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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    If you're playing the game at home (which you shouldn't be, because it's a pretty awful game), I now have a slight handle on how the PC-9800 series works. Or at least the first four machines.

    It's also a lesson in stupidity.


    #1: PC-9801, 1982
    [​IMG]

    NEC's original 16-bit business machine. Specs wise, you can't complain. Price wise... Jesus Christ. Buying a monitor isn't unexpected, but if you wanted to do anything with this computer, you had to buy a set of 8-inch floppy drives. And want to use word processing software? Go get a kanji ROM board*. So a complete system would set you back about 1 million yen, which is about $10K USD in today's money. No thanks.

    #2: PC-9801 F, 1983
    [​IMG]

    Make the processor a bit faster, stuff some more useful 5¼-inch drives in the computer itself, and include the kanji ROM board for good measure. Then sell it for less. Suddenly there's a reason to actually buy one of these things.

    #3: PC-9801 E, 1983
    [​IMG]

    A PC-9801 F with the extras taken out, so you can spend more money in the long run by buying them all separately (except you couldn't straight away, because NEC wouldn't sell you separate 5¼-inch drives at the time). Why would you do this.

    #4: PC-9801 M, 1984
    [​IMG]

    The disk drives of the F are all well and good, but they're only double density! 640KB per disk (2DD) ?? You want high density (2HD) which brings it up to 1MB. We've also doubled the RAM over the F.

    Oh by the way these new 2HD drives can't read 2DD disks, so we've broken compatibility with older software. Have fun!



    ... I'm not kidding about that by the way

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Got to have F versions and M versions of software because they've split the market. And they didn't solve this problem for years. In fact it would get worse, because the next machine, the PC-9801 U... uses 3½-inch disks! That's at least four different incompatible disk formats for one family of computers (although 8-inch was a dying breed at this point).

    (p.s. this is Gaplus)



    *extra fun. So there are thousands of kanji characters, and to make things manageable with the technology of the day, some standards were created and the character set was split up into JIS "levels". So you get the level 1 board for commonly used characters, and if you need the more obscure ones, you get the level 2 board. Both at a cost.

    But that's just for displaying text on a screen. What if you wanted to print? Apparently the resolution of some printers was too low for kanji and I think(?) some couldn't handle certain JIS levels. So there's another cost for your business - make sure you don't buy the wrong printer.
     
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  2. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    "Daiva" is a series of 7 games published by T&E Soft. They're all connected, and were all released between 1986 and 1987.

    What platforms? All of the platforms. One game per platform. It's god-damned nuts.

    [​IMG]

    For story 1, you need a PC-8801 mkII SR.


    [​IMG]

    Then if you want to play story 2, get out your FM77/AV


    [​IMG]

    For story 3, you need an X1


    [​IMG]

    Story 4, an MSX.


    [​IMG]

    Or I guess since you need an MSX2 for story 5, just get one of those instead.


    [​IMG]

    And it's not just computers - you need a Famicom for story 6.


    [​IMG]

    And for the shiny story 7, you need a PC-9801 VM.


    And these are all different games, not just ports. And I mean different - some are strategies, some are side-scrollers, some are shoot-'em-ups - everyone gets a turn.


    They did eventually put them altogether in a modern collection, but that's no fun.
     
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  3. This is, without a doubt, the longest cheat code I have ever had to enter in any video game:

    RabioLepusSpecial_PCE_VideoSystem.png

    This is Rabio Lepus Special, a shoot-em-up originally released for arcades which features a robotic rabbit (not to be confused with the one from Jumping Flash) that was ported to the PC Engine, and there are a bunch of cheats you can enter on the title screen by holding Select and alternating between I and II inputs. The game doesn't care which of the buttons you press in order to enter the cheat so long as you alternate accordingly (e.g. you can use either I x4, II x1, I x2, II x6 or II x4, I x1, II x2, I x6 to enable the sound test). Once a cheat is enabled, its effects will be displayed above the title.

    One cheat, which makes "VIDEOSYSTEM" (the game's publisher) appear on the title screen as shown in the screenshot above, requires you to hold Select and press I 60 times, II 50 times, I 192 times, II 20 times. That amounts to 322 button presses just to enter one cheat code, and I'm not even sure what it does. Good lord.

    Also, a little bit of trivia: this PC Engine port was developed by Minakuchi Engineering, the devs best known for most of the Mega Man games on Game Boy, as well as Mega Man: The Wily Wars on the Mega Drive and the SNES version of Mega Man X3.
     
