Sunday, 27 December 2015

Retro Japan Computer Special - Sharp X-1 (Aka. X1) + Games

The X1 was a surprise product released in 1982 which split from the usual Sharp MZ series of computers released by the computer division. It came from Sharp's TV division with several TV integration features and a modern, stylish design that was available in a range of colours. It was especially endeared by shoot'em up fans.

Like most other computers it did not have a BASIC language built into it's ROM. You had to load it into the computer from tape. This did mean that when not using BASIC there was more RAM free to use for other things.

Although it was outsold by NEC's PC-8801 it was regarded as a better machine because when games were released for both computers the X-1 version was usually superior. Later models improved the screen resolution and colours. It also had some cool exclusive titles of it's own as well. It eventually gave way to the Sharps 16-bit X68000 computer.

 SPECIFICATION - Sharp X-1 (1982)

CPU: Z80A @ 4 Mhz
Memory: 6K ROM, 64K RAM, 48K VRAM
Screen Resolution Modes:
320 x 200, 640 x 200, 8 Colours
Sound: Programmable Sound Generator, 3 Channels

Here are thirty great games, in alphabetical order, that you can play on the Sharp X-1. If you wish to find out more details about these games I have provided the original Japanese kanji which you can copy and paste in any search engine to get even more results. You can also play these games on a PC using the X-1 emulator found here

American Truck (Telenet 1985)

Top down racer. In each stage you have to reach the finish line before you run out of petrol or time. Pick up petrol items whilst avoiding bombs and other vehicles whilst staying on the road.

Aoki Ookami to Shiroki Mejika (Koei 1986)

The first in a series of turn based strategy games set in the Yuan dynasty of China. The first Emporer of which was Genghis Khan. Similar in style to Koei's other strategy series Nobunaga's Ambition. The further three games in the series were released outside of Japan and used the Genghis Khan name in their titles.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Retro Japan Computer Special - Fujitsu Micro 7 (Aka. FM-7) + Games

 The FM-7 was released in 1982 in Japan by Fujitsu as a budget successor to the business style FM-8 (1981).It was very similar to Radio Shacks TRS-80 colour computer being built around the Motorola 6809 CPU. Some TRS-80 games were compatible with the FM-7 and vice versa.

It was sold as a cheaper home computer version of the FM-8 without the bubble memory technology, which never caught on anyway. But it was actually technically better than the FM-8 regarding the sound, upgraded to 3 channels from a beeper, and the CPU speed, increased from 1 to 2Mhz.

The machine was seen as good value for money, being especially noted for the quality and speed of its graphic display which bench marked twice as fast as the higher priced NEC PC-8801.

The release of the FM-77 (1985) was a major breakthrough as it became the first 8-bit computer to break the 8-color barrier and achieve a simultaneous display of 4096 colors. It also came with a built-in Yamaha FM synthesis sound board, providing higher-quality audio.

Although it did not usurp the NEC PC's top spot in the Japanese market it still managed to create a fairly large following, especially amongst computer hobbyist's.

SPECIFICATION - Fujitsu Micro 7 FM7 (1982)

CPU: MBL68B09P @ 2MHz
Co-Processor: MBL68B09P @ 1.2MHz (For graphics and I/O)
Memory: 40+8 = 48 KB ROM, 64+48 = 112 KB RAM
Screen resolution modes:
640 x 200 8 colours
320 x 200 262144 colours (later model FM77AV40 in 1986)
Sound: Programable Sound Generator, 3 channels, 8 octaves
Boot Modes: Fujitsu Disk Basic , OS-9 (Microware), Flex (CP/M like DOS for 68xx CPU)

Here are thirty great games, in alphabetical order, that you can play on the Fujitsu FM-7. If you wish to find out more details about these games I have provided the original Japanese kanji which you can copy and paste in any search engine to get even more results. You can also play these games on a PC using the XM-7 emulator found here

Amnork (ASCII 1987)



FM-7 exclusive notable for its advanced 3D graphics engine, which processed 3D polygons at high frame rates for its time.

Aspic (Xtalsoft 1986)



Aspic is an RPG that adopts the then common old-school method of combining third-person overworld exploration with first-person dungeon crawling, such as that used by the original Phantasy Star. Battles in the game are set in a separate real-time mode where the player must attack, jump and block the enemy's attacks in order to win. Occasionally, the player can convince an enemy warrior to join them in their quest; when this happens, the now friendly unit fights in the hero's place for a while.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Retro Japan Computer Special - NEC PC-8801 (Aka. PC-88) + Games

The NEC PC-8801 (Aka. PC-88) was released in 1981 in Japan by Nippon Electric Company (NEC) as a successor to the PC-8001 (1979) and PC-6001 (1981).

