Noob to MSX, Which System should i get? (MSX, MSX2/Brand Etc..)

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Por Brandon Jay Stickle

Rookie (30)

Imagen del Brandon Jay Stickle

02-03-2016, 08:29

Hey guys, Sorry if i posted this in the wrong place, im always horrible with navigating forums.

I'm only 18, and the oldest retro tech i got to experience growing up was an Gameboy advanced, nowadays, my room is full video games in every corner from many years ago, my most interesting item i own (to myself) is an Super famicom. while i have a very small library for the famicom and would like to get more, i ran across an video of a new type of computer i had not run across before.

An Philips VG-8235.

Watching this video by Lazy Game Reviews made my eyes glue to the screen, the reviewer himself got it as a donation and was not very impressed with it himself but i instantly thought that the thing was Beautiful! And i really want to get my hands on one! Kinda. I know how PC's are and especially of that age in the 80s that there was a bunch of different MSX Brands computers and models. What im asking is would an Philips VG-8235 suit my needs? as in, since its an MSX 2 computer, can it play MSX games? I thought in the video he said it was a Japanese Computer, but reading elsewhere, it tells me that its from the Netherlands? if anyone has a Japanese MSX computer they would recommend that is not so expensive that would be awesome!

Also, Should i even get into MSX? i mean, Would i be better off with another era of Japanese pc games?

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Por foobarry81

Master (148)

Imagen del foobarry81

02-03-2016, 11:47

Hi Brandon,

welcome to the forums, and to the MSX universe.

The Philips VG-8235 is a computer made in Japan according to Japanese standards, but it is tailored to the European market. This means it will need 220V rather than the 100V a MSX computer for the Japanese market would need. It also has a European plug rather than a Japanese one. The computer has a SCART out port, which is also typically meant for the European market. If you're in the United States for example, it would probably be more convenient to get a Japanese computer with that in mind.

The VG8235 is sort of an "entry model" for MSX2 computers in Philips's product line of MSX computers. It should cover most of your needs though. It's fully backwards compatible with all MSX(1) and MSX2 cartridge games. It will also play MSX1 tape games if you get a tape recorder with it. It will not support MSX2+ features in games however, and you won't be able to play MSX Turbo R games on it. The amount of games that have these MSX2+ features or that are Turbo R exclusive are fairly limited however. Mind you that the VG8235 has a single sided floppy disk drive, where many other MSX computers have a double sided floppy drive.

Anyway, all in all it's certainly not a bad "first MSX", so to speak.

About getting into MSX: I guess it depends on what you're looking for. Because the MSX was fairly popular in Europe as well, the system is not as Japanese-y as for example the PC-88 by NEC. There are quite a number of games that were localized, and thus come with English language boxes and manuals. That might be a plus depending on how familiar you are with the Japanese language.

Another factor might be the community. As you can see on this forum, there is still a fairly lively MSX community who keeps producing hard- and software for the system. If you like homebrew stuff, you will find that for MSX. If you browse around these forums, you'll also notice that there are a number of people who compose music for MSX. If that's you're thing, that's definitely a bonus for owning an MSX.

As for the games, the MSX got quite a bit of support from some of Japan's biggest game developers at the time, most notably Konami, which released over 70 games for it. But there are also a good deal of games by HAL, Compile, Falcom, Taito, etc...

The only real downside at this point I think is the price of MSX hardware and software. The most sought after games have become very expensive, but even common games are relatively pricey. MSX computers have also become expensive over the years. Still, people on here may be able to hook you up for a good price.

Por Grauw

Ascended (8395)

Imagen del Grauw

02-03-2016, 13:05

I would recommend that you either get a VG8235 with disk drive upgraded to DD, or else an NMS8245.

http://www.bas-ditta.info/ is a good place to buy, affordable prices, machines are refurbished and upgrades are possible.

Also I would recommend getting a MegaFlashROM with 1 SD slot and the 512K option from www.msxcartridgeshop.com.

