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MSX, or Not To MSX?

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19 hours ago, youxia said:

The need for a power converter is a pain, because they mostly are +40EUR, at least the Japanese recommended ones...but I've found one locally for ~15EUR and will gamble on it. It's 110V...supposed to work ok...but hmmm. But that's the lot of a micro-collector...risky business, really :)

 

"Blow" Who though it would be a good idea to name a transformer like that? 😆Kudos for the importer to bother having the whole writing reprinted in Polish on it. A lil bother in quality? Or just a trap to reassure customers?

For MSX it's not very important because the power supply on them is well regulated and well made. Of course it never hurts to have a good one to begin with but it's not vital. You can always check when receiving it, how much voltage it output. I'd worrry if the voltage goes over 125 volts when the MSX is plugged on.

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12 hours ago, eebuckeye said:

heard of people making new bios chips that bypassed it but I have not seen one for sale.  Anyone know?

The one I'm buying says that  "on board Japanese firmware (which booted automatically) has been removed" but not sure what it means (new chip or a mod)? I can ask the seller if you want.

 

@CatPix Yeah, "Blow" is a an odd choice for this kind of gear, and it's a general name of their "company" which sells lot of electronics, most likely from Ali. But it looks reasonably solid, and better than the cheap-o bricks which were reported to be melting. I don't have a multimeter and will just hope that my retro-luck holds (so far none of my micros released the magic smoke yet).

Edited by youxia

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MSX2 is a great choice for console players just for ease of use. Most MSX2's output NTSC RGB and composite, and most games are on carts that boot straight up without typing any commands.

 

Unfortunately I did find the flash cart situation to be a bit of a PIA. I recently got MegaFlashRom, and it's not nearly as easy as a typical Everdrive, especially for disk games. At least if you download a program called sofarun it helps a little.

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The thing about MSX is that since it was not really a visionary, proprietary system, like Commodore 64 or PC Engine, it was more like a 'standard' than something you can get an enormous feeling from. After all, when some excited visionary builds or designs something, you can feel some of that excitement when using that system, the same way if a passionate programmer pours his finest self into his game, you can feel it when playing it.

 

MSX has some strong points in its favor, though.

 

1) It has some really good games, like the Gradius series

2) As Konami favored MSX for awhile, it has amazingly good musics in many games, and considering the sound chip, this is a massive achievement worthy of experiencing

3) The most beautiful computer ever made is MSX-compatible, so even if you buy a computer purely for aesthetic purposes (decorating the home), there's still a good reason to get one.

 

Of course I mean the Spectravideo SVI-728. The eye really delights with the sight of that system. There's just something so sublime about the look, it's so japanese, so effective, but also very cute and stylish, it oozes a sense of 'power' and 'ability' in some way - it's just a masterpiece of visual computer design. If I remember correctly, the keyboard is pretty good, too.

 

svi-728-c04bff63-4429-469d-9aed-5f8d2444

 

Mmmhh.. just look at that.

 

Everything you need, including a nice numpad, and yet it still looks futuristic but cute, and it's delightfully bright instead of all those murky black machines you can barely see even with all the lights on.

 

4) It does have a somewhat interesting sound chip, albeit limited compared to SID and many others - it might be a fun challenge to try to compose Konamilike songs with it and see if you can make it sound almost as good.

 

5) As most games probably came on a cartridge, there are no slow loading times or such to suffer, so the experience should be convenient and fun.

 

Some day, I want to get me one of these.. but I have so many other systems to consider first, like PC Engine (no Turbografx-16 for me, thank you - they butchered everything, including the name) and Atari ST, Sega Mega Drive.. so many systems, so little money.

 

EDIT: Eeeee? You can't read japanese? I thought pretty much everyone can read japanese these days. Sure, the kanji is a bit much, but at least katakana and hiragana (which are used a LOT in the old game and console area) everyone should be able to read.

 

漢字の方がむりかもしれませんが。。カタカナとひらがなの方がかんtなんじゃないですか?

 

グラディウスがさいこうですね!

Edited by Monk

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Just nitpicking : for sound, the amazing feat made by Konami is mostly due to them using sound chips on their carts; a fact advertized on their boxes :

SALAMANDER msx (boite abimée) - Retrogameshop

SCC : Sound Custom Chip/Sound Creative Chip (according to sources)

 

As for not getting an enormous feeling, I will disagree : the fact is use only non-custom parts (only for the MSX1 tho) meant that in general, MSX were able to pack more options or add quality (real keyboard, switching power supply built in, standard connectors instead of edge connectors) than other machines that, using custom parts, had to cut down on other features.

