This is one of the first games I got for the X68000. It made a big impression on me for its large sprites and vibrant, colorful backgrounds. It plays super smoothly and a great feeling of control, all set to a cool soundtrack.
Here are a few shots of many of the very cool scenes from the intro.
Your character is a giant robot that traverses freely in an omni-scrolling 2D world. You have a variety of weapons at your disposal with which to dispose of your enemies. There is a lot of detail in the background and some complex but fun maneuvers, such as vertical attacks and grappling to swing across large gaps.
Levels 2 and 3 are totally different in design from level 1. You leave the industrial complex of level 1 to walk through a desert and then descend into an underwater maze. Level 3 takes place in a cavern.
I have been after this controller for quite a while. It’s a dedicated Pac-Land controller designed to mimic the arcade controls on your X68000. It uses three buttons, defaulting to: left, jump, and right. These are configurable in the in-game menu. This controller was included with the game originally, but is not required to play. However, you may find some parts difficult if you are using a regular joystick, and perhaps nearly impossible with a gamepad.
First, let’s look at the controller itself. It looks in good shape for being around 30 years old. It is a sturdy metal case, not so heavy but definitely with a bit of weight to it. It operates as expected.
I’ve always loved the Pac-Man characters, with their vibrant colors and distinct appearance. And I love the image of the original Pac-Man maze. But if I’m being brutally honest, the game is very simple and these days I can’t play it more than about once in a sitting, and with a fair amount of time between sittings.
Pac-Land and Pac-mania are great evolutions of the original; Pac-mania staying true to what made the original so loved, but adding a lot of new features, while Pac-Land takes a few key elements from the original, but heads in a bold new direction. Both became treasured games in my youth, although I only played them in the arcades. Here are some scenes from this game.
This is very faithful to the original, as X68000 games tend to be. Below is the first critical spot where the custom game controller comes in handy. When you jump off the platform to cross the lake, you crash pretty fast and land in the water, losing a life. To prevent falling, you have to alternatingly press left and right to “flutter” to the ground. I’ve managed to do it on a joystick, but it was after several failures, and it was a very deliberate task, turning the joystick ninety degrees and using my right hand to go up and down as quickly as possible, and even then I don’t always succeed. A D-pad would probably be substantially more difficult still. But these buttons make it a breeze. The jump itself can be a little difficult to nail, though.
Once you pass the lake, you continue a little bit more before you’re rewarded with special jumping boots and you can start to make your way back home. After your family greets you at home, you begin a level similar to the first, but it becomes later in the day and quite a bit more difficult. I haven’t gotten much further than this.
Game over, and this might be my highest score thus far in Pac-Land, but I’m sure it’s not that high compared to people who are actually good at the game. Gotta get in a bit more practice!
Some games that run at 15kHz (Syvalion is the only one that comes to mind right now; most 15kHz games didn’t have this problem) were too wide on my monitor. The edges of the game were not visible. I thought I would just adjust the horizontal size, but of the kajillion buttons under the front panel, not one of them adjusts horizontal size. So I took it apart (something I loathe doing with CRTs because of the risk of death if you’re not careful, and frankly I’m not always careful, although I suspect I’m more careful than usual with an open CRT) and looked for the horizontal size pot on the inside.
Well, I can’t say with certainty that it wasn’t there, because there are a kajillion billion more pots on the inside. But the clearly labeled ones were not related to horizontal size. They are all for controlling color – if you look at the pots from the front (brown side of the board), left to right, there’s red bias, green bias, blue bias, red drive, and blue drive. That info was handy later as I needed to adjust something a bit on a different monitor, but in the end I couldn’t adjust the horizontal size.
While I had it apart, though, I took the opportunity to give the big outer shell a shower. I didn’t think about potential damage to the sticker, but fortunately it wasn’t especially problematic.
Dried it off and it’s back in action, beautiful as always!
Now I will take the opportunity to post about my X68000 Expert itself. As I mentioned in my previous post, which details the various stops along the way of getting an X68000, this was a serviced and guaranteed working system, meaning it was not cheap. But these are such problem-prone machines I wanted to have the best chance possible of continued operation.
The machine is in very good, but not perfect, cosmetic condition. All cosmetic flaws are easily overlooked by focusing on the unique and elegant design. There’s just nothing like this, past or present, and probably not in the future, either.
The official peripherals are also quite unique. There are many keys on this system that you won’t find on most other machines, and I’m not just talking about the Japanese entry keys. There are option keys and XF keys and other keys, many of which I still haven’t figured out the use for. I’ll need to spend some more time exploring this system, for sure. There are also a lot of keys that have status LEDs directly on the keys, which can make for a cool effect.
The mouse, too, is very clever. It has a mouse mode and a trackball mode. To switch into trackball mode, turn it over so the ball rolls to the top of the mouse’s body, and lock it in place by sliding the selector on the bottom from M to T. Then remove the cap from the top of the mouse. To put it back in mouse mode, just reverse the process. There are also two left buttons and two right buttons, one set on the top and one set on the sides. The mouse body can also be rotated 90 degrees, which I assume is for trackball mode should you want your buttons on the side instead of in front of the ball.
The underlying OS is called Human68k and certainly resembles DOS, although it appears to be different under the hood.
And much like MS-DOS has Windows, Human68k has SX-Window. It is not really multi-taking, just provides a simple GUI for common tasks. In a way, it reminds me more of GEOS for the Commodore 64. This is a basic version that is designed primarily to launch Gradius, but you can do things like copy files, make folders, set up the system timer, make notes, etc.