Por Wild_Penguin

Hero (542)

Imagen del Wild_Penguin

02-03-2016, 15:04

I agree with Grauw's recommendations...

For a newcomer to MSX, there is only a litlle software made for MSX2+ and up, and considering the price difference between a basic MSX2 and MSX2+, an MSX2 will probably bee in the sweet spot. An MSX2 can still be expensive, depending on where you live and on your patience, and what you consider expensive Smile (if you will look for longer with more patience, you might find one with a more reasonable price - I've even seen MSX1 for sale with ridiculous prices, which don't of course sell). But if you can find one within your budget, an MSX2 is what I'd recommend to get.

I wouldn't rule out getting just an MSX(1). That will rule out MSX2 games (and the graphics chip is a lot better on the MSX2, which does show on the games, too), but an MSX1 will be a lot cheaper; you should get a basic working used model for ~20€, without a box etc; make sure it has 64kb RAM (if you live somewhere the MSX was very rare, even an MSX1 might be more expensive). There's still a considerable library of games made for a plain MSX1, and if you are still interested, you can always get an MSX2 later (and the money spent on MSX1 should not be that much, that you should feel it was wasted).

I also recommend the MegaFlashRomSCC+SD. If that's out of your budget, you can always load cassette games with any sound source (with a suitable lead - for example, you can find a 5-PIN DIN to 4x RCA adapter quite easily, as those were used a lot in 70-80's C-cassette recorders - CMTin is the white RCA, usually). There are even android / iOS apps which can be used to play back the images quite easily. Smile

You may also want to check with the help of emulators (BlueMSX, OpenMSX) what to expect.

Brandon Jay Stickle wrote:

Also, Should i even get into MSX? i mean, Would i be better off with another era of Japanese pc games?

For the first question, I believe no one answering here would be unbiased Wink . I'd say the answer is an affirmative yes. But it depends also on your budget and time constraints. As for the second question, as it was already stated, MSX is not only Japanese. Back in the day, it was very well known in many European countries (Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany, France, some in UK, but perhaps less than on continental Europe), Brazil and USSR, at least.

Oh, also here's quite a lot to read for an MSX newbie: http://www.faq.msxnet.org/ultmsxfaq.html#index

Por Meits

Scribe (5490)

Imagen del Meits

02-03-2016, 15:57

I wouldn't recomend trying an MSX1 first. You'd miss out on most of the fun. You don't need a step-in model to get into MSX and see if you like it. MSX1 is fun, the games are fun, the loading time is huge and you're almost obligated to have every game original on ROM to be able to play something nice.
Getting known to the system is easy nowadays. There's youtube and there are emulators. No need for an MSX1 first. If you don't like what you see on youtube or what you can do in an emulator you save some cash not buying anything at all.
If you really want an MSX, you need at least an MSX2 and have the MegaflashROM SCC+ SD with it. After that it's up to you if you want to grow a collection of hardware and software, but at least you're able to run almost everything ever released by spending somewhat € 200,- for the complete package (computer + megaflashrom) as a straight Philips MSX2 wouldn't cost you an arm and a leg.

Por Wild_Penguin

Hero (542)

Imagen del Wild_Penguin

02-03-2016, 18:51

What Meits says, is definitely true. MSX2 games are waaay better (is they use the MSX2 graphics capabilities to the fullest). But I based my suggestion on the fact, that where I live, MSX1 computers are very commonly found, whereas MSX2 computers are almost non-existent on the used retro markets. That means, that to get an MSX2 you will (usually) need to order from abroad and pay 4-5x the money needed for an MSX1 in the end (when you factor in the shipping from abroad).

But I must admid, I may be biased by the fact, that I never played MSX2 games as a kid. So I mostly remember the platform trough MSX1 games Smile .I also believe that in Finland back in the day, MSX2 was totally unknown according to my own experience (which doesn't mean it was never sold here - maybe I just didn't know about it). After MSX1 had aged, other computers dominated the market.