Initially the computer was sold as a business machine capable of a high-resolution 640x400 monochrome display mode (V1) and N mode to make it compatible with the earlier PC-8001. It wasn't until 1985, when the upgraded PC-8801mkII SR version was released with the V2 graphics mode, that the computer was re-positioned as a home machine. Many more video games became available for the computer at this point. The sound was also upgraded from the internal beeper to the Yamaha YM2203 three channel sound chip.

The PC-8801 had several upgrades all the way up to the PC-8801 MC (1989), which came with a CD-ROM drive, and became Japan's top 8-bit computer, helping to establish NEC as the number one company in the Japanese computer industry for almost two decades. Many popular video game series first appeared on the PC-88, including Dragon Slayer, Snatcher, Thexder and Ys.

SPECIFICATION - PC-8801mkII SR model 30 (1985)

CPU: NEC PD780C-1 @ 4 Mhz (Z80A-compatible) 
Memory: 40+8+24 = 72 KB ROM, 64+48+4 = 116 KB RAM 
Screen resolution modes:
N mode: PC-8000 Series compatible graphic mode 
V1 mode: 640 × 200 8 colors, 640 × 400 2 colors 
V2 mode: 640 × 200 8 out of 512 colors, 640 × 400 2 out of 512 colors 
Sound: beep + YM2203 ( 3 FM channels, 3 SSG ) Mono 
FDD: 2 x 5.25" 2D 
Boot modes: CPM, MS-Dos, and N88-Basic

Here are thirty great games, in alphabetical order, that you can play on the NEC PC-8801. If you wish to find out more details about these games I have provided the original Japanese kanji which you can copy and paste in any search engine to get even more results. You can also play these games on a PC using one of the following emulators found here.

Alpha (SquareSoft 1986) 



Notable for its epic, cyberpunk, space opera narrative, which surprised players at the time with unexpected plot twists.It featured several plot elements that would later carry over to the Final Fantasy series, such as a heroine who suffers from amnesia and a rebellion against a corrupt repressive government.

Battle Gorilla (Xtalsoft 1988)

Battle Gorilla


A top-down action game that plays like a tactical version of Commando. The 'almost' turn-based element of the game means bullets and the various types of enemy units, such as soldiers, tanks, planes and helicopters, only move when you do.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Retro Japan Computer Special - Introduction

This special is a break from the norm for this blog as this is not actually my 'retro' at all, it's somebody else's. I've never touched a Japanese computer in my life but I've become fascinated recently in the details of their history which was something I was completely in the dark about back in the eighties. 

I was only aware of the British machines and a few from America. The most I ever heard about when it came to computers from Japan was something called MSX, which I thought was a Japanese computer which was a similar to a ZX Spectrum.

Like the British Market there were stacks of different computers released in the late 70's and 80's including,.

Toshiba PASOPIA-7

Bandai Gundam RX-78

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Top 30 American TV Shows of the 20th Century

I'm a bit of a couch potato. Actually that's an understatement. I've watched TV shows ever since I understood what the electrical glowing box in the centre of the living room was trying to tell me. I don't discriminate. I will watch any kind of show. I have very fond memories of the US TV shows imported into the UK that I used to watch before the turn of the last century. I've not included animated shows or shows from outside the US. They'll be in a future post of their own.

Saturday evenings were the highlight of my week when I was a kid. In fact as an adult every evening became the highlight. Below are my Top 30 shows of the 20th century. I'm writing this with as little research as possible. Instead I've tried to rely on my memories of each show.

Many of your favourite shows will be missing as there were so many, too many, to choose from, even without all the quality shows that have been on TV in the last 15 years. I've listed the ones that didn't make it into my Top 30 either because my memory of them is not so good, or they didn't make the grade, or I just never got around to watching them, or I was too young at the time to appreciate them or they just didn't pop into my head until I'd already picked my Top 30. Anyway, enjoy the nostalgia.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Amiga 500 Games Screenshot Quiz

Once again I've knocked up another screenshot quiz. This time 30 screenshots for the fantastic Commodore Amiga 500. In my opinion the best retro microcomputer in the world. They're not all great or classic games by any means because then most Amiga fans would breeze through the quiz in minutes. But I have played them all so none of them are ridiculously rare.

