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.

Shogun – A Word Processor for my X1

As I mention from time to time, I enjoy checking out and using productivity apps on my old machines. I recently joined Mercari and I found this little treasure nobody wanted.

It’s Shogun, a word processor for the Sharp X1 Turbo Z. Yes, you need to go all the way to the Z model, because it comes on high-density floppy disks. Actually, the disk claims it’s for X1 Turbo, so it was probably released on double-density floppy disks, as well.

When you boot up, you are greeted by this beautiful opening screen. I had to get an animation of it!

But once you get down to business, the glamour of the fancy title screen fades away quickly and you are greeted by a blindingly white screen.

I’ll need to go back and take some better screenshots sometime. They looked pretty good on my phone, but uploading to full size they are quite blurry. For now, here are my low-quality captures of my text-typing adventures. The images kind of tell the story as I go, if you can read them First in English:

Then a Japanese entry tutorial. Figuring out how to enter Japanese was a bit counter-intuitive, because they re-purposed the kana key on the keyboard. So I had to tell the menu to use full-width entry, then to use Japanese by pressing the kana key on the keyboard, which normally only allows you to type in using direct Japanese symbols, which is an outdated method of text entry. The software is smart enough to use romaji entry, so might as well take advantage of that, for sure!

And one more type-up in pure Japanese. It was nowhere near as smooth to type as it is in modern Windows, but I could get the hang of it a bit.

And that’s my run with Shogun!

Super Rambo

This is a game I received as part of a large batch of images a while back (thanks, Chris!). I tried it tonight for the first time. I *knew* this was going to be interesting just by the first screen.

Gosh, I just don’t know! How about the first one, I guess? But it didn’t take long to figure out what was what.

Actually it’s a little deceiving, the demo isn’t actually a demo. What they’re really asking is if you want to watch the introduction (four looping screens with some simple animation), or just load the game directly. Kind of wish that was a standard option, to reduce waiting for unnecessary loading time for those who are ready to just jump in. But some of the graphics in the opening screens are nicely done.

The game is a lot less straightforward action and a lot more exploring than similar games. As is often the case, I couldn’t get very far. I explored about twenty screens or so and usually I end up dying by stepping on a landmine. Maybe there’s an option to detect them? Or maybe if I can keep that guy alive at the beginning, he shows me where to go without stepping on a landmine? I’m not sure, because he keeps disappearing after getting to the first enemy barracks. Captured? Beats me!

It can sometimes be a bit challenging without a manual, actually. I played the game for quite a while before I learned you could crawl by pressing the tab key. I sometimes press every key if I get stuck in a game, but there are a lot of combinations because I may have mistakenly pressed the kana key, which puts it in a different mode, or some games only recognize upper-case key presses, which I often forget about.

There was a saved game file on the disk so I loaded it just to see what it was like, but I probably won’t go back to it. Definitely better to figure the game out for myself!

Hot Dog

I had been looking forward to this game based on my experiences with Epyx’s Winter Games Hot Dog event, which was very fun. I couldn’t imagine how they were going to turn that one event into an entire game, but I was anxious to try. What I got was a totally different experience.

The game seems a bit ambitious. It’s a 3D skiing simulator, undoubtedly a daunting task for early-80s computers. For what it is (the screen is like 75% white), the graphics are reasonably nice. Gameplay is choppy, but that improves as you go faster.

Here are some photos from the opening demo, which is first-person. There may be a way to switch to first-person in the actual game, too, I am not sure.

Here is from the actual game play. Amazing, they actually allotted enough characters to enter my full nickname!

Here’s what I don’t like. There are some events (all skiing). Perhaps it is my Epyx upbringing, but when there are multiple events, I want the opportunity to practice them or jump to my favorites. This game forces you to qualify in order to proceed to the next event. This seems to be a common approach in these Japanese mini-game games. The Hyper Sports and Hyper Sports Olympics games work the same way.

Somehow, 12 minutes was okay to qualify for the slalom (I *think* I know how to go faster now!) so I was able to proceed to the Mogul. Over 2 minutes means you are disqualified from the Mogul, which was surprising because I was going much faster! You probably can’t tell, but I got “serious air” in the first picture here.

HxC on Sharp X1

There’s a good chance you know this device already. It’s a floppy disk emulator. Here’s how it is supposed to work: you take a well-organized, homogeneous group of disk image files, tell the software to bulk-convert the images to .HFE format, move them to a SD card, plug the SD card into the emulator device, and plug the device into the computer. And in theory it is pretty much that simple. Here’s an idea of what it looks like:

First is the hardware kit:

And then connected to a computer, loading a game (first directory, then file, then using the disk image):

It keeps track of the current drive (it supports up to two drives simultaneously), the current operation (R)ead or (W)rite, the current track, the total number of tracks, and the side of the disk being accessed (0 or 1). Here it is in action, loading Galaga from system bootup.

And there you have it, Galaga is ready to go!

But here’s my story about prepping a batch of X1 images to work on the HxC emulator. Learn from my mistake; don’t do it the way I did it the first time!

A while ago, I had images for about 180 games to process, some with multiple disks, for my Sharp X1 Turbo Z. I was given a mish-mash of .2D and .D88 files to work through. As D88 is a supported format by the HxC conversion software, I was able to conveniently bulk-convert to HFE, everything worked ultra-smooth with those files. Cool!

.2D, on the other hand, was a nightmare. The only converter from .2D to .D88 that I could locate was an ancient command-line tool that Windows 10 won’t even touch. I set up Windows XP on my machine via VirtualBox, but that was where the tedium began. I had to rename files to meet 8.3 standards and manually make a batch file that processes each file independently (no batch mode on the converter). Then move everything back to the non-virtual machine and convert *those* files and, in some cases, merge them with the files that were already in .D88 format, and usually rename them back to long filename standards.

But I powered through it. It was like 100 games that were in .2D format and it wasn’t worth asking for help regarding a better way to do it, and waiting for answers.

A few months later, I found a much bigger collection, about 900 images! And it was again a mish-mash of the two formats. I had a lot more motivation to ask for help this time!

The creator of the HxC floppy emulator is very helpful and active on his Facebook group. He answered me within a couple of hours, asked for an example .2D file, and showed me that I could set up the converter software to treat .2D files as raw files, by setting the correct disk parameters.

Unfortunately, even with this solution, I still can’t bulk-convert in one big batch, because the software doesn’t handle raw images and prepared format images simultaneously. But it did save me the whole process of renaming, moving to virtual machine, creating the batch file, moving back to the host machine, and reverting the names. So although it was about five times the number of images, I finished in less total time!

If you find yourself in this situation, here are the steps you need to follow to use .2D files as raw. First window, click “Batch converter”. Second window, check “Treat input files as RAW files.” Third window contains the parameters you need to set for the conversion to work correctly. Now when you select a directory of .2D files to bulk-convert, it should output an identical directory structure with .HFE files!

As some games or collections have a mixture of .2D and .D88 files, the most confusing step is to separate those and convert separately, then putting them back in the same directory once they’re in .HFE format. It’s also a good idea to use your favorite file rename utility so you don’t have massively long filenames, because the device screen can only display 16 characters at a time. My recommendation (although this is a fair bit more manual) is to make a directory with the game name, but inside the directory simply call the files disk1.hfe, disk2,hfe, etc.