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  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I feel like I've come across long cheat codes in my travels but I can't remember where.

    Best I can come up with in short notice is Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf where you have to hit the ball 100 times without hitting the green. IIRC you have to make a conscious decision to aim your shots in the wrong direction, because the game points you towards the hole every turn. So I guess that's 200 button presses... maybe.

    Also not really a cheat but I have hit bosses in Sonic 3 256 times with Tails just to see what happens and what is my life
     
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  5. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    Why I can't really be confident in our PC-9801 coverage.

    "You need 5¼-inch 2DD disk drives". Well the E, M, U and UV didn't ship with those, but they're listed on the box because you could buy external drives.

    "256KB RAM". Not in the E or two models of the F, but again, you could buy more.

    And I don't know if two drives are required here. Because if so, the minimum-spec computer that had these features out of the box would be the PC-9801 VF - 5/8ths of the platforms mentioned would need to be upgraded.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2022
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  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    It's confusing even me, so I've made a dedicated guide to determining PC-9800 series games. I don't think anyone else is really categorising these games like we are, so this might be a world first.

    I haven't got past the VX and UX, so this will currently break down as we hit the 1990s. More whenever it comes.
     
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  7. Overlord

    Overlord

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    Good god that's a terrifying page. And people think the MD/MCD/32/32X CD are bad.
     
  8. Black Squirrel

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    This is what we're up against:

    [​IMG]

    "Battle" (バトル), because thinking of names is hard. What do we categorise it as??

    15 years ago I would have said "what the hell is that" or "PC"

    10 years ago I would have said "PC-98"

    5 years ago I would have said "PC-9801 M"

    Today I think the answer is PC-9801 VX, because it needs 640KB of RAM... which seems sensible given it's a release from 1990 (even if the box design looks like it was dragged out of the late 1970s).


    Taking into account inflation, this game would cost just shy of $125 USD today, so you better get it right!





    I've been sifting through the PC-9800 game list we have, and having already picked apart the PC-8800 list... a surprising number of links for 1982 and 1986 are already blue. Turns out in the early years there aren't that many PC-9800-exclusive titles - they start showing up when 286 processors become all the rage, but before then, the platform seems to have been treated as an afterthought by the big publishers.

    It's all very difficult when nothing has been translated, but my suspicion is that, while the PC-9800 series almost certainly had the biggest Japanese computer market share from about 1983 onwards, it's almost entirely business machines, which would explain why the PC-8800 series lasted so long. You could buy your top of the range PC-9801 for playing games, but you probably wouldn't... until it had crushed all its competition and there was no choice. Price is almost certainly a factor.
     
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  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Karateka, the game by Jordan Mechner which isn't Prince of Persia, took until 1988 to reach the PC-9801 for some reason.

    It needs 640KB of RAM, and that means from a NEC Retro categorisation perspective, it's either a PC-9801 VX (for 5¼-inch disks) or PC-9801 UX (for 3½-inch disks). Yes I do have Alt+0188 and Alt+0189 memorised since I've had to type those characters so much.

    But because you could upgrade older systems...

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    You end up with this noise. Having to distribute the game on 2DD and 2HD formats, because the customer's chosen upgade path might not have a compatible drive. This is why they just list the format as "PC-9801 series" - it's better for us if they just target a specific standard, but not for customers of the day - you might have upgraded your PC-9801 F to 640KB, or a PC-9801 M to 640KB, and if you just need the RAM and not the processing power (or enhanced graphics), there's no point mentioning the VX by name.

    It's a god-damned mess. This is why, on the IBM side, we just lump everything together in one category.


    Incidentally if you were thinking the external 5¼-inch floppy drives might be easier to live with:

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The PC-9831-4 only reads 2DD disks. The PC-9831-M and PC-9831-MF2 read both 2DD and 2HD disks. Not to be confused with the PC-9801 M whose built-in drives can only read the 2HD format.


    Otherwise I think there might be differences with pin-outs and whether you can daisy chain multiple drives together and oh my god why is it so complicated. Oh and the PC-9831-VW2 is for 3½-inch disks because why come up with a new number or letters that make sense?
     
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  10. Bobblen

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    I remember some good ones on the master system. Pause 75 times for more gold in Wonder Boy, pause 100 times for continues in After Burner. Even worse, the button was on the console, not the controller!

    Out of curiosity did you actually input that code or find a way to automate it?
     
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  11. I did it the hard way, carefully counting each button press in increments of 5, which took a few tries. A tedious process, and I'm not even sure what kind of effects it would have as I was going through these to have the hidden content pages up.
     
