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The NEC Retro topic

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

  1. muteKi

    muteKi

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    I don't have a source handy but my understanding is that "CM" was meant to stand for "computer music". While the MT-32's interface did enough that you could hook up a controller (keyboard with MIDI in, for example) to it and play music with it that way, the stripped-down interface on the CM-32L meant that it was designed specifically for use with computer software like video games, hence the extra sound effects.

    Same idea motivating the CM-300 vs the SoundCanvas (SC-55) -- strip out all the stuff mainly used for performing musicians so more home computer users can afford one.

    Of course, at this point the cost-reducing features are mostly a moot point as the extra sounds make the CM-32L potentially more attractive to a retro game enthusiast, and no MIDI box by Roland, even ones with an MT-32 compatibility feature advertised, support the ability to write custom instruments, which a lot of the games that tout their MT-32 support featured. The "intelligent mode" MIDI interface required to facilitate bidirectional communication was tied to a specific hardware expansion on PC (MPU-401) but as you might guess it's entirely possible to replace it with a TSR software program in DOS, at least as long as you're not running in EMS mode.
     
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  2. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    On my internet travels, I stumbled across an "official" April 1985 catalogue for PC-6000 series computers:
    https://retrocdn.net/File:PC6000Series_ApplicationJouhou_1985-04.pdf

    Given how cheap some of the third-party software looks, I'm surprised NEC bothered to make note of it, but hey. The catalogue doesn't list everything - even its owner was correcting some of the omissions 35 years ago (and of course it stops at 1985), but it's something. NEC put out a similar PC-8000 series catalogue around the same time but we have no scans of that.

    With this I've now combined three lists, taking us just shy of 400 PC-6000 games in total, making NEC Retro probably the best list on the internet. If I could prove some of the red links exist, it would be even better, though when games haven't been dumped, it's tricky to go much further than that.


    Slightly concerning is that as well as including the PC-6001, PC-6001 mkII, PC-6001 mkII SR, PC-6601 and PC-6601 SR (in case you'd forgotten how confusing this all is), there's a brief section for the PC-2001, a "handheld computer" we've not got coverage for:

    [​IMG]

    Supposedly there's software for this thing on cassette, though I've yet to find any aside from that demonstration program. But this is a running theme - some games have literally no internet presence at all besides lists claiming they exist.

    I've also seen a couple of type-ins, which we'd want to make note of. I do wonder though - the version of BASIC on the PC-2001 is presumably quite bare bones, so can they run on anything with a BASIC interpreter... including Star Wars Jedi Power Battles on the Dreamcast??
     
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  3. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    In case you were worried, there's a lot they didn't take note of:

    [​IMG]

    This imaginatively titled Othello Game is the type of release that could have easily been erased from history - a Japanese electronics retailer put out a few PC-8001 and PC-6001 games around 1982 - it's only one step up from copying cassettes in your bedroom. It's likely you could only buy these things from a specific shop in Tokyo - no magazines will have covered it, and given Othello is a trademark, it's legally dubious too.

    If it weren't for Japanese auction sites, the only way you'd know this thing existed would be to pay attention to adverts:
    https://archive.org/details/Io19827/page/n48/mode/1up
    but have you seen how many adverts are in the average issue of I/O magazine? And there's at least 20 years' worth of issues.


    This isn't an abnormal amount of sofware btw, it's just that in America, lots of money was invested and the bubble burst. In Japan (as with Europe), it's more that the bubble kept floating around and nobody cared that much - there's a lot of cassette-based software, but the cost to produce was so low that you could take the hit.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2024
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  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I/O magazine was the first of its kind in Japan, and is where most of the information is coming in regards to NEC's old computers. It was published by Kogakusha, which I believe still exists today publishing technical books and material and whatever.

    As in the West, people sent in programs to I/O, and the best software would have their source code published in the magazine at a later date. But Kogakusha also got into "real" software publishing, selling these type-ins on cassette. I think they did this as "Compac" (no not that one)

    [​IMG]

    This is the biggest software company you've never heard of. Compac only did business on home computers, and disappeared in the early 90s, but when I say they prolific... well...