 

While it came with a few issues, one of the major areas where the MSX shine (and provide that feeling you mentionned :p ) is the upgradability and flexibility :

 

The dual cart slot isn't just for looking fancy and advanced, it's a major part of the architecture.

For example; MSX1 usually doesn't have floppy drives, not even controllers and not even BASIC support for it.

It was planned. MSX designers designed the MSX to accept "BASIC upgrades" from the carts, or really, any port of the system.

So slap a "Floppy cart" in the MSX and it will add BASIC floppy support, smoothly and without issues.

Manufacturer order MSX 1 / 2 / 2+ FDD Fractal Floppy Disk Drive interface  only NEW! 360K 720K L@@K! New product Comfortable -isofenetres.fr

 

Image

 

Another example : nowhere in the Konami games does it says that the SCC chip is to be in the game cart (even if I assume Konami could have done it if they wanted/though about it).

So, a common hack was/is to use a SCC-able game, disable the ROM (usually byt cutting a trace).

Put the hacked cart in the cart slot 2, and load a Konami ROM either in a ROM cart, a RAM cart with the help of a specialized software, and run the game.

And the game will work. You could even hack your MSC to have the SCC chip permanently added to the system.

 

This is one reason why most SD carts are complex to use, unlike Everdrives :

They have to take in account various schemes, expansions, etc.

The most advanced carts like the Carnivore2 are able to simulate sound chip expansions like the Konami SCC and SCC and the Yamaha OPLL, but also are able to simular ROM carts using those chips (or not), and also load floppy and tapes (yes) games.

 

This obviously make them more complex, but it come at the advantage that floppy and tapes files doesn't require to be "converted" to ROM format; it also mean that you can use those to rewrite an original floppy or tape.

 

I guess it reflect on the MSX user : flexibility and compatibility before ease of use. Even if there are more complex types of ROM and data emulation out there, that require you to convert files, to only use one type of specially designed file that must be hand-modified, etc... The difference is mostly that you move the difficult part from the file to the computer.

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On 11/25/2021 at 3:39 PM, DJ Clae said:

MSX2 is a great choice for console players just for ease of use. Most MSX2's output NTSC RGB and composite, and most games are on carts that boot straight up without typing any commands.

 

Unfortunately I did find the flash cart situation to be a bit of a PIA. I recently got MegaFlashRom, and it's not nearly as easy as a typical Everdrive, especially for disk games. At least if you download a program called sofarun it helps a little.

I have a Megaflash SCC+ and it is indeed a pain in the ass to setup.  There's a menu that you can add roms to which shows up on boot, but it's limited to 32MB IIRC.  So what I did is put all the 'good' games on it and those are the ones I normally play now.  Obviously there's a way to load roms directly from the SD card, but I haven't looked into that. 

 

I really need to look into Sofarun. 

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3 minutes ago, Tempest said:

I have a Megaflash SCC+ and it is indeed a pain in the ass to setup.  There's a menu that you can add roms to which shows up on boot, but it's limited to 32MB IIRC.  So what I did is put all the 'good' games on it and those are the ones I normally play now.  Obviously there's a way to load roms directly from the SD card, but I haven't looked into that. 

 

I really need to look into Sofarun. 

 

   Actually you can flash larger ROMs to it, including some VERY large MegaROMs like later Koei games (IIRC those can go as high as 1,024kb, or 8 mbit) or modern homebrew (some as large as 2,048kb). The only setback is that you must know what kind of memory mapper it uses.

 

   Loading ROMs from SD is quite easy. And with SofaRun it is absolutely a thing of beauty, just organize your ROMs in your drive the way you want and then just hit <enter> in the file you wish. It will autoload ROMs and DSK files flawlessly most of the time, and also detect and use the SCC when possible.

 

   When SofaRUN fails to run automatically (like picking the wrong Mapper format) you can always set up that game manually. The choices you made are saved for next time.

 

   It is a thing of beauty.

 

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33 minutes ago, lazzeri said:

 

   Actually you can flash larger ROMs to it, including some VERY large MegaROMs like later Koei games (IIRC those can go as high as 1,024kb, or 8 mbit) or modern homebrew (some as large as 2,048kb). The only setback is that you must know what kind of memory mapper it uses.