  12. Bobblen

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    Outstanding dedication :), I hope you made a save state after that!
     
  13. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    This is the worst so far - Welltris. List the minimum specs... then list all the computers that qualify for those minimum specs.

    I can't stress enough - everything PC-98 related after 1985/1986 is just guesswork.
     
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  14. Black Squirrel

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    Okay this isn't working too well.

    [​IMG]

    This is the PC-9801 VM from July 1985. It's the "popular" model - the one that doesn't have confusing disk drives, but also benefits from a V30 processor, better graphics and 384KB of RAM. If you were wanting to play games, and were more interested in the platform's earlier library, this is the machine to own.

    [​IMG]

    And for the latter half of 1985, it was the machine NEC were pushing. Specifically the "VM2" configuration is the one you want, because unlike the "VM0" it has disk drives. The lesser "VF" model is in this advert for... reasons.

    The VM0 and VM2 are the same machine but with different means of storing data. A year later, 286 processors were in vogue, and it was the VX computers being plugged.

    so
    V30 + 384KB RAM = VM
    286 + 640KB RAM = VX



    [​IMG]

    But it doesn't work like that.

    There were more VM models. The VM4 (bottom) has a hard drive but is otherwise the same as the VM2. Second from bottom is a VM2. Above that... is a "VM21", and then a "VM11". Yes 11 does come after 21.

    The VM21 and VM11 have more RAM for some reason - 640KB, and that means there are two separate "VM" platforms; the VM0/2/4 and VM21/11. Why does this matter?

    [​IMG]

    Because there are games that specifically target the VM21. They don't want the VX's 286 CPU, but they do want want 640KB, which the "old" VM doesn't have.


    Now arguably this is all fair game, after all, that's what happened with the IBM PC, but until 1986, publishers weren't specifying CPU or RAM requirements - it was F, M or VM - the user didn't have to know any more specifics. The good(?) news is we can just about do the same here by introducing a "VM21" platform. The bad news is it gets worse.



    [​IMG]

    First glance; it's a VM21 game. The box says as much, and it specifies 640KB of RAM, and... wait.

    286? The VM21 doesn't have one of those. You mean VX, surely?

    Clocked at 12MHz? VX has 8MHz. There are VX01/VX21/VX41 platforms (!!!!!!) with 10MHz... but the first 286 clocked at 12MHz was...

    [​IMG]
    The PC-9801 RX? You must mean that.

    But do you? The RX came out in September 1988 - in July 1988, the PC-9801 RA was released... and that's a 386 machine clocked at 20MHz. The older RA should run the game just fine, but it isn't the target platform. So essentially, the whole concept of naming PC-9800 "standards" is dead after November 1986 - good job nobody's maintaining a wiki about the subject.

    I don't know to handle this, short of a catch all "PC-9800 series" category. Perhaps we need a new approach to this thing.
     
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  15. Black Squirrel

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    Nope. Nooope.

    [​IMG]

    Jelda, an early PC-9801 ships on... a single density floppy disk (2D).

    [​IMG]

    Want to play? The publisher recommends hooking up a PC-8031-2W.

    [​IMG]

    The PC-8031 is a disk drive... for the PC-8001. Because while the software wasn't backwards compatible, the hardware was.

    [​IMG]


    So while there weren't disk drives in the PC-9800 series... you could use PC-8000 series ones. Or probably PC-8800 series drives. Basically, drives that pre-date the PC-9801 as a concept, which breaks our the entire naming system.

    I think we're going to have to categorise things by individual requirements, with the platform as a whole being "PC-9800 series". Arse and bums.
     
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  16. Black Squirrel

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    So the answer to the PC-9800 documentation question is "be more like the IBM PC". But another question nobody is asking: what actually happened to IBM PC? You'd think NEC's confusing computers would leave an open goal, and yet 1985-1992 was the height of their power. ..???


    [​IMG]

    If I have to introduce you to an IBM PC 5150, the foundation of all PC compatibles, there's something wrong, but here's one anyway because it makes me happy. It didn't sell well in Japan (if it was even sold at all), and while IBM had an "international" Japanese branch doing "business" with "machines", it wasn't on a consumer level, because the 5150 didn't support kanji characters. Sure you had to pay extra for true kanji support with the original PC-9801, but at least it was an option - getting thousands of (readible) characters onto an IBM PC wasn't physically possible in 1981/1982.