    [​IMG]

    You don't have to go far to find collections. Here's ten mostly undocumented PC-8001 games, and more in similar livery pop up with a quick Google image search. But there are many, many more:

    https://archive.org/details/Io198311/page/n527/mode/2up

    this is from November 1983 - all of those green pages make up Compac's software catalogue (for their mail-order service, which granted includes some other pubilshers too), many for systems you probably didn't know existed (the Canon X-07 anyone??). There are hundreds, if not thousands of cassettes here, all published (or at least distributed) by one company. And Compac may not have even peaked at that point in time.

    Every single piece of software here is undocumented in the Western world. NEC Retro has some stubs for the NEC side, but as we're not running a "Sharp Retro" or "Fujitsu Retro", that's vast amounts of software confined to cheaply-printed lists in 40-year-old magazines. I think NEC Retro only has about a quarter of PC-8001/6001/8801/9801 software from Compac represented, not because we don't want the rest, but because there are no photos online. And you don't want to be guessing, not just because that list is incomplete, but because you might miss this noise:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Here we have this giant enemy crab. Only version supports the PCG-8100.

    And again, this is only from Compac. Bomberman fans might like to know that Hudson Soft released a bazillion cassettes too. It's unfortunate that NEC Retro isn't in a position to show them all, but you can get an idea of volumes - that's 150-ish pieces of NEC software from Compac alone, and again we're missing the majority of it.


    So the point is, if you take the view that Wikipedia or MobyGames will list every video game ever made, you are incredibly wrong. Even if you take mobile out of the equation.
     
  5. Saad

    Saad

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    Had a run through the I/O magazines a couple times and its always a blast seeing whats on there, so much third party hardware on there. So much stuff to cover...

    Anyways got 1 I/O related thing to share and one extremely self indulgent thing to share:

    first
    https://archive.org/details/Io19802/page/n105/mode/2up?view=theater
    IO_198002_0106.jpg

    Got curious about that TK-80 and yeah!! I/O has TK-80(BS) video games! Aint that neat. Seems to be one of the quintillion cassettes sold through em as mentioned above.
    TK-80BSuse.jpg
    Will probably need to expand that TK-80 page to include all the versions, including the TK-85 and the Compo which is basically just a personal computer at this point
    i-img900x1200-1690638069sd5uvf1887325.jpg
    Cool little thing (this auction even features the same game! lovely coincidence).

    Second thing is, same way Sega Retro got to cover the Sakhr series (AX-990 and AX-660) and its localisations of the MSX. NEC Retro has its own fascinating Arabic localisation to deal with!
    warka_6001.jpg
    (spent a lot of time reading the following blogposts [1] [2] about this machine and iraqi life)
    Presenting: Al Waraka 6001 and 6002 (NEC's PC-6001 and 6001 MkII SR respectively) both have many difference from the original (and its own version of BASIC obviously) so that'll be fun to write about :p
     
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  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    On Sega Retro, one of the problems is that SC-3000 type-in games were never saved, so there's a whole heap of software that might not have been seen for 40 years.

    For NEC Retro... it's the opposite. Many dumps in my (totally legtimiately obtained) PC-8001 set originate from books. It's a little confusing because as mentioned above, many I/O type-ins were later sold commercially, but games from here weren't:

    [​IMG]
    Maikon Game no Hon 3 (マイコンゲームの本 3). Yes there is a 1, 2 and 4 as well.

    Except technically that's not true anymore either, because some of these were included in the Pasocom Mini (the one made by our friends HAL Laboratory a few years ago)


    Those books are also multi-platform, so some of the listed games won't be in scope. I bet you could count the number of English speakers who fully understand that list of machines on one hand.

    spoilers:
    [​IMG]
    that last one is the LKit-16 from Panafacom. Real mainstream stuff I'm sure you'll agree.
     
