Alternate Reality Newsletters

Do you know this game? This is the second of a two-game series called Alternate Reality: The Dungeon. The first game was Alternate Reality: The City. This game was formative in my view of video games. It took me from a general gamer to an RPG-heavy gamer, in a way that not even The Bard’s Tale series could.

It was an ambitious project. The concept was that there would be seven games, and you could make a character that could go in and out of the seven games at will, with transfer points that were established in each scenario. Quests in one game would be solved in others, and some games were planned to sharpen certain skills more than others.

Even within each game, a tremendous amount of features and details were crammed into these 64K systems. The area is vast, it keeps track of all the basic stats and some hidden ones, as well. Your alignment is not just good, neutral, or evil, but a range of 0 to 255, with different things affected at different levels. Your hunger, thirst, weariness, and warmth are all monitored, with multiple levels of each condition, causing negative effects at the extremes. I could go on and on, I still manage to discover something new once in a while.

As usual, money got in the way. Only two games were released. Actually, those two games were supposed to be one, but the developers were pushed to release immediately, so the 8-bit versions of The City were left incomplete, making The Dungeon a far more polished game.

Anyway, any modern RPG I play gets measured by Alternate Reality. I often search for boxed copies on eBay, trying to find a good-condition boxed version of each game. Datasoft’s boxes have a habit of creasing and collapsing. I have a pretty decent City, but no Dungeon at all.

One day, my search led me to an unexpected find: these newsletters! I never even knew these existed. I have scanned them into PDF files for anyone who wants to read them.

Issue 1
Issue 2
Issue 3
Issue 4
Issue 5

Super Mario Bros. on Commodore 64?!

A coder by the name of ZeroPaige worked for seven years to bring this classic gem of video game history to the Commodore community.

It looks nearly identical to the original NES version, although you can notice some subtle differences. The most noticeable I’ve noticed is the animated lava in the castle levels. The sound is quite close to the original, but one SID isn’t quite up to the task. If you happen to have two, however, this game can use it for improved accuracy. The game has a tendency to slow down a bit if there is too much action on the screen at once. But if you have a Commodore 128, it slows down a little less often. If you happen to have a SuperCPU, it can really keep up with the action!

Using a one-button joystick to control the game works as you’d imagine. The button for fireball/accelerate, up for jump. It’s not ideal, but it’s just how these things go. You can definitely still enjoy this game!

As this is not licensed by Nintendo, most download links have been disabled to avoid legal action. I think if you look around a bit for it, though, you can still find it without too much trouble.

Pets Rescue

I’d like to show you a new game for the 264 series of computers (Plus/4, C16, C116). Commercially released games for this system almost universally targeted 16KB even though the system could be upgraded to 64KB. As a result, they didn’t take much advantage of the 264 series computers’ expanded color palette, nor did they have very complex music.

This game, however, targets the Plus/4, or a C16 or C116 that have a memory expansion installed up to 64KB. I’m not sure if it leverages the entire 121-color palette, but with its smooth and colorful animation and substantially complex music, this is easily a contender for most amazing game available on this system.

The game is called Pets Rescue. It went on sale in 2019. The version pictured below was a limited collector’s edition which is already sold out (sorry!). It comes with tons of bonus items, but more than anything I just can’t get over this box. The manual is also quite nice.

My 264 series machines aren’t always hooked up, so first I had to set up the hardware.

All ready to go! Time to load the game and give it a whirl.

The game has some different environments, each set to their own music. The gameplay was hard at first, but after getting used to it a bit, things were going better. By world 1-3, though, I was tapping out and switched from the Plus/4 joystick sold by Commodore to the Epyx 500XJ, which I did a lot better with.

I’ve attached some additional screenshots to the bottom of the page.

If you’re interested in this game, there are three versions available for purchase. The digital download is not expensive at all, and lets the authors know you want to see more like this!

Digital Download – $2.99 USD – Purchase Link
(Digital download gives you access to the disk image. You can use it in an emulator that supports Plus/4 or C16/C116 (such as WinVICE), or you can copy it to a real disk with any disk copier capable of writing 40 tracks.)

Budget Expanded – £6.99 UKP – Purchase Link
(Includes the floppy disk and special sleeve plus instruction manual, all pictured above.)

Premium+ Expanded – £13.99 UKP – Purchase Link
(Same as Budget Expanded edition above, but in a clear clamshell case with full-color artwork insert.)