Note that my that first recommendation is to get an MSX2, too. It's just that if none are available, but an MSX1 can be bought for very little money, then it might be worthwhile to get one too - depending on what one wants. They are collectibles, too, if for nothing else Smile

Por Brandon Jay Stickle

Rookie (30)

Imagen del Brandon Jay Stickle

02-03-2016, 20:14

Holy cow! thanks for all of the support! As foobarry81 says, The community here really is very active! its odd that i have never heard of the MSX era.

@foobarry81

Quote:

thus come with English language boxes and manuals. That might be a plus depending on how familiar you are with the Japanese language.

im planning on continuing my Japanese language learning, i took two years of it in highschool and i would be able to read games as long as the OS itself (Bios screens ETC) is not in japanese, i should be able to figure it out! I'm leaning more towards buying a Japanese computer since i have shown most interest in that.

Did Japanese Use Scart? i would have to find a compatible monitor, i forgot to Add a question on what kind of monitor i should get or even use, The oldest computer i have is sitting with a pentium 2/Geforce2 which still uses VGA, i assume these computers didnt use VGA since vga was made in 87 (i read a history on MSX and it seem that MSX didnt last that long?.

As cool as the SD cartridge for the PC's is, im surprised its not that expensive, i mean if you look at ever-drives for a N64 they get up to $100+. Honestly i would rather have the originals, im weird like that!

okay, Few more questions!

Quote:

you can always load cassette games with any sound source (with a suitable lead - for example, you can find a 5-PIN DIN to 4x RCA adapter quite easily, as those were used a lot in 70-80's C-cassette recorders

The video talked about Cassette games, i have heard about these before but i was not aware that they were made for MSX. loading times shouldn't bother me, is there a HUGE difference between Cartridge and a Cassette?

Honestly right now im trying to do research so i can set my budget, if i could give you guys an Answer, i would like to spends $50-$100 on a system, And it seems that games are quite expensive. I'm not looking to play something i can Already play on a Famicom like Mario or metal gear, Castlevania (Saw the huge prices on these titles on ebay!) I'm looking to find the games that are probably specifically made only on the system! that might mean that those titles will be expensive but im sure you guys can recommend me something, i see that loderunner is pretty cheap and comes bundled with most systems on ebay. As for When im going to buy it, College kinda picks at my money for right now. So not too soon, like i said im still researching the price. Al this information is great!

I'm having a hard time finding this machines on Ebay, that seems to be my only place i will be willing to buy them, im young so im not ready to get fraud ed just yet. usually if i type in MSX/MSX2 etc i would find either a bunch of games and few systems, i found a website with a list of all of the MSX computers made, and i have found more systems by typing in their direct model numbers. i live on the West coast (U.S) so as long as im not paying $20 plus shipping i dont mind below that as long as i get what is described. How often do you guys Get faulty systems? i read on this board of someone bought one and it ended up missing ram and or powering at low voltage.

Another thing i forgot to get at which foobarry81 actually mentioned was the Japanese power grid, it was actually an pretty big hassle just to get my super famicom working correctly without me blowing its fuses. This would be my only worry about this MSX machines, would it be difficult to actually get this thing working properly on my american power grid? my father is an Crane electrician and he would be helpful and know about power if we need to test voltages etc.

Thank you guys so much for responding! it helps me plenty and gets me excited! Sorry for my horrible grammer!

Por ray2day

Champion (453)

Imagen del ray2day

02-03-2016, 20:26

buy a megaflash rom sd scc (€119)!
...and (ab)use it on your VG-8235 MSX2 - good luck and have fun!

Best regards,
ray2day

www.raymondmsx.nl

Por Wild_Penguin

Hero (542)

Imagen del Wild_Penguin

02-03-2016, 21:11

I can answer to a few of your questions:

Brandon Jay Stickle wrote:

Holy cow! thanks for all of the support! As foobarry81 says, The community here really is very active! its odd that i have never heard of the MSX era.

