The thread title was supposed to be "The MSX Nostalgia thread – A return to the cradle of Solid Snake and the Belmont family whip", but that was too long for GAF (and rightfully so )
Anyway, with all the retro threads popping up on GAF nowadays, I thought I might as well contribute to the nostalgia wave myself. And since my early days as a gamer were dominated by the MSX and the MSX2, that was the obvious choice to do a thread about. Other retro threads can be found here.
Developed by Microsoft and ASCII Corporation in an attempt to create unified standards for home computers, the MSX* was the paramount 8-bit home computer architecture of the 1980s in Japan. A long list of manufacturers were involved in the project, including Sony, Philips, Sanyo, Toshiba, Panasonic, Casio, Pioneer, JVC, Samsung and Mitsubishi, and each one of them released their own take on MSX computing. Roughly 5 million of these 8-bit machines were sold on the Japanese market in between 1983 and 1995. The MSX was not only successful in Japan however. It was also a leading platform in countries such as Russia, Brazil, Spain, Argentina and the Netherlands. It never took off in the US or UK however, and thus failed to become the worldwide standard.
The Holy Grail
The Philips NMS 8280, a high end MSX2 system featuring 2 floppy drives.
During its lifetime the MSX standard evolved, which resulted in 4 different generations: MSX, MSX2, MSX2+ and MSX Turbo-R. A fifth generation, the MSX3, has been in development, but never came into existence. All the newer generations were backwards compatible with their predecessors. The last generation, the MSX Turbo-R, was only produced by Panasonic and only released in Japan. It is regarded as the Holy Grail of the MSX collector nowadays (and therefore quite expensive). Though this is mainly because it’s rare, not so much because of the added value to for instance games.
If you don’t own an MSX system yet and this thread got you interested, but you find it difficult to pick one of the many MSXs on the second hand market, you might want to check out Noisepurge’s buyer’s guide here.
While you can play all MSX games with (the arrow keys on) the keyboard, you might also want to look into getting a joystick/gamepad for it. Especially for multiplayer gaming, these come in handy. It might be a bit hard nowadays to get a good and working joystick though.
The Arcade and QuickShot Maverick 1 joysticks said:
(*) The meaning of the acronym is subject to debate. It could be MicroSoft eXtended, or Machines with Software eXchangeability, or weirdly enough it could’ve been named after the MX missile (a US ballistic missile).
Before the NES/Famicom became a true juggernaut in Japan/the world and consequently found its place in the heart of many a GAFer, the MSX was thé platform for major Japanese developers such as Konami and Hudson Soft (RIP) to develop and release their games for. As a result some great franchises in gaming were initially established on the MSX: Aleste, Zanac, Bomberman, Penguin Adventure, Eggerland (probably better known as Adventures of Lolo), Parodius, F1 Spirit and Puyo Puyo.
The most notable “MSX original series” is without a doubt the Metal Gear franchise, which had 2 installments on the platform, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.
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Several other great game franchises had installments (which were often not simply ports, but unique versions with distinguishing features) on the system: Contra, Dragon Quest, Dragon Slayer, Final Fantasy, Gradius/Nemesis (and Salamander), R-Type, Wizardry, Xak and Ys. Also Kojima-san’s cult hit Snatcher and its spin-off SD Snatcher were released on MSX.
Most notable among these is Vampire Killer. Released just one month after the original Castlevania for Famicom/NES, this game was developed simultaneously by Konami. It thus shares most of the backgrounds, music and enemies. Contrary to Castlevania (Famicom) however, Vampire Killer has a much more non-linear design, similar to the first Metroid, which was released in the same year (1986). As such it was the first true Metroidvania style game in the Castlevania franchise. Vampire Killer already contained several unique features such as merchants and hidden keys to doors and chests, that were only introduced on Nintendo systems in Castlevania 2 and later in Symphony of the Night.
Sources: Wikipedia , Splash Wave Youtube channel