Sharp MZ-700 Briefcase

A company called ACE made a suitcase specifically for the MZ-700. It came in a beautiful burgundy color, fits perfectly around the MZ-700, and has the MZ-series logo on the case.

I’ve seen them now and again, but either end too expensively on Yahoo, or are in gnarly condition on Mercari, but then this popped up on Mercari yesterday. It sure looked good in the photos, and came with a handful of extras, which helped make the price a little easier to swallow (although this was by far the best bargain I’ve seen thus far). So I took the chance. Due to the amazing courier service in Japan, it arrived in under 24 hours and it is as good in person as it looked in the photos.

Barely a scratch on it, no rust on the locks or other hardware, and still with the keys and bag manufacturer’s introduction card. If I hadn’t bought it on Mercari and someone said “Oh, look at my new briefcase,” I’d definitely be all “Hey that’s a nice new briefcase you got.” Sorry some shots are darker than others, I was kinda playing with my new phone’s camera features.

I am no bag expert, but I noticed that in several places, they took care that the internal pouches wouldn’t get stretched. The big center pouch has two latches on the side to hold it in place, and they’re adjustable in case you have more stuff to stow inside. And the two smaller pouches have a loop for each button so it can move without stressing the pouch itself depending on the shape of the contents.

The machine itself works and it came with some extras: a user manual, an MZ-700 programming book, a bound copy of a Turtle graphics software package user’s manual, and some printer hardware. This is also the first time to receive a set of plotter pens. Surely they’ve dried out by now but maybe I’ll give them a shot.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve picked up five MZ-700s. Basically I get them to convert the tapes to wav files, maybe keep a couple of original tapes, sell on the system, etc. I definitely don’t need five MZ-700s! But of all these lots, one thing that’s still managed to evade me is a clean user’s manual. This is the nearest I’ve gotten, it’s pretty clean but there’s a giant crease in the front cover. And while there’s a plastic film protecting the cover that can be cleaned up well, this has a bit of dirt that actually seemed to have penetrated the film and just won’t clean up.

Dig Dug for MZ-1500

My MZ-1500 has seen quite a bit of use recently, not owing much to its own game library, but because it is MZ-700 compatible, and unlike the MZ-700, it is ready to connect to external tape drives. This allows me to play my MZ-700 tape games that I’ve converted to .wav files.

But I also kind of recently got a real, original MZ-1500 game. It’s an arcade classic – Dig Dug – but it doesn’t seem to be very popular on the MZ-1500. It’s a little lackluster in some ways, the character, enemies , rocks, and vegetables are well drawn and animated, but the background is made up of solid colors so doesn’t provide any of the texturing to the dirt that other ports do. The gameplay difficulty level is a little harsher than other ports, too, I believe.

The box is also in awful condition (although much of the smashed portion seems to be obscured by the angle). So due to its rarity it wasn’t dirt cheap (see what I did there?), but it was considerably less expensive than other games for the system I’ve seen.

QuickDisks are double-sided, so the way many of these games work is to load the data for the PCG (programmable character generator) and then instruct you to flip the disk over to load game program. But the game doesn’t actually detect if you’ve loaded the PCG data or not, so if you just load the second side, the game will work fine, you just can’t see your character, the enemies, the rocks, or the vegetables. In other words, they put a lot of effort into the PCG graphics and then left the main screen to an intern.

Sharp X1 G

This was one of my earliest Japanese vintage PCs, before I had the idea to start blogging about them. I found a couple of photos of them and decided to make a mini-entry about it.

The X1 G comes in both tape and floppy flavors, mine was the floppy variety. If I recall correctly, I actually bought two of them. Both were complete systems but the first came with copies of BASIC and CP/M, while the second was bundled with a small collection of original games. I believe both systems worked without issue.

It’s a very handsome machine, perhaps the first implementation of the future X68000-style orange, curved power button. The machine worked nicely in either the desktop or tower orientation. It also came with the Sharp gamepad.

I eventually decided to sell them both off after I got my bearings straight in the X1 world and realized the X1 Turbo Z was the system I really wanted, but this machine was a great introduction. I probably used the keyboard for my Turbo Z for a while before I could find the official Turbo Z keyboard.