 

   Loading ROMs from SD is quite easy. And with SofaRun it is absolutely a thing of beauty, just organize your ROMs in your drive the way you want and then just hit <enter> in the file you wish. It will autoload ROMs and DSK files flawlessly most of the time, and also detect and use the SCC when possible.

 

   When SofaRUN fails to run automatically (like picking the wrong Mapper format) you can always set up that game manually. The choices you made are saved for next time.

 

   It is a thing of beauty.

 

So exactly what does SofaRUN do?  Is it a loader for games off the SD card?  I know someone at one of the shows was trying to load games off the SD card (not with SofaRun) and ended up obliterating my menu so I had to recreate it.  Like I said, I just know the very basics of using the MegaFlash.

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1 minute ago, Tempest said:

So exactly what does SofaRUN do?  Is it a loader for games off the SD card?  I know someone at one of the shows was trying to load games off the SD card (not with SofaRun) and ended up obliterating my menu so I had to recreate it.  Like I said, I just know the very basics of using the MegaFlash.

   It is a front-end / shell for handling files, like Norton Commander if you are old enough 🙂 or a mouseless Windows Explorer. It has all needed tools for loading files. So yes, it is a loader for the SD card.

 

   It´s a very, very interesting and powerful tool. I´ll try to capture a video later today.

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8 minutes ago, lazzeri said:

   It is a front-end / shell for handling files, like Norton Commander if you are old enough 🙂 

 

🤣  Thank-you for making me laugh. And yes, I do remember Norton Commander. 

 

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On 11/28/2021 at 11:02 AM, Monk said:

The thing about MSX is that since it was not really a visionary, proprietary system, like Commodore 64 or PC Engine, it was more like a 'standard' than something you can get an enormous feeling from.

I can't imagine anything more subjective than that. I bet to kids in Asia or wherever else MSX was popular, it was as "visionary" as C64 to others. And for me at the moment it's the most exciting micro. Partially because I grew up around assorted Sinclairs, Ataris & Commodores and know them inside out, but also because of the awesome Japanese games and varied hardware designs. So, yeah, there's plenty of feeling involved.

 

SofaRun is indeed a godsend, though trying to figure out what makes different games tick can be a bit of work. But that's the part of "fun" of messing with microcomputers, and why consoles were designed for folks who can't be bothered with all that.

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So here’s Sofarun running on a MSX2+ Panasonic with a MMC-SD card (not really that different from your Megaflash - actually the Megaflash can do even more)

 

Please note:

 

- English is not my 1st language so sometimes I struggle finding the words;

- My SD card is not very organized - just like my brain, I guess;

- I accidentally cut the video before starting the last game. 😞

 

Anyway, the video shows Sofarun loading:

 

- a binary file saved in the SD (.BAS and .BIN files)

- a SCC MegaROM

- a disk file

- a large homebrew that uses the FM (or MSX-MUSIC)

 

 

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8 minutes ago, lazzeri said:

So here’s Sofarun running on a MSX2+ Panasonic with a MMC-SD card (not really that different from your Megaflash - actually the Megaflash can do even more)

 

Please note:

 

- English is not my 1st language so sometimes I struggle finding the words;

- My SD card is not very organized - just like my brain, I guess;

- I accidentally cut the video before starting the last game. 😞

 

Anyway, the video shows Sofarun loading:

 

- a binary file saved in the SD (.BAS and .BIN files)

- a SCC MegaROM

- a disk file

- a large homebrew that uses the FM (or MSX-MUSIC)

Wow, thank you.  That really helps, I'll have to look into this now.  Do you just put the Sofarun exe in your base directory?  I'm not sure how the MSX DOS assigns drives, so I'm not sure how things are laid out.

 

BTW your English is just fine.  It always amazes me how so many people in countries outside the US can speak English more fluently as a second/third language than some people who were born here. :)

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Sofarun works very well, but my new favorite tool just for flashing/running rom files on my ROM cart (Megaflashrom) is mglunch:

 

https://github.com/ToughkidDev/mgLunch4MFRSSD

 

You have to copy all your MSX1 roms and MSX2 roms (.rom files, NOT .zip files) into separate subfolders in the mglunch folder, and then run a tool (in Windows) to generate a file listing.  This can present some issues in Windows 10, but there are workarounds using fsutil.  Then you just copy the mglunch folder over to your SD card, start your MSX with your ROM cart inserted, switch over to the mglunch directory, and run the mglunch executable.

