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MSX, or Not To MSX?


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Hey all.

It's been a bit since I have added to my collection of, well, anything.

I've been digging a bit on emulation lately. Mostly because that doesn't take up any space that isn't occupied already.

 

One of the things I have been digging on is the MSX. It's interesting. I don't mind import systems, though I know they were available in the US (limited).

I could swear my cousin had one. I remember playing Bubble Bobble on his computer. It was a long time ago now though.

 

Research has told me that the MSX competed with system such as the Famicom, and I can see that, especially in regards to the games offered.

I still own my Atari 8-bits, 2600/7800, and my NES/Famicom/SNES. I also do arcade emulation.

 

The recurring question in my mind is: Is it worth it? I can't read Japanese. Also, there are games in its library that I have in English, on the NES.

It's neat, it's different, it's pretty obscure still. Games aren't cheap. The system isn't cheap.

 

What does the hive mind say in terms of cost-benefit? As a collection piece, it would be neat. As a player? I'm not sure. Many of the games I like have been ported to other systems (that I have found so far), and that makes it a hard sell. Hell, I think the Famicom version of Ninja Kun is superior to the MSX version. Could be that I am still playing with a keyboard, graphics aren't everything.

 

One selling point is that in terms of collecting, I'd be picking this up fresh. I eventually want to buy another TG16, or PCE, but I would be rebuilding/repurchasing a collection vs. starting one from scratch. So, collecting for a system that I haven't owned before has an attractiveness to it.

 

Just looking for thoughts and feedback on the idea. Laying out a couple hundred bucks for anything these days makes me think on it a bit. Lol.

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MSX computers perhaps are the percent wise fastest increasing in price these days. I see your point that most games can be had in NES and/or C64 versions, so from a technical point of view it doesn't add much. Over here in Europe, at least there is some native MSX content, both Konami etc cartridges for international releases and the infamous tape games that often were straight ports from the ZX Spectrum. I understand that in the US, chances are even slimmer to find anything in the wild (or even eBay) that isn't a recent import. Generally, the games with Japanese text are the RPG's and similar. Some exist in translated versions, but if RPG isn't your style of game, it is not a selling point.

 

Don't get me wrong, I like my MSX and have had, bought and sold systems and games for a decade, but I don't think it is that much different or advanced compared to its contemporaries that it is worth to spend lots of money on, if you're any doubtful. Emulation gets you far, and perhaps one day prices will start to fall again which is when you should bite.

 

Bubble Bobble is a MSX2 game from 1987. There are some Bubble Bobble clones from Korea that run on MSX1 too. Without knowing anything about your cousin, it seems unlikely that he'd have a MSX2 computer which were mostly sold in Japan and a few models in Europe. It also seems odd if he came across some Korean imported games. Most likely you played it on a different computer, whether it was a Commodore 64, an Apple ][, an Atari ST, an Amiga or even a DOS PC. It was available for even more systems, but I'll find it as unlikely that he had an imported Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Sharp X68000 or FM Towns as that he'd have a MSX2 computer.

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I suppose it would be worth saying that I was in Germany when I bummed my cousin's computer. We were visiting over school break. Over 20 years ago. Lol. '88 or '89 would be about right.

 

From what I've seen MSX has always been pricey stateside, even several years ago. A lot of the systems I'm eyeballing are Japanese, and shipping definitely adds to the cost.

 

For what it is worth, I tend to enjoy RPG titles. Without translated ROMs and a way to dump them, that rules out a whole category of games. I have Dragon Warrior 1-4 NES, 5&6 SNES(and translated ROMs for emulation), and some of the Ultima titles (games that are shared or contemporary) Also have a lot of Castlevania. Lol.

 

It's just odd. I'm fascinated by it, but am not sold on curiosity alone(which is often enough).

Edited by madhatter667
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Ok, then it is fairly likely that your cousin had a Philips MSX2 computer of some kind, perhaps a VG-8235 or NMS-8245, or even a Sony model which apparently were sold in Europe. Of course, you might've been playing on a Schneider (Amstrad) CPC464, 664 or 6128 too, which may resemble a MSX computer many years later.