    [​IMG]

    IBM's first attempt in March 1983 was the IBM 5550 (or "Multistation 5550" as it was also called) and... actually it didn't do half bad. 30% of the "business class" market at its peak - sure it was aimed at IBM's mainframe users rather than home consumers, and was expensive, and was solving problems NEC already solved, but it was there.


    [​IMG]
    But if you were a consumer wanting to play video games on an IBM, you'd have to wait until 1984 with the release of the JX. It's the most interesting of these Japanese machines for sure, not just because of the colour scheme, but because it derives from the IBM PCJr... just with a decent keyboard, 3½-inch floppy drives and some other things that don't matter. It sold poorly and still wasn't a full PC compatible, but models made it to Australia and New Zealand, so I guess that counts as "international".


    In 1987 IBM Japan released the IBM PS/55, a Japanese-specific computer in the PS/2 line but it's boring and nobody cares. The true revelation was in 1990, and it wasn't IBM hardware... it was software.

    [​IMG]
    DOS/V can render kanji. No more special chips, no more bespoke computers - pick one of the bazillion IBM compatibles from around the world, install DOS/V, and the job is done.

    NEC had successfully fought off the Japanese computing industry until this point, but DOS/V opened the door to international competitors, namely full-fat IBM and Compaq. The PC-9800 series hung on for another ten years or so, but not because the architecture won over hearts and minds - it was a combination of brand recognition and "we're all running Windows so it doesn't really matter anymore". But eventually NEC admitted defeat, and their first PC compatibles hit the market in the late 1990s.

    And having been kicked out of the market they founded, NEC faded into obscurity and no - they just became the largest IBM PC manufacturer in Japan instead. They don't do it on their own anymore - it's a joint venture with Lenovo, but Lenovo were the junior partner in Japan - NEC still had 20% of the market when the deal was signed. I can't find recent figures but it had risen to around 25% in 2015. They didn't go away, though whether you're likely to care anymore, that's a different story.

    And hey, maybe you never cared.
     
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  17. Black Squirrel

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  18. Overlord

    Overlord

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    I'm not sure I'd want to bonk either Hussain or Trump...
     
  19. There's a screen mode used in a handful of games that the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 is capable of doing, though various emulators are never consistent on how it's supposed to work. The cheat pages on GameFAQs describe such a screen mode as "four screen mode" or something like that, and I can see why as some emulators would render the game as four simultaneous screens. But...how do the emulators handle such screen modes, exactly?

    As such, I have gone out of my way to test this mode in other emulators, using World Court Tennis as a guinea pig.

    FourScreen_Ootake.png

    True to how GameFAQs describes it, Ootake renders this screen mode as four screens at once, though it saves screenshots filtered. Also, working with its interface and menus wasn't fun.

    FourScreen_MagicEngine.png FourScreen_MagicEngine_Resized.png

    When the screen mode is turned on in Magic Engine (which is still payware to this day for some reason), It's displayed as a single screen in a 512x224 resolution, which will give the game an ultra-squished look on a 4:3 display (as shown in the screenshot on the right), and is akin to the "vertical/arcade" screen resolution modes in other games. Is this the proper way this mode is supposed to work? I'm not sure myself...

    FourScreen_TurboNyma.png

    TurboNyma, which is a core used in BizHawk and Mednafen, tries to do both of the above - four screens rendered in a 512x224 resolution. It's a mess, with the screens being cut off somewhere.

    FourScreen_PCEHawk.png

    BizHawk also has its own native core, PCEHawk, which......doesn't work with the screen mode and just displays the screen as normal.

    Interestingly enough, Konami's PC Engine Mini includes two games that can use that screen mode, those being Seirei Senshi Spriggan and Spriggan Mark 2, so we can see how the emulator M2 made for the mini-console can handle it, and....well, it's like Magic Engine's take, but it has the game screen on the left, leaving a blank space on the right.

    FourScreen_PCEngineMini.png

    So, what games support this mode? Here are the ones I've discovered:
    • Coryoon (PCE)
    • Digital Champ Battle Boxing (PCE)
    • Honey in the Sky (PCE)
    • Naxat Stadium (PCE)
    • Power Drift (PCE)
    • Psycho Chaser (PCE)
    • Seirei Senshi Spriggan (CD)
    • Spriggan Mark 2: Re-Terraform Project (SCD)
    • World Court Tennis (PCE)
    Obviously due to the lack of a real PC Engine I can't test it for myself on such systems so I don't know how a real system would handle it, which leaves me stuck on determining how it's supposed to be rendered with each emulator. Based on which one is correct, I'd have to update the hidden content pages with the true one accordingly.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2022
  20. Black Squirrel

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