I would someday like to get the X1 Twin, which I believe is very similar to the X1 G but with the inclusion of a HuCard slot for PC Engine compatibility.

Sharp X1 D 3″ Disk Lot

Some of the hardest things to find are Sharp X1 D disks. If you’re not familiar, the X1 D uses 3″ disks, as opposed to 3.5″ disks. Physically quite different and totally incompatible. Even as blanks they’re rare and usually expensive. I found these on Mercari, and even after talking the guy down 25%, I still wouldn’t say I got a great deal on these or anything, but there were many (a lot of 19) and I hope to get most of my money back by selling my duplicates and some blanks.

The breakdown was 8 blanks or copies and 11 original game disks. The first relief was that there didn’t appear to be any scratches or mold on them. That’s a good start. The second step was actually testing them.

It was a bit of a daunting task, but I tested all disks in one night, including taking photographs of all games and other processing, finishing at about 4am! The originals all work, including the main system disk, which was a giant relief. A couple of the copies didn’t work initially, but upon testing a few times and deciding it was best to format them, they are all working fine now.

As for the blanks, I formatted each one and wrote the simplest of programs to test saving, loading, and deleting from each disk. No problems.

The system disk is probably the most valuable and I already have a copy, so its successful operation is key to getting a good chunk of my money back. I wrote a simple program and ran the system demo, and used the above utility (called “Utility”) to duplicate the system disk, in an effort to test it as best I could. The sleeve was from my own copy, this one didn’t come with one.

Next up in order of interest was Xevious. Not that interesting because I already have it. It was the first game I got for my X1 D. But this copy also works. It’s a solid port of a decently fun game, making good use of the X1’s graphics.

And then in no particular order, I tested the remaining nine games. Two of the games are in a series called “Meruhen” (Japanese take on the German “Märchen”, or fairy tales), which I believe eventually spawned a fairly popular game, called Meruhen Maze. It’s easy and not inaccurate to say it’s for kids, but it’s really rather well done, with crisp, colorful graphics and unique gameplay.

Here is Meruhen Part I, which involves a sheep herder trying to corral her sheep into her gate, and a series of animal siblings where you play a slightly nervous sibling trying to get your share of food.

And here’s Part II, this one includes three games. The first one you play a pig who is trying to grow plants that turn into butterflies. Other animals are trying to take the flowers, so you have to douse them in water so they run away. The second game you try to throw bananas at monkeys carrying numbers, so that the numbers you hit add up to a multiple of 10. And finally, you play a rabbit running through a forest to find someone that the pig wants to talk to, first by finding something that the requested animal wants to eat, then finding the target animal. It’s all very cute.

Tired of fairy tales? Good news is we’re now onto the more typical games, but I gotta say this guy has good taste, there are a lot of gems in here that I’ve never heard of before. Here’s one translated as “The Bank”, but the Japanese reads “bank robbery”, and it’s really quite a satisfyingly violent game. You have to shoot the bad guys three or four times, or else their mutilated bodies reform and you have to shoot them again. Later, different kinds of enemies come out, like a robber-driven car or an exploding-barrel tosser. This game seems to have gotten an English release, as well, called Machinegun Joe vs. The Mafia.

One game I was curious about was Donkey Kong 3: The Great Counterattack. Donkey Kong 3 was a game from back in the day that just didn’t make a huge impression on me. But this version does. The arcade classic takes place in a greenhouse, but this version takes place in a variety of outdoor scenes. Although the X1 is far more graphically capable, it looks like these images were made using a CGA palette, with the fuller palette only being used on the surrounding text and the characters.

Another one in the lot was Enma Daio (Judge of the Afterlife). You play a character opening up graves and… passing judgement? Or grabbing things to throw at your enemies, who, much like your own character, are quite cute. I had a pretty tough time trying to figure this game out, though. The title screen (which isn’t much of a title screen) leads me to think there’s more to this game, but I haven’t gotten out of the graveyard.

There were a pair of disks called Game Pack II and Game Pack III, each containing two games. I guess these are similar to the Mastertronic 2 on 1 releases in days of old.