 

I'm part of some MSX groups with lots of buy and sell on Facebook, and have observed how pretty much everyone are accepting an increase in price. Those would be mostly dedicated fans, many living in Europe where supply already is decent. I even think that people in Japan are beginning to get a sense of retro which means more systems will be kept within the country, or at least more competition about them. Perhaps what is happening is that prices are increasing here to match what you'd already have to pay for a Japanese imported system in the US? Of course there are several Flash and memory card based solutions for MSX computers, which would help you load translated versions of games, as well as keeping down the total costs over time.

 

Curiosity is good. I've got several systems far more obscure than any MSX computer is, but I clearly see that investing a lot of money into a "new" vintage computer might not be an obvious choice. Good luck whichever decision you take.

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As a general rule, importing a system tends to cost a bit. There are some shops in my area that sell import consoles, a)they don't have MSX stuff, b)there is a premium attached to it, because it's a niche market, and c)getting it here. It's all relative. I hate seeing price increases in anything, but the money isn't worth as much, so that happens. I'm sure there is more awareness of the MSX stuff now than there was (here in the States) even just a few years ago. That would also drive prices up. I've kinda wanted one for several years now, but cost has generally stayed my hand. I make more money now than I did a few years ago; it's all relative. Lol. However, from what I can tell, there has always been a bit of a price tag attached to the MSX stuff, but it does seem to have gone up.

 

I'm not sure what prices you are seeing in Sweden for MSX stuff, but from what I can find in online auctions they tend to float in the $125-200 range for the computer. That's not exactly the worst ever. The shipping is usually another $50. Prices USD.

 

As far as emulation goes, I've got what it supposed to be a complete ROM set for the carts, and disk images. So, I have the library to play. It's decent, from what I have played of it.

I am curious how many games require an external RAM cart? My emulator program allows an "insert special" which most of which includes external RAM options.

 

For all intents and purposes, this is computer/gaming system that I entirely missed out on when I was younger (and when I lived in a region, and time where it would have been readily available). I think if I found a decent price on a clean, boxed system, I'd probably jump at it. I'd have to go with a Japanese unit though... because NTSC. I don't have an all region television anymore, and don't know if I would put THAT much effort into it at this time. The Arabic nation MSX computers look neat, and are a bit more affordable, BUT... SECAM, and no idea what power adapters I would need for something from that region (we were stationed in what are now EU countries). Unless the computers don't output by region... but from what I can tell, they are RF, and not RBG cables.

 

Still, it's on my radar. I'm just undecided. Flash memory options probably would steer my decision a bit. With a set of images to dump to a cart, it would be a fast track to a library, without paying exorbitant eBay prices for some of the higher demand games.

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Some of them have RGB output, in particular the later MSX2 machines. Most of them output composite video, although that would be region specific. Foreign RF signals tend to be very uncommon to tune into with good reception and colours, while foreign composite signals can be more common for a TV to accept, at least here in Europe TV sets for the past 15-20 years typically take NTSC composite video but I'm fully aware the opposite is not true for you.

 

I haven't encountered any RAM expansion cartridges, although most computers have dual cartridge slots. I know you can plug in something like a Game Master into the second slot to cheat in some games, or other solutions. Then again I haven't investigated the entire library so there may be special solutions, in particular when it comes to JRPG that I have missed.

 

Most people these days would omit MSX1 and go straight for MSX2 or MSX2+, in particular since you'd have to pay shipping, perhaps import duties and so on. Browse through the games that you enjoy to see what hardware spec they require. If by chance you would be good with one of the earlier MSX1 models (64K most likely), perhaps you'll save a little money vs getting one of the more sought after MSX2 models.

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I got an MSX2+ years ago and I love it. There are three things I'd say before getting one:

 

1. Make sure it has at least 128k. Some of the systems (especially the Japanese 2+'s) only have 64k.

 

2. Get a flash cart for it. Best purchase I ever made. Mine also adds 256k because my system was one of those 64k ones

 

3. Get an s-video mod if your system only supports composite. It's cheap and easy to do.

 

4. Bonus point! You'll want to look for a compatible joystick that supports two buttons. Atari joysticks work for one button games but you'll need two eventually.

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What is the best MSX2 to get in terms of price/performance for the US? Some Japan model since it would be NTSC?

