My MZ-1500 has seen quite a bit of use recently, not owing much to its own game library, but because it is MZ-700 compatible, and unlike the MZ-700, it is ready to connect to external tape drives. This allows me to play my MZ-700 tape games that I’ve converted to .wav files.
But I also kind of recently got a real, original MZ-1500 game. It’s an arcade classic – Dig Dug – but it doesn’t seem to be very popular on the MZ-1500. It’s a little lackluster in some ways, the character, enemies , rocks, and vegetables are well drawn and animated, but the background is made up of solid colors so doesn’t provide any of the texturing to the dirt that other ports do. The gameplay difficulty level is a little harsher than other ports, too, I believe.
The box is also in awful condition (although much of the smashed portion seems to be obscured by the angle). So due to its rarity it wasn’t dirt cheap (see what I did there?), but it was considerably less expensive than other games for the system I’ve seen.
QuickDisks are double-sided, so the way many of these games work is to load the data for the PCG (programmable character generator) and then instruct you to flip the disk over to load game program. But the game doesn’t actually detect if you’ve loaded the PCG data or not, so if you just load the second side, the game will work fine, you just can’t see your character, the enemies, the rocks, or the vegetables. In other words, they put a lot of effort into the PCG graphics and then left the main screen to an intern.
Sharp is heavily represented in my collection, but there are a couple of reasons. They are divided into two groups: computer division (MZ series and the oddball PC-3100) and home electronics division (X1 and X68000), which I don’t think happened at any other manufacturer. Another is that they’re just so cool-looking.
And this MZ-1500 is no exception. It’s got a black and white with blue accents theme going on. The MZ-1500 is a successor to the MZ-700, with a few key differences: it comes with a PCG (programmable character generator) for improved graphics, has improved sound, and its Achilles’ heel, it replaced the integrated tape drive with a QuickDisk drive.
Let’s compare the Mz-700 version of Pac-Man and the MZ-1500 version of Pac-Man. The MZ-700 had no graphics mode and drew its games using large pixels or symbols from the built-in character ROM. The MZ-1500 has true graphics modes, and the difference is pretty clear. The MZ-700 has a PCG expansion option, but it is rare and expensive and my understanding is it doesn’t work as well as the MZ-1500’s built-in PCG.
The concept of the QuickDisk is pretty cool, it is a slick integration with the system much like the tape drive on the MZ-700. And now the QuickDisk is a boon to my collection because of its rarity. But the QuickDisk was supposedly a means of avoiding the more expensive emerging standard of 3.5″ floppy drives. Now it’s quite difficult to find QuickDisk media, and when you do manage to find any original games, they’re often terribly expensive. I was given a backup disk with my system, it contains BASIC. I also happened into an extra blank disk a short time later.
The disks are also only 128KB in capacity, making them about 2.5x smaller than the smallest-capacity 3.5″ floppy drives. They are at least a dramatic improvement over tape speeds.
The MZ-1500 is a Z-80 CPU-based machine with the main system memory weighing in at a fairly standard 64KB. But one outstanding feature is the dual-sound chip setup. It has two SN76489 chips, giving it six octaves and the capability of producing sound in stereo.