Magazine Scan: VIC! Volume 11

I borrowed this magazine from a friend long enough to scan it. I had no idea there was a Commodore Japan until I was in my 40s. By the time I heard about it, it was all from the lens of an unfortunate part of computer history. But at the time this magazine was published, things were very different so now I know a bit about it from the lens of a bright future. I sure wish I could have experienced this time period, even for just one day.

This file should be fairly suitable for viewing on a desktop or a smartphone screen with zooming. If anyone wants a substantially higher quality version, please let me know.

VIC! Volume 11

Update: commentor AndreaP has alerted me to the existence of Volume 5 of this magazine on archive.org. Thanks!
https://archive.org/details/VICVol5

Tenebra Macabre

Here’s a quick look at a relatively new game – Tenebra Macabre.

In this dark world, you have to contend with not only the standard enemies, but even spiky floors! At the beginning you can only see your immediate surroundings, but every once in a while, lightning flashes and you can get a glimpse of your surroundings. Make your plan and proceed with caution!

There’s also a candle in each room. Make your way and light it, and then you’ll be able to see in that room.


As the name implies, the environment and accompanying music is a little on the creepy side. Makes for a fun, eerie time!

So not only is this game free, but it’s available for the gamut of Commodore 8-bit machines (except MAX Machine, never gets any love!). Pick your flavor – C64, Plus/4, C16, C116, or VIC-20.
C64 – https://majikeyric.itch.io/tenebra-macabre
Plus/4・ C16・C116 – http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=80399
VIC-20 – http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=80408



Commodore Joystick


Around the time of the VIC-20, Commodore came up with this joystick design.

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This is, of course, a ripoff of the Atari 2600 joystick design. The only differences were the brown and beige VIC-20 colors and the fact that Commodore put their name on it.

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It’s a bit difficult to see in the above photo, but the base and cable are also VIC-20 brown.

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Of course, Atari sued Commodore. The judgment was for Atari, so Commodore quickly redesigned the more common joystick shown below.

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Donkey Kong

This is an excellent port of the arcade version of the game. It was made in 2014. The gameplay is fantastic and features vibrant, original graphics.

It works in both PAL and NTSC. NTSC machines are missing a few lines of image at the top, but it doesn’t affect the enjoyability of the game.

The game has all four of the original levels from the arcade. At first I thought it was pretty hard, but I got much better at timing jumps. Still a little difficult!

What a wonderful time to be a Commodore user. This game is free. You can download it on the page linked to below.

https://csdb.dk/release/?id=151272

1084S

I lucked out on this one! I discovered a 1084S on Yahoo Auctions. It was listed as untested, so I didn’t have a lot of faith that it would work. Consequently, I didn’t want to spend too much, so I assumed I wasn’t going to win the auction. But whether it was due to the unknown working condition, the misprint (it was listed as a 1984S, not 1084S), or the holiday period, I won the auction at 1000 yen (about $9), with shipping being set at a special low price of 1111 yen.

Post-cleaning. I always forget to take a “before” picture.

When it arrived, I was pretty nervous about whether or not it would work. It wasn’t a big financial investment, but if it doesn’t work, I don’t have the space for it, but I couldn’t possibly allow it to be thrown away. I certainly can’t fix it! But miraculously, it just worked!

It seems to only support NTSC, so it is a good match for my Commodore 128, but I am waiting on a cable for it. The cable was more expensive than the monitor itself!

Replacement Commodore 128

I recently bought another Commodore 128 on eBay. According to the auction’s description, this is an unused system. I have no way of knowing if that’s true or not, but anyway it’s in quite clean shape!

I bought this one because, even though it is less compatible, I wanted to switch back to NTSC, as I had used when I was a teenager. There are three reasons I wanted to go NTSC.

First, in subtle ways, it is more nostalgic. For example, the loading sequence when I start up Karateka is the way I remember it from my teens. Music also sometimes matches the speed of playback that I used to hear it.

Second, NTSC displays at 60Hz, which I feel leads to a much crisper picture. I don’t suspect you can tell by a still photo, and the second image is neither NTSC nor PAL, but anyway the picture looks great!

Third, with NTSC, depending on the game, it uses more of the available screen real estate. Borders are smaller. For example, in my favorite Commodore 64 game, Alternate Reality,: The Dungeon, the title screen goes nearly to the very top and bottom of the screen.

As I mentioned, I don’t know if it is truly unused or not, but the keyboard feels really smooth to the press and is easy to type on. I noticed a small amount of dirt here and there, so it really might have been used, but I knew that possibility when I bought it, and I am most satisfied with it.