Cloud Kingdom for FM-7

This is one of the more unique games I’ve come across for the FM-7. I picked it up quite a while ago but if memory serves, I believe it came in a lot of several games. The box and tape are in good condition, but unfortunately it’s missing the manual.

It’s a colorful game with crisp, highly detailed graphics. You play a bird-mounted warrior and travel around the clouds looking for enemies amid cloud formations and fortresses, and shoot them with arrows. If you hit an archer, he falls satisfyingly from the castle.

The combination of bird flapping physics and arrow trajectory makes it rather challenging, and capturing a screenshot without pausing is all but impossible. One thing that seems a little absurd is that if you fall below the clouds, you die. I guess your bird can’t fly below cloud level… because that’s the sky down there.

Once in a while, you find a screen with some sort of bonus. Also, beware of surprise hands!

FM Towns UX20

I bought this machine at a pretty bargain price because it was shown to power up, but not display anything. It went for about 25-30% of the typical final price (with free shipping!) because nobody, including me, wants an FM Towns with an integrated monitor that doesn’t work. But I decided to take a risk, because I had a sneaking suspicion that there was a low-tech fix.

When I received it, sure enough, it powered on but didn’t display anything. That’s when I jumped into action to test my hand at “repairing” it. My strategy was to put my index finger on those brightness and contrast knobs and push them *up*. The assumption that this was actually the problem was unfounded, I had no evidence based on the auction, but was willing to take the risk at that price.

Just because a suspicion is unfounded doesn’t mean it isn’t correct. Fortune smiled upon me, this monitor is still beautiful!

I threw Bubble Bobble at it because I think the bright and vibrant colors and their contrast on the black screen really make the compact Trinitron monitor shine. The loading screen is also cute.

Fujitsu FM-8

This machine is a big beast that has always been hard to ignore. It pops up quite often on Yahoo Auctions and it stands out. It’s got a really unique aesthetic, with its bumpy-textured brown body and yellowish-orangish and white keys. When I first saw it, I thought it was terribly yellowed, but it was at least mostly by design. I grew to like it over time, and I finally got one on a super bargain-priced auction.

I bought it in a fixed-price auction coupled with an NEC PC-8001. It was a bit strange, an auction that appeared in a far-fetched category around 2 o’clock in the morning. The seller’s description mentioned “not needing a lot of money for them,” and saying he just wanted to practice selling on Yahoo Auctions. I was all too glad to help him fulfill his wish.

They were untested, but they both fired right up. Always a relief! It’s a fun keyboard to press keys on, which I am distinguishing a bit from typing on. The tactile response and resistance are nice, and there’s the slightest of clicks to them. And there are four LEDs, which is pretty good for a Japanese 80s keyboard.

It’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, too.

It’s kind of slim-pickins for games. My friend had given me that archive of software, and it included FM-7 games, and some games for FM-7 were designed to work on FM-8 originally/as well. But determining which games are FM-8 compatible is a tedious task. I’ve found Black Jack and Lunar Lander so far.

Black Jack starts out with a long-winded drawing of each card, with a long pause between Queen and King to really ratchet up the tension, I guess. I won this hand skillfully and pocketed five 8-bit dollars, then quit while I was ahead. Before rebooting, I confirmed my suspicions that “How do you bet?” is not expecting an adverb.

And Lunar Lander, if that is your real name. I am bad captain, I agree fully. I neglected my duties so I could take photos for social media.

So I got it at a bargain, but if you think I let it go at that, you don’t know me very well. I’ve bought (and later resold) three or four more since then. One because it came with manuals and demo tape, one because it looked a little nicer than mine (but I didn’t like the keyboard as much, so I swapped them). And most interestingly, one came with bubble memory.

Bubble memory fits into the little tray under the top-right cover. The technology is completely different, but it’s sort of like a clunky 80s version of an SD card. It’s easy to switch out and take to another computer, provided that other computer has a bubble memory drive, which is highly unlikely!

The bubble memory appeared not to work at first, and troubleshooting was a nightmare. Seemingly someone had performed a mod with wires going into and coming out of practically everywhere. After a lot of red herrings, I came to the realization that my bubble memory did indeed work, but it required around 20 minutes to initialize.

I eventually decided to sell the system that the bubble memory came with, including the bubble memory itself. Now I have the standard FM-8 which was the nicest of the four or so that I’ve come across, and a nice set of manuals and matching demo tape.

One of the systems came with an unexpected treat – a full set of kanji ROMs. I took those out of the original system and put them into my own. Among the manuals is an appendix listing the in-ROM address of each kanji, so the symbols can be called from BASIC. I haven’t gotten very far yet, but I am trying to make a program that displays all of the kanji beginning with a selected syllable (which is how they are organized).

