Shanghai

“Shanghai, AGAIN?!” you aggressively wonder. Yes, again. It was the first game I used to test my Sharp X1, Shanghai II was the first game I used to test my PC-8801MA2, and now Shanghai is the first game I used to test my X68000. You might think I have some obsession with the game, but it’s not precisely true. I think I’ll write a comparison post later that goes into greater detail. But for now, this is Shanghai on my X68000.

I bought the original disk from BEEP in Akihabara. It was dirt cheap at 280 yen, because there was no box, no manual, and there was mold on the disk. I’m sure a disk without mold wouldn’t have cost much more, as even a boxed version would probably sell at 1000 yen, but this was the only copy they had. Of course, I cleaned off any excess mold before using it in my drive.

And then it’s standard fare for Shanghai. Find the matching tiles and remove them from the game board until you have cleared it. This game hardly stresses the limits of the X68000, but it is a clean looking version of the game. The only option for game control is the mouse, so if you don’t have that, you’re kinda stuck looking at the game board and planning your first move until your mouse arrives.

Luck was with me once again, as I managed to complete the round to 100% and get the winning screen shot. Here we have my standard progression of 100% ⇒ 75% ⇒ 50% ⇒ 25% ⇒ 12.5% ⇒ last two tiles ⇒ finish.

And a standard picture as well as an animated GIF of the winning screen. Just noticed the GIF is 32MB! Well, load it if you want to, but depending on my server’s response time at any given moment, it could take a while!

HuCAL

I picked up this MZ-700 application. I enjoy poking around with them, just to see what productivity was really like back then. The most productivity I can recall doing back in my childhood was using Magic Desk I on the Commodore 128. It was basically a typewriter emulator, so doing more sophisticated things like this spreadsheet application is a pretty new experience for me.

It loaded (on the fourth time) and I was up and running. I could figure out some of the basics, such as entering text, entering numbers, inserting and deleting rows and columns, adjusting column width, and entering the expression editor to perform simple mathematical calculations. The one thing I really would like to figure out but couldn’t is how to perform calculations by cell reference (for example, in Excel, navigating to C1 and entering “=A1+B1” would add the values of A1 and B1 and put it in cell C1). I can’t seem to find any syntax for it online, and in fact, I can’t seem to find much about this program at all! So it’s more a curiosity.

King’s Quest V

This is one of the more modern titles that I will be likely to include on my site. It was made in 1990, comes on a CD, and is even (poorly) voice-acted. There is also a non-voiced version, but this is for the FM Towns so of course they’re going to go as multimedia as possible. I played this on DOS back in the mid-90s when I got my first PC-compatible. But the FM Towns version is different in that it is fully voiced in Japanese.

You play King Graham of Daventry, who loses his castle to an evil wizard. You wander around the land, trying to reverse the spell to return your castle and your family. You are joined by Cedric the Owl, a character that I really wanted to like because I thought it was cute, but is annoying throughout the game. Very little in this game is done by directly pursuing a goal, but instead finding items, using those items in the correct way, and unlocking different interactions that help to progress your game.

Foul fowl aside, the game is really as I remember it. It is such eye-candy. The 2-D artwork and music work together to make a beautiful and rich fantasy environment. It is the first game that I can recall that showed me how the PC was going to be superior in terms of graphics to the Commodore 64 (although of course I would eventually come to prefer the C64 again later in life, anyway). But just look at these shots from the introduction:

There was a period in time where computers had incredible introductions but just couldn’t deliver the same level of graphics in the actual gameplay, but this game does not fall in that category; it is beautiful throughout. Here is a bit from the early scenes of the game, as he makes his way into town:

There are a variety of ways Graham can get himself into trouble, even by doing innocuous-seeming things like walking into an inn. Nothing to do but load your last save game and try something different.

The landscapes created for each page are so varied and detailed that just wandering around the land itself is satisfying:

I never actually finished this game in DOS, I got stuck somewhere probably near the end. I seem to remember my score was nearly 300/300, but I fell short. I hope to finish it this time!

Zeliard

This is a pretty top-notch X1 Turbo Z game! It has vibrant and beautiful artwork and displays over the 24KHz video mode if your monitor supports it. The menu selection cursor moves smoothly and the entire screen scrolls more smoothly than most on this system. Here are some photos from the pre-introduction.