So as before, either give your answers in the comments section here or on the Retro Rekall Page or the Retro Rekall Group or even on my personal Facebook page. Don't worry, if you need to send me a friend request I'll accept.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

ZX Spectrum Games Screenshot Quiz

Just for a bit of fun I've knocked up a quick ZX Spectrum Screenshot Quiz. There are 30 screenshots in all, not from classic games by any means, but I did play them all back in the eighties so although it's not horrendously difficult it's not easy peasy either.

Any Speccy nut worth their salt should breeze through this anyway. So let's see how you do. Either give your answers in the comments here or on the Retro Rekall Page or the Retro Rekall Group or even on my personal Facebook page. Don't worry, if you need to send me a friend request I'll accept.


Saturday, 17 October 2015

Top 25 Pre-Millenium PC Games

Nowadays hundreds of PC games are released every year but it wasn't always the case. I remember back in the early nineties when my Dell 486 with Windows 3.1 and a massive 40Mb hard drive was not looked upon as a gaming machine. It didn't have a large catalog of quality games available for it.

However, once developers learnt how to utilise the ever evolving power of PC's it wasn't long before  more games were released, some of which are now quite rightly regarded as classics which spawned completely new genres.

I still have a PC and I still play games on it now. The quality of the graphics and sound and also the sheer size of the games may have increased but the way the games play has not radically changed. So I decided to look back and compile a list of my Top 25 Pre-Millenium PC games. Enjoy the  nostalgia.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Top 30 Arcade Games from the Golden Age (1978-1985)

This was at a time when the first truly addictive video games started to appear in arcades all around the world. When the home computers and consoles of the time just didn't cut the mustard. They couldn't compete with the spectacular whizz, bangs and whistles that their arcade counterparts could provide for just 10p.

The year arcade video games first kicked in was 1978. Sure there were games before that but none of them fueled the fire of the video game craze like Space Invaders did that year. I was 9 years old and it was just the right time to see this gaming revolution happen right before my very eyes. One armed bandits and pinball machines were pushed into a corner to make way for rows and rows of video games. Their interactive, glowing screens lighting up otherwise dingy looking hangouts where adults would gamble their money. I wasn't interested in that.

The period from 1978 up until 1985 is, in my mind, the golden age of arcade video games. So many new ideas, creativity and inventiveness. I wonder if people back then had any clue how the position of video games in the cultural landscape would look over 35 years later. In 1985 I left school and it seemed like the world was going through so many changes including the slow down of arcade games as 16bit home computers and consoles began to catch up in complexity and quality. But don't worry, I'll be talking about the silver age of video games from beyond 1985 in the not too distant future.

So without further ado here are my Top 30 Arcade Golden Age Video Games. Please be aware that these are my own personal choices not based on sales, profits or other top arcade game lists, but solely on my memory of what I thought was good and what was fun to play.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Favourite Amiga 500 Games

The finest computer of all time.

The Amiga 500. The best computer of all time?.... YES. Having witnessed the intense 8bit rivalry between Spectrum and Commodore 64 users I took care to choose what I thought was the better machine between the Amiga 500 and the Atari ST in the 16bit era. I believe I made the right choice. The graphics and sound capabilities of the Amiga 500 seemed way ahead of it's time. The ST gave it a run for it's money but just never seemed quite as good.

All the beans on toast was worth it.

I blew half my college grant on it, possibly back in 1989, and lived on beans on toast for weeks, but it was worth it. The applications for it were very cool, great art and music programs. Amiga's were used in TV production, that's how powerful they were. But the major reason for an arcade junkie like me.  The games.

It was all about the games.

I got a solid 4 or 5 years out of it before moving on to PC's. Not a very long time compared with my ZX Spectrum years but still it was the best time in my videogames playing life and therefore a time I'll never ever forgot.

Workbench 1.3

So here are my favourite twenty Amiga games. Not in any order besides alphabetical. I'll let you decide which you think is the number one game. Hell, It might not even be in this list which just goes to show how many great games existed for the finest computer of all time.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Favourite Playstation Games

Back in 1995 before PS4, PS3, PS2 and PSOne there was Playstation. Originally a joint project with Nintendo as a SNES-CD console, Sony's first entry into the video games console market, which at this point was known as the fifth generation, proved to be a massive success and the best selling console of this generation against so many other competitors.

Competitors like Panasonic 3DO, Amiga CD32, Atari Jaguar, Neo Geo CD, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, and that's just the systems I can remember. I'm sure there were many more.

The Playstation was by no means perfect. I remember many systems having the CD laser head warp with heat and then it became difficult to read the data from the discs, unless you turned the machine upside down and placed a bag of frozen peas or similar on top of it. Well that's what worked for me.