Game Pack II has Gang Man, where you play a gangster driving a car and shooting out the window at other gangsters who are shooting back at you out of the windows of their cars. It’s pretty difficult, even from level one, the other gangsters often get me within a couple of seconds, but it’s noteworthy for its big car graphics that maneuver fairly smoothly around the screen, and the short bonus clock ratchets up the intensity. The other game is Power Fail, where you try to repair a power grid that the “bad old man” comes along and breaks. You can use two tools, a set of pliers to repair the grid, or a hammer to bop the bad old man on the head so he can’t move for a while.

And Game Pack III comes with a theme – animal games. The first one is Kaeru Shooter, or Frog Shooter, and the other is Za Spider, or The Spider. Kaeru Shooter has a 3D perspective but the graphics and gameplay are pretty simple. You see something, you shoot it. The Spider looked like it was going to be a Tempest style game at first, but it turned out to be more similar in gameplay to Centipede.

Flight Simulator I thought for sure was going to be an immediate “sell it” game for me, because I find flight simulators to be dreadfully boring. But this was pretty light on the “simulation”, and pretty heavy on the “things to shoot”, but it managed to strike a different enough balance that it didn’t feel like a standard space shooter. It’s pretty fun, so I’ll keep it for now. Similar to Jelda, reviewed elsewhere on this site. Pretty cool aesthetics, and one of few games to come with a real cover and instructions.

And finally, there was Maharito the Magician. It a witch-on-a-broom twist to a horizontal shooter game. A little unexpectedly, in my opinion, instead of zapping someone with a magic beam or a fireball, you hurl hammers at your enemies.

By 4am I was getting a bit tired, but it was a good experience and I found a lot of treasures in this lot. Looking forward to playing some more!

Sharp X1 Floppy Drives

This has been an active week for my X1 systems. First, I picked up a set of two external floppy drives. There was a disk stuck in one of them, and it wouldn’t come out by conventional methods. Upon opening it, I saw that drive head was in the down position and wouldn’t come up either by the drive lever or gentle force. So I began the very technical task of poking my finger at various things, and eventually found whatever it was waiting for and it sprang back up.

After closing the drive back up, I found the jumpers (on the bottom of the drive, but semi-conveniently accessible through a special compartment under the enclosure) and set the IDs to 1 and 2 so I could connect them to my X1 D with single floppy drive. First I tried the until-recently embattled drive, by using the excavated disk. Boom, BASIC loaded. Sweet! The second drive also worked without issue.

A few days later, I got another X1 D. That one had two floppy drives, but my own X1 D was in (slightly) better condition. I removed one of the drives and placed it in my own X1 D so now I have a dual-drive system. Beauty! I used the dual-drive setup to copy the system disk, which of course can be done on a single-drive system, but goes much smoother and faster with two. I may never actually use the second drive again, though.

Getting back to the external drives, I was having a conversation with the seller through Yahoo’s transaction messaging system. I told him that the drives worked great and he told me he had some extra copied disks that were used with the system, and that he would send them to me free of charge if I wanted them. Sure! This was quite a few more than I bargained for, though, I think there must be about 100! Might have to find a discrete way to offload some of them to someone else who may use them.

I also finalized (for now!) the location of the external drives. They are on my X1 Turbo Z, which has the internal drives disabled so I can use my HxC. Re-enabling them requires opening up the system each time, so I don’t change often. But now with these external drives, it’s a breeze!

I set the IDs of the external drives back to 0 and 1. Drive 0 is connected to the system, and drive 1 is connected to the rear of drive 0. The HxC is also set to units 0 and 1, and it is connected to the rear of drive 1. When powered off, the external drives still pass through to the HxC, so I don’t have to futz with the IDs. If I power on the external drives, though, it will obviously cause a conflict, so if I want to use them, the only thing I have to do is unplug the USB power to the HxC. This is sooo slick, even better than I’d imagined!

The photo came out a little dark, but if you look carefully near the bottom, you’ll see the two external drives under the FM-8, with the HxC drive emulator sitting between them.

The only shortcoming is that the internal drives are 2HD/2DD while the external ones are 2DD only. But I think all of the logic is controlled by the internal controller, so I someday may try putting the 2HD drives into the external enclosures.