  7. Chimes

    Chimes

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    Sweet Jesus that beast looks like something out of the 1980's UK like the ZX-81. Kind of makes me wonder what home-made mutants for early Japanese computers existed. I know Sega cobbled together a ICE (in-circuit emulator) for their super scaler games so I wonder if that was a practice elsewhere
     
  8. Pirate Dragon

    Pirate Dragon

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    Yeah I wasn't aware of that one, a 1977 16-bit computer, nice. Interesting keyboard layout, but that might be how the user decided to build it. Oh, yeah I see now, designed for inputting hexadecimal
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2024
  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I think it works out that any home computer released in Japan prior to 1978 would have been sold in kit form. The first fully assembled home computer to hit the region was Hitachi's "Basic Master" ("Level 3" listed above is the third iteration of that... I think).

    tbh I'm not sure how much I believe that - I find it difficult to believe that nobody in Japan would sell you a pre-assembled kit computer (with a shell) before that date, even if it was "unofficial".
     
  10. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Shortly after we started NEC Retro, I made the conscious decision to stay away from the "bishoujo" games. In a spectacular use of words, this is now the biggest hole on NEC Retro, and it'll probably stay that way, because... I mean, well, I'll let you work out that for yourself.

    Unfortunately, this happened:

    [​IMG]

    Jast made games about Japanese schoolgirls, and at some point they introduced "Jast Sound" an audio device that lets you... hear them. This is speech synthesis for your home computer of choice - only a few games supported it, and all were published by Jast.

    Few were dedicated to the cause, so there aren't many Jast Sounds around. There's a single photo on the internet which proves it existed, but good luck getting your hands on one. Better yet:

    [​IMG]

    Jast made more: the "Plus", "II" and "SE". Except nobody seems to be able to prove that they did - these things were extensively advertised, alongside games made to take advantage of the hardware, but there's no evidence that any of it made it to market. More interesting is that the expensive versions were meant to let you talk back, i.e. voice-controlled computer games in the late 1980s. Seaman usually gets credit for being the first.


    Try not to think about what you might be saying.
     
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  11. cartridgeculture

    cartridgeculture

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    curiously, I had noticed this when doing a little research for the Derringer page:

    Its manual and disks indicate compatibility with Jast Sound which is however disputable since both the PC8801 and PC9801 versions of this game cannot sound Jast Sound despite being labeled with its logo. [source]

    this whole field is the definition of spotty. i kinda love it.
     
  12. Chimes

    Chimes

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    Why do I get the feeling the actual audio would sound like total mud?



    EDIT: I should also add that although I'm sure Black Squirrel is all too familiar, this isn't actually that uncommon. In the early PC world there are a shitload of devices that had giant implications and absurdly powerful capabilities, but only software in the single digits actually made basic use of it. From the Covox to Plantronics to Commodore's SFX expander to even the Mega Modem this is a really common phenomenon. You'd think they would use that speaker for other important purposes, but nope.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2024
  13. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]
    Gall Force: Sousei no Jokyoku is an adventure game from around 1987, based on an anime that I know nothing about. But it's unique in that this game is the only one to be produced by "Session 61". What is Session 61?

    [​IMG]
    a collaboration. Eight studios came together to make this game, making it a company crossover yeaaaaars before it became the norm. I mean, you wouldn't know by playing the thing - nothing I've seen that suggests Gall Force is eight times as good as other titles from this era, and it certainly don't look like there was "let's do this for charity" angle here (it's not even an original IP!), so yeah, odd.

    These were all fairly big names in the Japanese home computer scene, and yet for the most part... we don't really know what happened to them. A future task will be to find out, but here's what little we know:

    Humming Bird Soft made the original Record of Lodoss War games which I talked about before. They were dead by the mid-1990s, presumably eaten by someone.

    Bullet-Proof Software (BPS) got its break by acquiring the Tetris license, and spent most of the 1990s making Tetris games. It became part of The Tetris Company in 2001.

    Bothtec made some RPGs but were seemingly swallowed up in the early 1990s. The internet says "merged with Quest" (of future Ogre Battle fame) - I imagine its legacy exists as part of Square Enix.