The introduction is filled with nice artwork. They really put some effort into this, and it shows. It appears that the amulet the princess wears in the introduction is cursed and turns her to stone. The story begins here.

The sound is quite impressive, too! It uses the FM synthesis for the soundtrack, and unlike some other RPGs I’d played on this system before, this soundtrack is complex and varied. Sound effects are also nicely done. It even includes some digitized speech scattered throughout the game.

Some digitized speech appears in the introduction. Umm. It’s early digitized speech, so I can totally cut it some slack, but… this timing. If you watch the below video, just as the video is about to end, the text says “She had a smile like the sun and a voice than rang like a bell throughout the land.” And then she speaks, and… well… just watch the video.

Like a bell!

That said, they use the digitized speech to good effect elsewhere, for example when the demon speaks. Legitimately, that should stay, it sounds really good!

The gameplay is a bit like Castlevania II, you walk around towns and dungeons in a 2D platform world. As opposed to Castlevania II, though, there are some proper establishments in this game, including magic shops, weapon shops, banks, churches, and fortune tellers. Use the bank to save money you don’t need, because if you die you lose all the money you are carrying. Visit the fortune teller to save your game. Each business owner has their own distinct personality.

And then there are the dungeons. The controls for combat are straightforward and work pretty well. The game automatically makes you slash upward if there is an enemy above, and you can also slash down if you are goinng to fall onto an enemy. You can even squash enemies with hovering platforms in some locations.

X68000 Complications

I have had an X68000 on my radar for some time, but hesitated to buy one because they are notoriously expensive and failure-prone machines. Maintenance and/or repair are a must, and I’m ill-equipped to do it myself. But I took a risk. I bought one on Yahoo Auctions for a very reasonable price, untested, not very coveted model (X68000 Pro), no keyboard or mouse, and a little scratched up. Between the low ending price and a 10% off coupon I had, I didn’t have to pay much at all.

And I got it, plugged it in, and *boom*, it just worked. Kind of. It powered on and showed me the “feed me a disk” screen, which is where I had to give up on the first night. Oh, also, I suppose it was technically incorrect to say there is no keyboard. It has this softkeyboard you can bring up with the right mouse button. Seems to work both in the opening screen and the OS.

The next day, I went to BEEP in Akihabara and found a disk to test, also on the cheap, because it had mold. I cleaned off the big mold and put it in the drive and tested it. The drive put two scratches around the edge of the disk and refused to load it. Sadistic. 🙁

So I took it apart and cleaned out the drive and chassis. It was by far the dustiest computer I’ve ever worked on! While I had it open, I took it apart enough to check for battery leakage. Seems okay in that department.

I cleaned both drive heads and swapped them for good measure. Powered it back on and it was able to successfully load my disk!

And that’s where the problems began. While initially it powered on fine and reliably perhaps a dozen times, after finally reassembling the whole thing and closing the case for the last time (haha), it didn’t power on. A few power cycles later and I saw a little flicker, and then it turned on. And the whole next day, that’s how it was. It wouldn’t power on immediately, although it did work okay once it eventually decided to power on.

Anyway, even if this is not my final machine, I need a keyboard and mouse, so I perused Yahoo Auctions again. Keyboards and mice are expensive for this machine. 12000-25000 yen for various keyboards and 5000-10000 yen for mice. But then I noticed an entire system, X68000 plus mouse and keyboard, for only 15000 yen, ending in about an hour. Indeed, I was able to win the auction for less than the price of some keyboards alone. And it brought hope that the X68000 would just magically work.

Finally arrives and indeed, it did work! For about 30 minutes. Then the video wigged out and now it doesn’t work at all. But the machine itself is such a masterpiece of computer design. It is such a unique piece, I have decided to hold onto it for a bit and then get it repaired.

In the meantime, I am using the X68000 Pro, which is hobbling along a little bit better than two days before, with the original X68000 mouse and keyboard. My next step is to see if I can get the HxC floppy emulator communicating with the machine so I don’t have to worry about buying expensive games and risking disk damage. But soon, I think that gray tower is going to be a fantastic addition to my collection!