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.

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.

Super Mario Bros. Special

Now this is a unique nugget of Mario history. Super Mario Bros. Special is an officially licensed port of Super Mario Bros. to the X1 series of computer. As we might be able to guess from the name, it is based on Super Mario Bros., but many differences exist.

One thing I’ll preface this with, the game is quite difficult because of slowdown in gameplay. I so far have only managed to make it to world 1-3. But in my experience with it, despite some frustrations, it’s an experience worth having if you are a fan of the original game.

The graphics are nearly identical to the original, but the color selection is different. Mario appears to have changed clothes for this game, and when he gets the fireflower, he ends up looking more like Luigi than Mario. The scenery also has some color changes, and while level design is based on the themes of the original (1-1 is standard overworld design, 1-2 is basically underground, 1-3 is basically flat treetops), the courses themselves are quite different.

The game experiences a lot of slowdown, and in response to this, some of the physics also change to compensate. Some things you expect you can do because of the original Super Mario Bros. may not work quite the same in this game.

And forget what you know about hidden items, they are all different here! But the end-of-level fireworks still work the same.

Update! I made it quite a bit further, to level 2-4. Here are some more adventure photos.

I think if Nintendo had made this game and published it exactly like this, slowdown and all, for the NES, Super Mario Bros. would not have spawned the Mario universe as we know it. But with the rich history of Mario games, this is a unique version that I was glad to be able to play from a historical perspective.

Ouji Binbin no Monogatari

Story of Prince Binbin. Binbin has a couple of translations, neither of which especially make sense in context of the game so far, so you can figure out the title however you want.

This seems like a good Dragon Quest-style RPG, though. It has all the typical elements of a solid RPG, from (slightly) customizable stats that grow as your character levels up, upgradeable equipment, and an open world with a good assortment of fantasy creatures.

I haven’t progressed a whole lot yet, but here is a quick look at the game so far. You start out in this castle, but the king and queen won’t talk to you until you finish their quest, saving the princess. If you leave the castle, you can’t get back in, which led to me restarting the game. There’s a person who gives you 100 credits and, at least on my first attempt, the game proved very difficult without them!

Once you leave the castle, you may want to save at the Save Store, but a word of caution: you can only save one game. This means if you start a new character, your old character will be erased!

One thing a bit brutal about the game is that you will meet enemies above your level even very near the opening area. You can often run away from them, but one hit from a strong enemy can leave you in a bad way.

The characters are quite varied and often have interesting names and designs. There is a kidney bean (it’s not a slime!) and a pile of dookie, but my personal favorite is the rock-bird-snake, which I feel bears a strong resemblance to Uma.

The nearest town is not far at all, but it took me quite a long time to get there, because I went every wrong direction first, dying multiple times in the process. Protip: someone in the castle tells you which way to go.

The town has the kinds of things you might expect in an RPG of this nature: townsfolk with helpful advice, townsfolk who waste your time, a place to sleep, a place to buy equipment and that sort of thing.

The game uses quite a bit of humor. For example, one enemy – Middle-aged Reggae Man – has an attack where he rubs his body against you. It doesn’t do any damage, but it apparently smells bad. The weapons and armor vendor in the first town starts off by trying to sell you souvenirs from the Philippines, until he remembers that was his old job. And, well, the big pile of dookie.

Eventually you die, and this guy brings you back to life. This is really strange because sometimes he is the one that kills you (either him or his blue twin brother).

Unfortunately, before I knew what would happen, I started a new character so I could get a picture of the castle, and when I did, I lost my progress so far. But I am anxious to try again!