Sharp X1 D 3″ Disk Lot

Some of the hardest things to find are Sharp X1 D disks. If you’re not familiar, the X1 D uses 3″ disks, as opposed to 3.5″ disks. Physically quite different and totally incompatible. Even as blanks they’re rare and usually expensive. I found these on Mercari, and even after talking the guy down 25%, I still wouldn’t say I got a great deal on these or anything, but there were many (a lot of 19) and I hope to get most of my money back by selling my duplicates and some blanks.

The breakdown was 8 blanks or copies and 11 original game disks. The first relief was that there didn’t appear to be any scratches or mold on them. That’s a good start. The second step was actually testing them.

It was a bit of a daunting task, but I tested all disks in one night, including taking photographs of all games and other processing, finishing at about 4am! The originals all work, including the main system disk, which was a giant relief. A couple of the copies didn’t work initially, but upon testing a few times and deciding it was best to format them, they are all working fine now.

As for the blanks, I formatted each one and wrote the simplest of programs to test saving, loading, and deleting from each disk. No problems.

The system disk is probably the most valuable and I already have a copy, so its successful operation is key to getting a good chunk of my money back. I wrote a simple program and ran the system demo, and used the above utility (called “Utility”) to duplicate the system disk, in an effort to test it as best I could. The sleeve was from my own copy, this one didn’t come with one.

Next up in order of interest was Xevious. Not that interesting because I already have it. It was the first game I got for my X1 D. But this copy also works. It’s a solid port of a decently fun game, making good use of the X1’s graphics.

And then in no particular order, I tested the remaining nine games. Two of the games are in a series called “Meruhen” (Japanese take on the German “Märchen”, or fairy tales), which I believe eventually spawned a fairly popular game, called Meruhen Maze. It’s easy and not inaccurate to say it’s for kids, but it’s really rather well done, with crisp, colorful graphics and unique gameplay.

Here is Meruhen Part I, which involves a sheep herder trying to corral her sheep into her gate, and a series of animal siblings where you play a slightly nervous sibling trying to get your share of food.

And here’s Part II, this one includes three games. The first one you play a pig who is trying to grow plants that turn into butterflies. Other animals are trying to take the flowers, so you have to douse them in water so they run away. The second game you try to throw bananas at monkeys carrying numbers, so that the numbers you hit add up to a multiple of 10. And finally, you play a rabbit running through a forest to find someone that the pig wants to talk to, first by finding something that the requested animal wants to eat, then finding the target animal. It’s all very cute.

Tired of fairy tales? Good news is we’re now onto the more typical games, but I gotta say this guy has good taste, there are a lot of gems in here that I’ve never heard of before. Here’s one translated as “The Bank”, but the Japanese reads “bank robbery”, and it’s really quite a satisfyingly violent game. You have to shoot the bad guys three or four times, or else their mutilated bodies reform and you have to shoot them again. Later, different kinds of enemies come out, like a robber-driven car or an exploding-barrel tosser. This game seems to have gotten an English release, as well, called Machinegun Joe vs. The Mafia.

One game I was curious about was Donkey Kong 3: The Great Counterattack. Donkey Kong 3 was a game from back in the day that just didn’t make a huge impression on me. But this version does. The arcade classic takes place in a greenhouse, but this version takes place in a variety of outdoor scenes. Although the X1 is far more graphically capable, it looks like these images were made using a CGA palette, with the fuller palette only being used on the surrounding text and the characters.

Another one in the lot was Enma Daio (Judge of the Afterlife). You play a character opening up graves and… passing judgement? Or grabbing things to throw at your enemies, who, much like your own character, are quite cute. I had a pretty tough time trying to figure this game out, though. The title screen (which isn’t much of a title screen) leads me to think there’s more to this game, but I haven’t gotten out of the graveyard.

There were a pair of disks called Game Pack II and Game Pack III, each containing two games. I guess these are similar to the Mastertronic 2 on 1 releases in days of old.

Game Pack II has Gang Man, where you play a gangster driving a car and shooting out the window at other gangsters who are shooting back at you out of the windows of their cars. It’s pretty difficult, even from level one, the other gangsters often get me within a couple of seconds, but it’s noteworthy for its big car graphics that maneuver fairly smoothly around the screen, and the short bonus clock ratchets up the intensity. The other game is Power Fail, where you try to repair a power grid that the “bad old man” comes along and breaks. You can use two tools, a set of pliers to repair the grid, or a hammer to bop the bad old man on the head so he can’t move for a while.