    System Sacom gave up on games in 1999 and moved into electronics. They mostly made adventure games you won't remember (and things like Mansion of Hidden Souls, Torico and Deep Fear on the Saturn). Its back catalogue is now supposedly owned by D4 Enterprise.

    Thinking Rabbit made Sokoban, or "the game where you push boxes". They were eaten in the late 1990s.

    Microcabin kept making B-list RPGs into the 1990s. They still exist, but don't do much these days.

    SystemSoft made a bazillion strategy games throughout the 80s and 90s. The brand was aquired and it became "SystemSoft Alpha". Now it's known as "SystemSoft Beta". They never really got past being a niche Japanese PC game developer.

    Xtal Soft ("crystal" soft) was eaten in 1990, being absorbed into T&E Soft (who are best known for making golf games). Its back catalogue is also owned by D4 Enterprise (they own a lot of stuff, but credit where it's due, they actually care about it).

    So as far as this industry first, top-tier, unprecedented video game collaboration... only one is still actively making video games under its original name (sort-of - it's SystemSoft Beta), and only for Japan.


    Oh yeah and Scap Trust who published this game... just disappeared one day.


    To be fair though, not many 1980s Japanese home computer companies still exist today. You can name the notable examples on one hand: Falcom, Game Arts, HAL Labratory and I guess if you're being generious, the Enix part of Square Enix. Konami let the Hudson Soft branding out of its cage once in a while, but everything else is kind-of dead.

    While on the Western side, Bethesda, EA and Ubisoft all started life on computers.
     
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  14. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I think I can say with some degree of certainty now that Japanese home computer games are not documented. Every list I've seen is incomplete and wrong, and I think I've been wasting time looking for games that flat-out don't exist.

    In theory NEC Retro will sort out the NEC libraries at some point, but Sharp, Fujitsu, DOS/V... someone's going to have to jump in, because the situation is terrible across the board.


    As an example of everything going tits up:

    [​IMG]

    Between 1987 and 1993, Data West released a dozen "Dai 4 no Unit" (第4のユニット) games. Its designated English name is "The 4th Unit" (except for when it isn't), and every set of listings online is probably wrong as a result.

    Historically our wikis used to favour title screens, but these days I think it's better to say "Japanese release = Japanese name as dictated by the box, promotional material, or other official sources". There were five of these released for the PC-8800 and/or PC-9800 series of computers:

    Dai 4 no Unit
    Dai 4 no Unit 2
    Dual Targets: Dai 4 no Unit 3
    Zerø: Dai 4 no Unit 4
    D-Again: Dai 4 no Unit 5

    There were then two games released exclusively for the FM Towns:

    Merrygoround: Dai 4 no Unit Series
    Wyatt: Dai 4 no Unit Series

    However I'm led to believe these latter two were once destined to be multi-platform games, not just because we know of a Mega-CD version, but because you'll find them in PC-9801 and X68000 game lists... even though I've yet to see any evidence they were ever released for those computers.

    So that's games listed under the wrong names under the wrong platforms.



    I have a theory as to why this happened - there are no official software lists to reference, so the best bet when making one is to work backwards through release schedules printed in video game magazines. The problem with this approach is it creates a very "optimistic" list of games, built on the premise that everything shipped to retail, and that every game was printed in the schedules. I imagine some due diligence took place, but maybe not enough - were this the Dreamcast, it would be saying Half-Life came out.

    I mean I already had question marks over ~150 PC-9801 games, but it may be more accurate to say most of the remaining red links (in that main list) are games which never shipped. Or were renamed. Or were made up. No doubt some games are hyper mega rare, but I'd be tempted to go occam's razor and say the reason some games aren't online is because they never existed. So many online sources are listing dead games.


    Anyway point is we have no plans to do "Fujitsu Retro" (at least when there are no admins about, hint hint) but if you're reading this post and want to have a go, uh yeah, internet sux, use brain
     
  15. cartridgeculture

    cartridgeculture

    Wiki Contributor Member
    Its so frustrating. Ive been relying on lists of emulated title screens, because at least I know those are real.

    Whether they're correctly categorized is another thing.