 

There are two benefits of doing all this.  First, you get long filename support for .rom files (Sofarun supports long filenames inside zip files, but not for the zip files themselves).  Second, because there is no need to first extract a ROM from the ZIP file, the ROM flashing process is quicker.  Once it finishes flashing the rom, it reboots and you have to hold ESC until the game starts.

 

It works really well so far, and I think it feels slightly more like using a conventional rom cart than other methods.

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39 minutes ago, newtmonkey said:

There are two benefits of doing all this.  First, you get long filename support for .rom files (Sofarun supports long filenames inside zip files, but not for the zip files themselves).  Second, because there is no need to first extract a ROM from the ZIP file, the ROM flashing process is quicker.  Once it finishes flashing the rom, it reboots and you have to hold ESC until the game starts.

Sounds interesting, but does it have all the assorted options that SR does? I think they are sometimes needed for specific games.

 

Also, you can use unzipped files in SR too. Long filenames would be most welcome though.

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3 hours ago, youxia said:

Sounds interesting, but does it have all the assorted options that SR does? I think they are sometimes needed for specific games.

 

Also, you can use unzipped files in SR too. Long filenames would be most welcome though.

You can force it to launch using certain hardware.  I haven't had any problems so far launching games, but will update if I find anything.

 

For example, here is a video of the developer randomly launching games from a Megaflashrom:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuNxzULH6jQ&list=PLlD0W14KLTkpq5dnONr_U6fAUWuyGliEw&index=9

 

He's just selecting games normally and doesn't have any problem launching games simply by selecting them (i.e. no need to force use of external hardware).  It even supports selecting games with the controller, which I didn't even realize you could do until I saw this video haha!

 

I should have been clearer in my post.  The benefit of mglunch is that you do not need to zip up rom files in order to make use of long filenames.  That's what I meant to get across haha.

Edited by newtmonkey

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I see...it's always nice to have another option out there. Though I just realized this is for MFR, and probably wouldn't work on my Carnivore 2 (waiting for delivery).

 

I said about differnet options because a lot of games doesn't work for me, but it's probably partially bacause I use a Mapper Megaram, which is a lesser multicart. But, I think that even with Carnivore/MFR you still need to tweak settings for some particular games.

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I received a new toy the other day:

 

Emu-FDC R3 (https://www.8bits4ever.net/product-page/emu-fdc).

 

This is a cartridge that emulates an external floppy drive, with your disk images stored on an SD card.  It has a tiny OLED screen on it to show the current disk, and a few buttons for navigating the SD card and inserting/ejecting disk images.  It works a lot like a gotek drive.  It's a great plug-and-play solution for an MSX without an internal floppy drive.  It also works on an MSX with an internal floppy drive, but you need to disconnect or disable the internal drive if you want to actually play any disk games from the Emu-FDC.  On my FS-A1F, I can disable the (non-working) internal drive by holding CTRL while booting.  I've run into a few games that don't seem to work (mostly MSX1 disk games that I suspect are cart roms converted into disks), but it's mostly been smooth sailing.

 

(The Megaflashrom cart also supports dsk images, but it's a bit clunky imo.  It uses a system of virtual drive slots, and as far as I can tell once you load a disk image, the cart will forever boot that image until you manually go in and delete a file that's added to the root of the SD card containing the name of the disk image.)

 

All in all, it's been a lot of fun exploring the MSX2 disk game library tonight!  Having said that, there's a LOT of garbage in the library (adult games) and tons of visual novels (not interested at all), so I'll be going through and cleaning up my images I think.  Might be a fun weekend project!

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I'm curious as to what the best disk exclusive MSX games are that are English friendly.  Like you said, there's a lot of visual novel stuff out there which I'm not interested in.  Snatcher SD is about the only thing I can think of off the top of my head.

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I'll let you know if I find any.  I'm mostly interested in the RPGs, personally (specifically Phantasie IV and LaPlace no Ma).  There are some good Aleste games on disk, which I think are exclusive to that format.

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35 minutes ago, newtmonkey said:

I'll let you know if I find any.  I'm mostly interested in the RPGs, personally (specifically Phantasie IV and LaPlace no Ma).  There are some good Aleste games on disk, which I think are exclusive to that format.

Is Phantasie IV in english?

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