And Game Pack III comes with a theme – animal games. The first one is Kaeru Shooter, or Frog Shooter, and the other is Za Spider, or The Spider. Kaeru Shooter has a 3D perspective but the graphics and gameplay are pretty simple. You see something, you shoot it. The Spider looked like it was going to be a Tempest style game at first, but it turned out to be more similar in gameplay to Centipede.

Flight Simulator I thought for sure was going to be an immediate “sell it” game for me, because I find flight simulators to be dreadfully boring. But this was pretty light on the “simulation”, and pretty heavy on the “things to shoot”, but it managed to strike a different enough balance that it didn’t feel like a standard space shooter. It’s pretty fun, so I’ll keep it for now. Similar to Jelda, reviewed elsewhere on this site. Pretty cool aesthetics, and one of few games to come with a real cover and instructions.

And finally, there was Maharito the Magician. It a witch-on-a-broom twist to a horizontal shooter game. A little unexpectedly, in my opinion, instead of zapping someone with a magic beam or a fireball, you hurl hammers at your enemies.

By 4am I was getting a bit tired, but it was a good experience and I found a lot of treasures in this lot. Looking forward to playing some more!

National JR-200

This machine surfaced on Mercari a few weeks ago and I was considering its purchase, but hesitated. It wasn’t the cheapest JR-200 I’d ever seen by a long shot, but it was in pretty good condition, came with the box and manuals, and even one game, even if it is just Bingo. Eventually the seller lowered by about 20% and I thought I might as well go ahead and grab it.

Fortunately, it worked. It powered on and displayed its BASIC screen over digital RGB. Every keypress responds, and a simple BASIC program produced the expected simple results. That’s a good start!

It’s easy to dismiss this machine at first, with its cheap-seeming rubber keyboard and lack of graphics mode. But the keyboard is surprisingly responsive and is more enjoyable to type on than the modern cheapo keyboard I use at work. I am not sure yet how the lack of graphics mode will play out. The MZ-700 also lacks a graphics mode and it is a great machine, so this may prove to be enjoyable, too.

It is equipped with a 6802-compatible CPU and 32KB of memory, but manages to leave a substantial amount available to BASIC. It has two standard joystick ports and a dedicated audio-out port so one might expect it to be a pretty good gaming machine, but I don’t think that panned out to be the case.

The box was not in excellent shape, having tears especially noticeable around the handle, but if you close everything carefully and as tightly as possible, it looks pretty decent.

The manuals are a little rough on the covers but the insides seem to have aged well.

It came with the digital RGB cable tucked neatly enough in its box that I could imagine it’d never been used before, although that’s not likely the case.

The game is called Bingo25. There are a series of these games that all have the same cover artwork and color scheme. I have a feeling they’re all fairly unexciting.

And Bingo25 is no exception. It’s not 100% straightforward Bingo, but it’s not different enough to be engaging. The main difference is that you and the computer take turns matching the numbers and the first person to five bingos wins. I think it’s an overstatement to say there’s any sort of strategy, it’s enough to just pay attention. As long as you focus on making bingos that utilize the middle piece first, and react sensibly to what the computer does, you’ll often win or tie If you choose to go first, you’ll win even more often. I played just enough to get my first victory. May not ever load it again!

Sharp X1 Floppy Drives

This has been an active week for my X1 systems. First, I picked up a set of two external floppy drives. There was a disk stuck in one of them, and it wouldn’t come out by conventional methods. Upon opening it, I saw that drive head was in the down position and wouldn’t come up either by the drive lever or gentle force. So I began the very technical task of poking my finger at various things, and eventually found whatever it was waiting for and it sprang back up.

After closing the drive back up, I found the jumpers (on the bottom of the drive, but semi-conveniently accessible through a special compartment under the enclosure) and set the IDs to 1 and 2 so I could connect them to my X1 D with single floppy drive. First I tried the until-recently embattled drive, by using the excavated disk. Boom, BASIC loaded. Sweet! The second drive also worked without issue.

