AquaLes

This is one of the first games I got for the X68000. It made a big impression on me for its large sprites and vibrant, colorful backgrounds. It plays super smoothly and a great feeling of control, all set to a cool soundtrack.

Here are a few shots of many of the very cool scenes from the intro.

Your character is a giant robot that traverses freely in an omni-scrolling 2D world. You have a variety of weapons at your disposal with which to dispose of your enemies. There is a lot of detail in the background and some complex but fun maneuvers, such as vertical attacks and grappling to swing across large gaps.

Levels 2 and 3 are totally different in design from level 1. You leave the industrial complex of level 1 to walk through a desert and then descend into an underwater maze. Level 3 takes place in a cavern.

Sharp X1 Turbo Z Keyboard

I had a perfectly functional and definitely nice-looking Sharp X1 Turbo Z keyboard, but I managed to find one that looked just a bit better still. This one was super clean and the big advantage over my old one is that the logo had greatly faded over the years. The new one has a solid logo and red accents to match the main computer unit.

I hoped to get about 60-80% of my money back by selling the old one, but in reality I got about 40%. I guess this one’s condition qualified for the premium pricing level!

Pac-Land and Controller

I have been after this controller for quite a while. It’s a dedicated Pac-Land controller designed to mimic the arcade controls on your X68000. It uses three buttons, defaulting to: left, jump, and right. These are configurable in the in-game menu. This controller was included with the game originally, but is not required to play. However, you may find some parts difficult if you are using a regular joystick, and perhaps nearly impossible with a gamepad.

First, let’s look at the controller itself. It looks in good shape for being around 30 years old. It is a sturdy metal case, not so heavy but definitely with a bit of weight to it. It operates as expected.

I’ve always loved the Pac-Man characters, with their vibrant colors and distinct appearance. And I love the image of the original Pac-Man maze. But if I’m being brutally honest, the game is very simple and these days I can’t play it more than about once in a sitting, and with a fair amount of time between sittings.

Pac-Land and Pac-mania are great evolutions of the original; Pac-mania staying true to what made the original so loved, but adding a lot of new features, while Pac-Land takes a few key elements from the original, but heads in a bold new direction. Both became treasured games in my youth, although I only played them in the arcades. Here are some scenes from this game.

This is very faithful to the original, as X68000 games tend to be. Below is the first critical spot where the custom game controller comes in handy. When you jump off the platform to cross the lake, you crash pretty fast and land in the water, losing a life. To prevent falling, you have to alternatingly press left and right to “flutter” to the ground. I’ve managed to do it on a joystick, but it was after several failures, and it was a very deliberate task, turning the joystick ninety degrees and using my right hand to go up and down as quickly as possible, and even then I don’t always succeed. A D-pad would probably be substantially more difficult still. But these buttons make it a breeze. The jump itself can be a little difficult to nail, though.

Once you pass the lake, you continue a little bit more before you’re rewarded with special jumping boots and you can start to make your way back home. After your family greets you at home, you begin a level similar to the first, but it becomes later in the day and quite a bit more difficult. I haven’t gotten much further than this.

Game over, and this might be my highest score thus far in Pac-Land, but I’m sure it’s not that high compared to people who are actually good at the game. Gotta get in a bit more practice!

Amaranth III

I’ve always been a fan of computer RPGs. When I started getting into Japanese vintage computers, I would make a point of getting an RPG or two for every major system. Problem is, RPGs consume a lot of time, if they’re any good. So I end up just adding to a queue of RPGs that I have tested once to ensure they work, then never get around to finishing (or sometimes even starting)

One major exception sticks out, and that’s Amaranth III for FM Towns. Owing to its vibrant graphics and its varied soundtrack, it was a quick hook. The combat system is somewhat innovative and there are many still frames of beautiful artwork. I’m moving slowly because there are many new words in the game that I usually take the time to look up, but I’ve made substantial progress.

You start out assuming the roles of two deities -Rian and Deen – laying low in the inn of a small town. Deen seems to thrive on attention from the local mortals, so she has set up a dream-reading booth in the city, where she proves to be quite popular.

They catch news of a nearby fair where nemuri-byo, a state of sleep from which one doesn’t wake, is claiming victim after victim. Deen thinks she has the power to stop it by entering the dream and freeing the dreamer. They buy tickets at the train station to go to the fair, but she had raised the ire of a powerful enemy that comes in by hijacked train to attack her.

Deen and Rian defeat the enemy’s foot soldiers and escape with their lives but have to find a way to sneak out of the down now because the more powerful enemies have commandeered the train station. They decide to sneak out as stowaways on a trade ship.

On the ship, they are eventually discovered to the annoyance of the ship’s captain, but they prove themselves useful by helping the crew to defeat a band of attacking pirates. The pirate ship captain presents himself as the first boss, but it’s not quite in the realm of the main story line, sort of a tutorial boss, I feel.

After defeating the captain, you discover two hostages, a woman and a girl. We learn that the girl has nemuri-byo, but the woman is her protector and forbids Deen from trying to enter the girl’s dream to help. So as soon as the woman goes to sleep, that’s exactly what Deen does. Deen and Rian enter the dream as in-dream characters and their first real adventure begins!

One fun thing about this game so far is the animation of the spell effects. Healing spells are pretty simple, but check out the fire and ice spell animations.

FM16π

This is actually my second FM16π, that is supposed to be a “pi” symbol but it looks pretty much like a table in some fonts. This one came along and offered some obvious benefits over my first, so I decided to bite the bullet on it and sell my first one to cover some of the costs.

First benefit, it comes with this handsome, dedicated briefcase with the logo in white on the bottom right.

Everything fits snugly inside, including the special printer, the second benefit over my first one. It’s kind of a novelty, so I am not sure if I will keep the printer or not, but given the perfect fit in the briefcase, it sort of seems like those two items should be kept or sold together. I took them both out and the system powered on without issue, the printer readied itself for printing.

And the third benefit I knew about when making the purchase is that the FM16π itself is much cleaner. Here’s its glamour session:

And the printer’s:

And there was also one hidden benefit over my original system. Either this is a slightly different model with more memory, or it has had a memory upgrade performed, I would guess up to 512KB, whereas my first FM16π probably had 256KB. I’m just guesstimating by the reported free memory when launching F-BASIC86, it’s about 230KB greater than before. I’m sure I’ll never put it to use.

It is a CP/M-86 based system, and in addition to BASIC it comes with a menu program, a terminal program, and JW (I think this is short for J-Word). Either my installation is incomplete (on both of the FM16π systems that I’ve used), or commands and capabilities of this implementation of CP/M-86 are different, because I haven’t been able to execute many commands successfully. The menu system offers some system setup options, so you can do things like change the date outside of the command prompt. Actually, I don’t even know if you can change it from the command prompt.

J-Word is a menu-driven text editor? Word processor? I’m not sure which category it falls into yet. The menu commands are plenty, but they don’t really seem to be much about formatting, so I guess it’s probably a text editor. In any event, it’s the program in my possession most ready to start printing, so I fired it up and set the printer to task.

Results were not fantastic, but using 30-year-old printing ribbon doesn’t do anyone any favors, especially since it was opened and installed. I can read most of it. I tried changing the settings, both in software and hardware. The menu allows you to choose a 16-or 24-pin kanji printer, defaulting to 24 but setting it to 16 only produced those black squares, so that clearly wasn’t the answer. The printer has a dial for light or heavy printing, and the final image is set to the two extremes, neither of which addressed the problem of splotches of completely missing print. So now I have to decide whether to open one of the two spare ribbons it came with to see if it works or not.