Relics

I picked up this game for my PC-8801 MA2. I normally don’t want boxed games unless they are in very good condition, but this one was cheap, and I wanted a couple of cheap games to feel a little more confident that my system was working properly. So I went with this one.

Despite the rough condition of the box, the packaging is pretty charming. Check out that Styrofoam holder!

Here are some captures from the introduction. The graphics are blue-heavy, to be certain, but it is full of detail.

The game has the potential to be fun, or at least intriguing. I’ve always enjoyed the bizarre, and this indeed appears to be bizarre. I played around with it a little bit and thought it might be worth reading the manual, so I opened it up and it said something to the effect of “we’re not telling you how to play this game, you must explore and discover for yourself.” So I went back to the game and did just that. You start out as a spirit, and you can take over other bodies to become more powerful. You pick up items and explore the world, and that’s about all I’ve worked out so far.

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.

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.