 

I don't know specific models, but unless you want to be able to have a few more bells and whistles in certain games there's no reason to go for a 2+, a regular 2 will work just fine and are cheaper. There's also the Turbo-R but they're very expensive and I don't believe they're backwards compatible with the 1 and 2 and there are almost no Turbo-R games (Illusion City is the big one but it's an RPG all in Japanese) so they're more for collecting than playing.

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If it helps at all, there recently was a discussion in the MSX Home Computers FB group about the best PAL MSX2 model. The results:

 

Sony HB-F700: 4 votes

Philips NMS-8250/8255/8280: 2 votes after modding the sound mix

Sony HB-F500: 1 vote

Philips NMS-8245: 1 vote

Yamaha AX-350II(F): 1 vote

Sony HB-F9P: 1 vote

 

See also this thread, which seems to conclude that Sony is the brand for MSX gourmets.

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/200073-what-is-the-best-model-of-msx-to-buy/

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I believe the Konami games alone justify at least an MSX 1, that + Penguin-kun wars (loved it back in the day).

 

I have BlueMSX (MSX emu) just for the Konami pack .... oh how the mighty have fallen.

 

[MSX1 gfx wise is nothing to talk home about being another one of the TMS-9928/29 series of machines of that era but there are so many fun games that for a while I was hoping to find a cheap Zemmix so I could play the MSX games as a console .... never found one cheap enough :_( ]

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I use BlueMSX as well. It's a pretty good emulator system I think, Interface is pretty simple, sound seems to be right for an 8-bit machine, and can be plaid mostly through keyboard (waiting on a gamepad to arrive so I can actually play my emulators). Some games seemed to run a little slow, but for all I know, some games operate that way. Thankfully they weren't games that I found particularly interesting. Lol. They can't all be winners.

 

I see a lot of MSX stuff on eBay, but not so much MSX2. It's something I think I will keep my eyes open for though, because it is a little different, and pretty fun. For gaming, that's generally enough. I've passively wanted to get one for a long time, but never really went out of my way to look for one (because I know they were very limited in the US). I may start sticking a few bucks here and there aside, in case I spot the right deal.

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Note that there are various cards that use the versatility of the MSX architecture to improve it.

For example, you can upgrade a MSX to a MSX2

 

I think there are project to make those a full "plug-in" cart to stick in any MSX1, but I'm not sure it was made yet.

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MSX on FPGA works really well due to OneChipMSX being open-source. I don't think the original is available, but there's a port to the MiST FPGA.

I was a big fan on the Konami games back in the day; and I've found a SCC-patched version of Knightmare (better sound):

 

Edited by Newsdee
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I did not read all the posts in Details.

 

But concerning MSX , if you want a master piece.. try to find a Turbo-R . Only few software exploit it, but the machine is very impressive.

 

Otherwise, i would go for at least a MSX 2 (ideally a 2+) , but with a MSX 2 you already have access to 90% of the entire MSX library.

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I bought a CIB MSX and a flashcart and good controller. But it was too much work figuring out how to use the flashcart and playing disk games is too tedious for my limited free time nowadays. So I plan to sell everything and go back to emulation. I'll wait until I'm retired to try real hardware again. :P

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The MSX Flashcart (if it's the Mega Flash ROM one) is kind of confusing to figure out. It can also only hold 1MB of games in memory at a time (if you want to add new games you have to edit and recompile the menu). It works well for what it is though and it's much cheaper than actually buying cartridges. I think there might be a way to load individual games each time without the whole menu thing, but I haven't looked into it.

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Ok now I'm REALLY intrigued. How do you use it? Are there instructions somewhere for setting it up?

 

I also want to make sure I understand how it works. Before with the MegaFlash I had to create a menu file and compile that menu which would show up when I booted the system. Only a certain amount of games could be in that menu no matter how many were actually stored on the SD card. What you're saying is that this program acts like a file browser for the entire SD card and I can load any game I have on it but just selecting it? There's no size limit?

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It has been awhile since I used it but there are instructions.. I learned from that thread I linked or the version 1 thread I believe. Using Sofarun you boot the MSX system to dos and then run Sofarun.. there is no limit to the number of files that can be used. I know what you are talking about how you are limited what to list in the menu but this is completely different. Really great software!

 

I can't remember if there are instructions with the download but really simple: http://lhalter.free.fr/mgr/sofarun.html

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