A few days later, I got another X1 D. That one had two floppy drives, but my own X1 D was in (slightly) better condition. I removed one of the drives and placed it in my own X1 D so now I have a dual-drive system. Beauty! I used the dual-drive setup to copy the system disk, which of course can be done on a single-drive system, but goes much smoother and faster with two. I may never actually use the second drive again, though.

Getting back to the external drives, I was having a conversation with the seller through Yahoo’s transaction messaging system. I told him that the drives worked great and he told me he had some extra copied disks that were used with the system, and that he would send them to me free of charge if I wanted them. Sure! This was quite a few more than I bargained for, though, I think there must be about 100! Might have to find a discrete way to offload some of them to someone else who may use them.

I also finalized (for now!) the location of the external drives. They are on my X1 Turbo Z, which has the internal drives disabled so I can use my HxC. Re-enabling them requires opening up the system each time, so I don’t change often. But now with these external drives, it’s a breeze!

I set the IDs of the external drives back to 0 and 1. Drive 0 is connected to the system, and drive 1 is connected to the rear of drive 0. The HxC is also set to units 0 and 1, and it is connected to the rear of drive 1. When powered off, the external drives still pass through to the HxC, so I don’t have to futz with the IDs. If I power on the external drives, though, it will obviously cause a conflict, so if I want to use them, the only thing I have to do is unplug the USB power to the HxC. This is sooo slick, even better than I’d imagined!

The photo came out a little dark, but if you look carefully near the bottom, you’ll see the two external drives under the FM-8, with the HxC drive emulator sitting between them.

The only shortcoming is that the internal drives are 2HD/2DD while the external ones are 2DD only. But I think all of the logic is controlled by the internal controller, so I someday may try putting the 2HD drives into the external enclosures.

FM Towns UX20

I bought this machine at a pretty bargain price because it was shown to power up, but not display anything. It went for about 25-30% of the typical final price (with free shipping!) because nobody, including me, wants an FM Towns with an integrated monitor that doesn’t work. But I decided to take a risk, because I had a sneaking suspicion that there was a low-tech fix.

When I received it, sure enough, it powered on but didn’t display anything. That’s when I jumped into action to test my hand at “repairing” it. My strategy was to put my index finger on those brightness and contrast knobs and push them *up*. The assumption that this was actually the problem was unfounded, I had no evidence based on the auction, but was willing to take the risk at that price.

Just because a suspicion is unfounded doesn’t mean it isn’t correct. Fortune smiled upon me, this monitor is still beautiful!

I threw Bubble Bobble at it because I think the bright and vibrant colors and their contrast on the black screen really make the compact Trinitron monitor shine. The loading screen is also cute.

Sharp MZ-80B

This behemoth is already out of my collection, but it’s no fault of its own. It’s a lovely machine. I picked it up on Mercari and it worked perfectly. It was in beautiful condition and came with its original box and cover. It has a very cool APSS (automatic program search system) to navigate cassettes. And it’s got such a cool aesthetic!

But either it or my MZ-80K2 had to go because they’re so similar and both so big. This one would have required a complete reconfiguration of my computer rack in order to accommodate, and the box would have to go either way. In the end, the K2 was more practical. But the B will be remembered fondly. Side-by-side for comparison.

It took me a while to get BASIC to load. I found a tape image of BASIC fairly quickly, but there were some interesting hurdles. First, depending on the wav file, you can’t simply record the file to tape. It has to be played back at a 30% speed increase. Once I figured that out, I got BASIC to load, but there was a minor problem. Katakana characters appeared, but the order was totally different. This is due to there being a Japanese version and a European version of the machine. I had the European BASIC running on the Japanese machine. I could not find the Japanese version anywhere, but fortunately someone from a Facebook group I am on was kind enough to provide me with it. I was able to load BASIC and a few programs on it, including Pro Racer and Yume no Pro Yakyu.

One thing I kind of struggle to understand is why Sharp made these computer series, the MZ series, but made two separate branches of compatibility. I would think MZ would be one series and for example XZ another series, or MZ-80 series and for example MZ-5000 series, but in reality, there’s like, MZ-80A/B/C/K/K2/K2E as well as MZ-700/1500/1200/2200/etc. And it’s totally unintuitive which are compatible with each other. I guess it adds to part of the excitement?