You're wellcome Smile

Brandon Jay Stickle wrote:

im planning on continuing my Japanese language learning, i took two years of it in highschool and i would be able to read games as long as the OS itself (Bios screens ETC) is not in japanese, i should be able to figure it out! I'm leaning more towards buying a Japanese computer since i have shown most interest in that.

There isn't a lot of text in MSX machines or other computers "BIOS" (we should probably talk about system ROMs in this context) of this era. All commands are written in English.

Brandon Jay Stickle wrote:

Did Japanese Use Scart?

Japanese didn't use SCART, but they used a different standard called RGB21 with the same connector. but totally different pinout. Also some BLANK signals were different, but I think (but I'm not sure) that sync and the RGB levels were same. So by making a custom cable, it is possible to use these devices with European SCART TV's, if they accept NTSC resolution and timing.

A lot of MSX computers have a custom connector at the back in any case, so a custom cable will be required.

Brandon Jay Stickle wrote:

i would have to find a compatible monitor, i forgot to Add a question on what kind of monitor i should get or even use, The oldest computer i have is sitting with a pentium 2/Geforce2 which still uses VGA, i assume these computers didnt use VGA since vga was made in 87 (i read a history on MSX and it seem that MSX didnt last that long?.

The SCART (or, actually PAL / NTSC timing) is not compatible with VGA monitors. Most likely something that would work, would be an old Commodore Amiga monitor or similar. I can't help you a lot with this, since I'm not sure what is available in the US.

Brandon Jay Stickle wrote:

As cool as the SD cartridge for the PC's is, im surprised its not that expensive, i mean if you look at ever-drives for a N64 they get up to $100+. Honestly i would rather have the originals, im weird like that!

There is always some charm in the originals!

Brandon Jay Stickle wrote:
Quote:

you can always load cassette games with any sound source (with a suitable lead - for example, you can find a 5-PIN DIN to 4x RCA adapter quite easily, as those were used a lot in 70-80's C-cassette recorders

The video talked about Cassette games, i have heard about these before but i was not aware that they were made for MSX. loading times shouldn't bother me, is there a HUGE difference between Cartridge and a Cassette?

First: Different games were released on cassette and others on cartridge (but seldom, if ever on both).

There is a huge difference. I take it that you are not familiar with any computers that used C-cassettes for data storage? Loading times for cassettes is 2-7 minutes - simple games shorter, better ones on the 7+ minutes end.

As for cartridges: power off, insert cart, power on - no loading times at all! Because of this, cartridge games were usually bigger (which means - more complex gameplay, better graphics etc.) than cassette games. Cassette games can be fun, but generally, better games were released as cartridge (only!) - or in the case of MSX2 games, some were released on disks.

If your MSX has loads of RAM, it is possible to load ROMs via the cassette interface. But for bigger ROMs, that is going to take ages! I'm not sure how long, but for a 32kb(?) cassette game, a typical loading time is ~7 minutes - and a cartridge game can be 128kb - or even more for the latest Konami releases! Using the cassette interface is a nice bonus these days, but anyone who is serious with these machines, avoids it (unless they want to use it for nostalgic reasons or something). I don't really recommend loading ROMs that way (I've never actually done it myself, but know it is possible).

Simple solution: Just get an MSX2 and the MegaFlashRomSCC+SD Smile . (It can be used with an MSX1, too, but not with all the features).

Por Brandon Jay Stickle

Rookie (30)

Imagen del Brandon Jay Stickle

02-03-2016, 21:30

is there any kind of Region lock?

Also i know Scart is a whole nother type of video port, But im looking online and there are RGB to Scart cables, Would this decrease the quality?

Por Daemos

Paragon (1670)

Imagen del Daemos

02-03-2016, 21:50

No region locks. I once read there exsist some games that refuse to start on european MSX but they are extremely rare (but I just read that somewhere so it could be BS). RGB to scart cables are the same as SCART to SCART. no significant decrease in video quality.

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