The software bundled with the system also includes a word processor, which, as far as I can tell, is called 日本語ワードプロセッサ, which translates to “Japanese Word Processor.” Clever name, fellas. It might be a bit under-featured for its time, but I guess the only thing I can compare it to is Word Perfect for DOS, which I suppose was ahead of its time, so perhaps this was the average? It’s a GUI-based WYSIWYG word processor, except I don’t think the WYSIWYG is 100%. Maybe 80-90%. Anyway, here it is, processing words.
The OS and productivity applications are interesting to me, but this system is about games, games, and more games! The X68000 is legendary for games. Famously, Capcom did their contemporary arcade game development on these machines, so the X68000 home versions might be identical to the coin-op version. Other companies also made stellar games because this system packs a serious graphics punch.
Here are some popular games in action: Gradius and Daimakai Mura (Ghouls n’ Ghosts, one of Capcom’s releases). As this isn’t a game introduction, I’m not going to explain much here, just a bit of showing off graphics. But look at the detail in the background of Daimakai Mura, it’s so meticulous!
This post turned out very differently from my intention. I just wanted to introduce the X68000 hardware that I currently have. But that will happen later. Once I started typing this out, I realized I wanted to find out one thing – the bottom line. So while I don’t usually talk about exact prices on this blog, this is an exception.
Last summer, I went back to the US to visit my family and friends. One stop on the list of places to go was my friend Chris’s house. I had been sending him pieces to get his own X68000 system, but they had only passed through my hands in transit, I’d never even plugged the system in. Of course, I had interest, but I didn’t pursue it. So when I visited his house, I saw the whole setup, and boy was it impressive.
When I got back home, I had the general sense I was going to get one, myself, but no solid plan. Then one day I saw an auction on Yahoo ending in about two hours. It was an X68000 Pro sitting at 10000 yen with very little time remaining. Operating condition was unknown. I took a risk and got it for 15000 yen. When I received it, I could only confirm that it displayed video, because I had no mouse, keyboard, or software (well, my X1 mouse actually works with it, and the mouse can conjure up a software keyboard, so I was technically just in need of software). This began a convoluted journey to where I am now.
So the next step in the rabbit hole was getting a mouse and keyboard and some games. I found another X68000 (first generation) that also was in unknown operating condition. It was a little more expensive, but it came with a mouse and keyboard, so for 22000, that is considered a pretty decent deal on this usually expensive system.
The X68000 didn’t work, but the mouse and keyboard were fine. They were gray and my Pro was black, so it was a bit of a mismatch, but it got the job done. I also picked up Shanghai at Beep in Akihabara so I could test if it loaded or not. Basically, the X68000 Pro worked fine, but one of my disk drives put scratches in disks. I cleaned it and it got better, but still put minor scratches in disks.
To prevent further damage to disks, I used my HxC emulator. It doesn’t support a lot of games, though, so I kinda hobbled by on whatever it would load for a while. There were some fun games, like Pac-Mania, Dig-Dug, and Columns (a personal favorite from my past), but most major titles for this system like Akumajo Dracula and Daimakai Mura (Castlevania and Ghouls n’ Ghosts in the western world, respectively) didn’t work.
Eventually I picked up a third machine – another X68000 first gen. It was the ying to my yang, a gray system with a black keyboard and mouse! This was expensive at 50000 yen, but it basically worked. As a bonus, it even came with an X68000 Expert box. One drive didn’t work at all, but non-working first gen to the rescue! I put one of the drives from the non-working X68000 first gen into the new one. Bingo! A fully working system. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support the HxC emulator at all and I just couldn’t come to grips with buying the usually expensive software.
So I started selling stuff off. I sold off the broken first gen and the working first gen, superfluous keyboards, mice, and even the X68000 Expert box. I was able to recover most of the money I’d spent, and had a working Pro with matching black keyboard and mouse, and the only limitation was the disk scratching drive, which I avoided by only playing on the HxC emulator.
Then suddenly I happened to luck into good deals on two large batches of games. Suddenly I had 41 original titles on my hands. Using them on the X68000 Pro with it’s scratch-prone drive was problematic, though. Had I known this one was coming, I wouldn’t have sold that working first gen.
Fourth time’s the charm? I bought my most expensive X68000 to date – a fully maintained and working X68000 Expert, guaranteed to work for five days after delivery. It cost a whopping 62000 yen. But I’ve always got some plan brewing in the back of my mind. It came with an extra mouse, a keyboard adapter and PS/2 keyboard, manuals, and a pretty nice joycard. The mouse was a bit broken, but it’s still fairly valuable. The keyboard adapters are pretty valuable. The joycard is nice but I can sell another one and keep this as a small upgrade. And most importantly, I can sell the X68000 Pro. To transition to this machine will not be so expensive
It’s been working super smoothly, and even if I give it a bad disk, the drives themselves are not negatively impacted and don’t need to be disassembled and re-adjusted. It just works. Peace of mind. Almost all of the original games work. So this is the X68000 hardware I currently own. If all goes well, I don’t need to buy another one!
So how much have I put into this system and how much have I received back? Let’s see them numbers: I bought: 15000 – X68000 Pro 22000 – X68000 first gen (gray, with gray keyboard and mouse) 50000 – X68000 first gen (gray, with black keyboard and mouse and Expert box) 62000 – X68000 Expert (black, with broken mouse, keyboard adapter, and controller) 149000 – Total
I sold: 7500 – X68000 first gen (broken) 43500 – X68000 first gen (working) 31500 – X68000 Pro 14000 – gray keyboard 7500 – gray mouse 5300 – keyboard adapter 6300 – black mouse (broken) 2400 – joycard 3400 – X68000 Expert Box (came with my second first-gen) 121400 – Total
Of course, Yahoo wants their cut. Minus 8.8% to leave me with 110,000. It puts the cost of my X68000 system, including keyboard and mouse, right around 39000 yen. In working order, these systems fetch between about 30000 and 150000 (depending on model and physical condition), so I’d say I didn’t do too bad.