However, here are some key points which I feel ensured the Playstation was more of a success than any of the other consoles I've mentioned above.

1. 3rd party software developers were embraced.
2. CD storage and retrieval media used rather than cartridges.
3. Marketing Playstation to teens and young adults rather than families.
4. Released on time. N64 was too late. Sega Saturn was rushed.

I was lucky enough to be one of the people that chose the Playstation over the other consoles. Even though it was said to be less powerful, only 32bit, than the N64 and the Saturn, both 64bit, it just seemed to have a larger and more varied catalog of games available for it.

So here are my fifteen favourite original playstation titles. Please be aware that they are not necessarily the best games for the Playstation, some of their sequels are much better, but these games are definitely the most memorable for me. It may surprise you that there are no Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid games in the list but at the time I just never got to play them.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Retro Cartoons Quiz

I have many fond memories of the cartoons I used to watch when I was still at school. I was never really interested in movies at that age. In fact before leaving school I'd only seen a handful of movies ,like Tron, Raiders of the lost ark and First Blood, at the cinema. I wasn't really into Disney cartoons either. Well not as much as the Hannah Barbara and Filmation stuff.

Cartoon time back then was mainly Saturday mornings and an hour or so after school during the week. Kids nowadays have got a lot more time and choice to watch cartoons with a dozen or so devoted channels showing nothing but cartoons. I couldn't have even dreamed that when I was a kid.

Once I'd left school in 1985 I suddenly got into movies. There was only one decent local cinema open around this time called The Odean. However, a few years later this was boosted by two multiplex's called Showcase and UCI, with a whopping 21 cinema screens, that were built in the Derby in 1988. By that time the cartoons had been completely forgotten.

It seems like my golden age for cartoons was for about 10 years between 1975 and 1985. Obviously some older cartoons would fall into that category even though they started out before 1975 as they were repeated often.

So yet again it's time for a Retro Rekall Memory Test Quiz. Twenty six of the finest cartoons that pop into my mind when I reminisce about those Saturday mornings are shown below. Note, half of them started before the beginning of my cartoon golden age back in 1975, one is even from the forties. See how many you can recognise and put your answers in the comments. If you can guess all twenty six then you are a truly awesome retro cartoon quiz nerd. I won't bother giving the answers unless someone asks for them.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

ZX Spectrum Loading Screens Quiz

During the early eighties on my first computer the ZX Spectrum games were, to begin with, not on CD, DVD, Hard disk or Rom Cartridge, they were loaded into the computer from audio cassette tapes.

Even though the games were as little as 8 kilobytes in size they still took an awful long time to load into the computer. Four or five minutes doesn't sound like a long time but it is when you are just sat there staring at the screen hoping the 'loading error' message doesn't pop up and also hoping you won't be driven insane by the flashing 'loading... please wait' message that adorned many early games.

To relieve the boredom programmers would record loading screen data at the start of the cassette which would display a pretty picture on your TV screen whilst you waited for the actual game to download. Nice....., until you realised this data in itself also took minutes to load into the computer in effect extending the waiting time even further, Yawn!!

But anyway, considering the limited capabilities of the Spectrum they still managed to create some unforgettable images that burned themselves into the memory as you were staring at them for so long every time you wanted to play a particular game.

So now for the geeky fun memory test part of this post. Below are twenty six cropped images from various loading screens. Some contain little clues as to their identity. See how many you can recognise and put your answers in the comments. If you can guess all twenty six then you are a truly awesome speecy loading screen quiz nerd. I'll give the answers in the next post a week or two from now. Good luck.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Runequest Fantasy RPG (1980's)

Runquest 2nd Edition Cover

It just happened one day in the early eighties for no apparent reason. I took the usual route home from school through the Chapelside precinct in Spondon, Derby and past the village model shop which had lots of Airfix model kits of aircraft, battleships, tanks, soldiers and other stuff to do with the military.

Where the model shop used to be back in the eighties.

But that day something a bit different caught my eye. on display in a cylindrical glass carousel were Model figures of all kinds of fantasy creatures. Dragons, skeletons, Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Trolls and other things that I didn't even know the name of yet brought to life with some amazing artwork.

An impressive display.

I found out that people were using these models for their fantasy role playing games. I'd heard of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and had seen it introduced briefly on a kids tv show but i didn't really understand it. At the time I wasn't sure it was for me but seeing these amazing lead figures in all their glory pushed me into looking into it further. 

Various blister packs from Citadel Miniatures.