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!

Laser Planet

After finally getting an X1 tape drive, I can now play Laser Planet! I bought it a few months ago on Mercari even though I couldn’t immediately use it, because it was a good deal.

However, one doesn’t simply play Laser Planet. It requires dB-BASIC in order to run. So you load dB-BASIC first and then you change the tape and load Laser Planet.

I don’t generally expect a lot from BASIC games because I tend to assume it’s too slow to push graphics around in an exciting way, but this game manages to pull it off well. I suppose that’s the advantage of the programmable character generator, it isn’t pushing graphics around so much as it’s pushing characters around, which BASIC can do pretty well.

The object is to bomb targets to make the lase beams disappear, allowing you to proceed to the next target. Bomb all the targets and land your spacecraft to claim victory! I think. I haven’t beat level one yet.

Xevious

This is probably the most interesting game from a media perspective. It’s Xevious for my Sharp X1 D, which means it’s one of those newfangled 3″disks. I’d never seen one before. It’s kind of interesting. Thicker than a 3.5″ disk, open slot for reading media like a 5.25″ disk. Not exactly sure of its capacity at the moment.

It was bought untested, and since it’s my first disk for this computer, the drive is also untested, and that’s an uncomfortable combination. And to be sure, things did not go great at first. My first attempt yielded the following sequence:

This is complete failure, it didn’t even recognize the boot sector. But for some reason, with vintage computers, if you try the same thing repeatedly, sometimes you get different results. They may still not be good results, but they may be different. Attempt 2:

It’s not really any more beautiful, and the end result was the same, but it did find something and tried to boot the game. That’s definitely a step in the right direction. Attempt 3:

That fourth screen was a little unnerving, and the disk repeatedly went back and forth from beginning to end of disk, but it did eventually load. Basically successful! I tried one more time and it worked about 70% faster, so I figure this is a victory. I think the disk drive or disk just needed to stretch its legs a little bit after so much disuse.

Too bad I’m not very good at this game. Oh well! It was fun watching it come to life.

Shanghai

Growing up in America, I thought Mahjong was a game of picking up matching tiles. I had OS/2 and it included a game called Mahjong which was exactly that. But in Japan, Mahjong is very different, a complicated game of strategy often centered around covert gambling that I don’t even remotely understand. In Japan, what we call Mahjong, they call Shanghai, and is often played with Mahjong tiles.

This game is simple and the only sound effect it produces is a beep, hardly fitting of the machine’s multimedia capabilities. But actually, it is designed for the Turbo series. It probably works on older machines, too, but it uses two features that the Turbo series has to offer: high-res graphics mode and the mouse.

High-res graphics are not unusual for the Turbo series. But this is a shining example of how different it is. On a tile, there are a variety of objects and pictures: numbers 1 to 9 in various formats, directions (North, South, East, West), trees (orchid, bamboo, plum, chrysanthemum), etc. The high-res graphics mode offers such a crisper image that makes them much easier on the eyes.

Mouse support, on the other hand, that’s rare! The graphics tool and music composer that were included with the X1 Turbo Z both use it, but as for games, this is the only one I’ve run across so far that has mouse support. It can also be played with the joystick or keyboard, but the mouse is o much more natural for this kind of game.

Shanghai appears to be a game of mere chance and persistence, but actually there is a bit of strategy involved, too. For example, usually you have to pick up identical tiles, but the four trees and the four seasons can be matched amongst themselves, so it pays to leave those until you need to play them, so you know which ones will be most beneficial. Or if there are three of a tile free, making sure you pick the tile that will allow access to a new tile, or get you closer to a tile that you want to access. Still, there are definitely unwinnable rounds, because two matching tiles can be stacked upon one another at the end.

Here is a progression of the board as I go down from 100% to 75% to 50% to 25% to 12.5%.

And finally the winning screen. I didn’t actually win tonight’s game, I got stuck at 12.5%, but I’d won and taken a picture of it before, so there it is, the reward for my persistence.

Don’t think of it as a spoiler, it looks much nicer in person! Give it a (few) tries!

Jelda II

I am not big on cockpit-view flight games of any kind, but this game has a very pleasant aesthetic and I enjoyed it a bit just to see how the scenes changed throughout the game. As expected, it’s a bit sluggish as it’s trying to render even these simple graphics, it is how I remember every flight sim of the day. But it has a certain charm. Not a bad way to have spent thirty minutes. Don’t think I’ll be rushing back to it, but I won’t say I’ll never try it again.