with the PC-8801. In fact it might be the only RX-78 game that isn't exclusive to the computer.

    What is this system? Well it's a 4MHz Z80-based machine (because we haven't got enough of those), released around the same time as the Famicom in 1983. It was dead within the year.
     
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  15. Pirate Dragon

    Pirate Dragon

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    I created the Wikipedia page for that computer ... I remember playing the Gundam game on an obscure Japanese emulator, but it should be playable in Mame now.
     
  16. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I used to edit Wikipedia and had genuinely forgotten if I'd made pages on old Japanese computers too. Turns out I did - the FM-8 back in 2010.

    In the intervening 12 years I had completely forgotten I wrote the page, completely forgotten the computer existed, and... the page looks pretty much the same. Eek.


    In other news:

    [​IMG]

    I've been playing. This is Neko Project 21/W, the best(?) PC-9800 series emulator. The program's in English, there is a Neo Kobe collection of disk images on archive.org, and other than some BIOS faffing for the games that need it, is quite a lovely thing to use.


    The problem is that it's a bit like DOSBox, in that it defaults to "a great DOS PC". If you just want to play the games, that's perfect, but if you're trying to verify whether games are made for the stock PC-9801 or E/F/M/VF/VM/U/UV/VX/UX/whatever, that's less straightforward.

    [​IMG]

    I think the box says VM, but I can't just turn the emulator to "VM MODE" to find out what it does. I might have to save screenshots as "9800Series" and let someone work it out later.


    I've been systematically going through the PC-8801 library over the last few weeks, but I'm unlikely to do the same for the PC-9801. Too much software, and archives well into the gigabytes, and combined with the fact I'm not remotely confident in how we've been categorising games, it's just... no. Someone else do it.
     
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  17. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Even though they were produced by the same company, and there's only a year separating the two machines, the PC-8801 (left) and PC-9801 (right) have completely different ideas on image rendering.

    For The Black Onyx here, the PC-8801 is using a relatively standard 640x200 mode, 8 colours. Lines are doubled to take it up to 640x400.

    The PC-9801 has (I think) two different rendering passes by two GPUs; one for text, and another for graphics. So the text is 640x400 (2 colours?) and the graphics are 640x200 (8 colours). Except rather than double the lines, it leaves gaps, creating pseudo-scanlines.


    There's different goals to the hardware - the PC-9801 is all about clarity in text rendering (and is a 16-bit 8086 machine, vs the 8-bit Z80 of the PC-8801), but weird how these things pan out.
     
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  18. kitsunebi

    kitsunebi

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    Not sure if you were looking for an answer, but it seems to always be romanized as "Luna II" (the name of an asteroid/military base.)
     
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  19. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Oooh ooh ooh I know the answer now.

    You had to.

    While 5¼-inch disks had been around for a while, NEC didn't jump on board with the format until the PC-9801 F in 1983. So for the first year, if you wanted to interface with your PC-9801 computer, you had to buy an 8-inch floppy drive (there was PC-9801 software on cassette but it's very uncommon and not suitable for business).

    [​IMG]

    One of these, the PC-9881.


    I haven't got a proper source for the cost of these drives, but there is one for the PC-8881, the PC-8801 equivalent (which will work on a PC-9801):

    [​IMG]

    Note: 442,000 yen in 1981 is just shy of 550,000 yen in 2022. That's $4765 USD. Just for the disk drives. Significantly more than the computer itself.

    So yeah I suppose if you paying those prices, NEC might as well offer options to how you want the drives mounted.


    Floppy disk drive prices would drop dramatically over the coming years, and 5¼-inch drives always cost less, but if you ever wanted to know why the home machines stuck with compact cassettes, there's your answer fish bulb.
     
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  20. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    God it's complicated.

    My terminology might be wrong here, but, when working with floppy disks, PC-8801 and PC-9801 emulation is relatively straight forward. Most games are "boot disks", so you put the disk(s) in the drive(s), turn on the computer, and the games should boot instantly. This was exactly the same for the IBM PC in the early years - I suspect the practise stopped because IBM compatibles were more likely to ship with hard drives, and loading from floppy disk is comparitively slow. In the NEC camp, hard drives were rare on the PC-9801 in the early years, and weren't a thing at all on the PC-8801, so I guess it stuck around a while longer.

    But not every game is a boot disk.

    [​IMG]

    These games, by "not the RTS" Starcraft, are multi-format. It took me a while to work this out, because some sources erroneously suggest early PC-9801 computers could run PC-8801 software (spoilers: they absolutely can't), but yes, this one disk contains two versions of Pirate Adventure.

    A dump exists, but if you load it straight into either a PC-8801 or PC-9801 emulator, nothing happens, because it's not a boot disk. First I assumed it was a bad dump, then I discovered instructions for games that require Disk BASIC. Yes, this noise again.


    Both the PC-8801 and PC-9801 have versions of BASIC built into ROM, but some commands don't work. For a more complete version of the language, you need to run Disk BASIC, which was on a separate floppy disk. Boot from this disk, take the disk out once it's loaded into memory, put a game disk in, and now the FILES command should display the game disk's contents (or you can stick it in the other drive and use "FILES 2" but I didn't know that at the time). From there you can load and run the executables(?) you want.

    These steps will be familiar to anyone who's played with an IBM PC without a hard drive. In fact, it's the reasoning these computers shipped with two floppy drives - put your "operating system" in drive A, and any disks you want to play with in drive B. It just so happened that for games, most publishers were able to skip these steps.

    Armed with this knowledge, I found two versions of Disk BASIC and proceeded to load the Pirate Adventure game disk (or at least copies, so there's no Windows permissions issues) in both my PC-8801 and PC-9801 emulator at the same time. Because I could.

    [​IMG]

    Sadly it was only 50% successful. The PC-8801 can see the disk and list its contents - you can clearly see "M88" and "M98" symbolising the two versions of the game, but the PC-9801 can't read it. I tried a few versions of Disk BASIC and even some versions of MS-DOS, but it fails. I don't know why, but ultimately it doesn't matter at this stage, as there's enough to prove that Starcraft weren't talking out of their collective arses. Also if I really wanted to play the PC-9801 version, someone's made a boot disk, so bleh.

    If you're keen to find a solution, there's N88-BASIC (86) reference manual, but I imagine it's the *.D88 format and the way things have been dumped.

    There are a lot of dual-format games - enough to warrant a proper solution on the wikis. I'm going to have to think about this.
     
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