Right now it’s just hard-coded to display everything beginning with ヒ(hi). I’ll have to put everything into an array and make an interface for selecting the syllable.

Amaranth III

I’ve always been a fan of computer RPGs. When I started getting into Japanese vintage computers, I would make a point of getting an RPG or two for every major system. Problem is, RPGs consume a lot of time, if they’re any good. So I end up just adding to a queue of RPGs that I have tested once to ensure they work, then never get around to finishing (or sometimes even starting)

One major exception sticks out, and that’s Amaranth III for FM Towns. Owing to its vibrant graphics and its varied soundtrack, it was a quick hook. The combat system is somewhat innovative and there are many still frames of beautiful artwork. I’m moving slowly because there are many new words in the game that I usually take the time to look up, but I’ve made substantial progress.

You start out assuming the roles of two deities -Rian and Deen – laying low in the inn of a small town. Deen seems to thrive on attention from the local mortals, so she has set up a dream-reading booth in the city, where she proves to be quite popular.

They catch news of a nearby fair where nemuri-byo, a state of sleep from which one doesn’t wake, is claiming victim after victim. Deen thinks she has the power to stop it by entering the dream and freeing the dreamer. They buy tickets at the train station to go to the fair, but she had raised the ire of a powerful enemy that comes in by hijacked train to attack her.

Deen and Rian defeat the enemy’s foot soldiers and escape with their lives but have to find a way to sneak out of the town now because the more powerful enemies have commandeered the train station. They decide to sneak out as stowaways on a trade ship.

On the ship, they are eventually discovered to the annoyance of the ship’s captain, but they prove themselves useful by helping the crew to defeat a band of attacking pirates. The pirate ship captain presents himself as the first boss, but it’s not quite in the realm of the main story line, sort of a tutorial boss, I feel.

After defeating the captain, you discover two hostages, a woman and a girl. We learn that the girl has nemuri-byo, but the woman is her protector and forbids Deen from trying to enter the girl’s dream to help. So as soon as the woman goes to sleep, that’s exactly what Deen does. Deen and Rian enter the dream as in-dream characters and their first real adventure begins!

One fun thing about this game so far is the animation of the spell effects. Healing spells are pretty simple, but check out the fire and ice spell animations.

Fujitsu FM16π

This is actually my second FM16π, that is supposed to be a “pi” symbol but it looks pretty much like a table in some fonts. This one came along and offered some obvious benefits over my first, so I decided to bite the bullet on it and sell my first one to cover some of the costs.

First benefit, it comes with this handsome, dedicated briefcase with the logo in white on the bottom right.

Everything fits snugly inside, including the special printer, the second benefit over my first one. It’s kind of a novelty, so I am not sure if I will keep the printer or not, but given the perfect fit in the briefcase, it sort of seems like those two items should be kept or sold together. I took them both out and the system powered on without issue, the printer readied itself for printing.

And the third benefit I knew about when making the purchase is that the FM16π itself is much cleaner. Here’s its glamour session:

And the printer’s:

And there was also one hidden benefit over my original system. Either this is a slightly different model with more memory, or it has had a memory upgrade performed, I would guess up to 512KB, whereas my first FM16π probably had 256KB. I’m just guesstimating by the reported free memory when launching F-BASIC86, it’s about 230KB greater than before. I’m sure I’ll never put it to use.

It is a CP/M-86 based system, and in addition to BASIC it comes with a menu program, a terminal program, and JW (I think this is short for J-Word). Either my installation is incomplete (on both of the FM16π systems that I’ve used), or commands and capabilities of this implementation of CP/M-86 are different, because I haven’t been able to execute many commands successfully. The menu system offers some system setup options, so you can do things like change the date outside of the command prompt. Actually, I don’t even know if you can change it from the command prompt.

J-Word is a menu-driven text editor? Word processor? I’m not sure which category it falls into yet. The menu commands are plenty, but they don’t really seem to be much about formatting, so I guess it’s probably a text editor. In any event, it’s the program in my possession most ready to start printing, so I fired it up and set the printer to task.

Results were not fantastic, but using 30-year-old printing ribbon doesn’t do anyone any favors, especially since it was opened and installed. I can read most of it. I tried changing the settings, both in software and hardware. The menu allows you to choose a 16-or 24-pin kanji printer, defaulting to 24 but setting it to 16 only produced those black squares, so that clearly wasn’t the answer. The printer has a dial for light or heavy printing, and the final image is set to the two extremes, neither of which addressed the problem of splotches of completely missing print. So now I have to decide whether to open one of the two spare ribbons it came with to see if it works or not.