Considering making an MSX "buyer's guide" video

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By wyrdwad

Paladin (751)

wyrdwad's picture

07-04-2018, 16:04

Hey guys,

I've had this idea for a while now, and thought maybe I should start planning for it, as I genuinely think it would be very helpful to a lot of prospective MSX collectors.

See, I bought an MSX2+ three years ago kind of on a whim, inspired by playing through La-Mulana, by purchasing and playing some of the games from the Konami Antiques Collection discs for PS1, by watching the Lazy Game Reviews video on the MSX2, and by watching some of Banjo Guy Ollie's MSX Mansion videos. Aside from those things, I basically knew nothing about the MSX, and was going into this whole world pretty blind -- having grown up in the U.S., I had more or less zero exposure to the MSX standard growing up, so I had no nostalgic info to draw upon whatsoever. The whole thing was totally new to me.

I absolutely love my MSX2+ now, and play games on it more than any other system I own by far. I also have a bigger MSX games collection now than I've ever had for anything in my entire life -- I've spent more money and collected more STUFF for this system than is probably healthy. Wink

But when I first got started, my lack of knowledge was pretty frustrating -- a lot of things that are common knowledge among the MSX fanbase were completely foreign concepts to me, and there really wasn't much information online to teach that information to people. I learned a lot of it through you guys, and that was awesome -- but there are certain things I wish I'd have known going into MSX collecting, so I could've been better prepared for what awaited me these past few years.

So my idea is to create a "buyer's guide" video for the prospective MSX collector, to help him/her get started -- basically covering everything from what to look out for when buying the system, to how to prepare floppy disks for it, to what expansions are available, etc.

These are the topics I had in mind for such a video, and I'd be curious to hear your opinions on them -- do you think some of these topics are unnecessary? Am I missing anything significant that you think would also be worth covering? That sort of thing.

So, without further ado... here's what I've got!

Buying the system:
- Differences among MSX, MSX2, MSX2+, and MSX turboR
- Watch out for NTSC vs. PAL
- Take note of memory; try to get a system with 128kb RAM or greater if possible
- Take note of FDD; try to get one with a replaced belt or a beltless drive, or buy a belt and prepare to replace it yourself otherwise
- Possibly buy a voltage step-down/step-up converter, depending on where you live and what model you're buying
- Take note of whether or not MSX-music is included
- Take note of whether or not system has a proper cassette port, if that's important to you
- Check model against the list of models that contain suicide capacitors

System details:
- Explain rensha dial, if system has such an option
- Explain slo-mo dial, if system has such an option
- Explain how to turn off the system menu, or how to skip the cockpit, when applicable
- Explain different audio formats, e.g. PSG, OPLL, OPL1, OPL4, SCC(+), SG-1000
- Briefly explain usage of MSX-BASIC

Cartridges:
- Explain backwards compatibility among MSX models, but also note that there are a small handful of exceptions
- Explain Japanese/English cartridges, and briefly note region protection in Metal Gear 2 cart
- Explain PAL vs. NTSC slowdown/speed-up concerns
- Note dual cartridge slots, and explain about Konami cartridge combinations
- Also introduce the concept of expansion cartridges such as V9990, PAC, MSX-music, MSX-audio, Moonsound, memory expansions, flash roms, etc.
- Stress not to remove the cartridge when the system is powered on
- Show how to clean cartridges

Disks:
- Explain that MSX supports only DD disks, not HD disks
- Note that USB floppy drives exist for Windows that can write DD disks, but they're hard to come by, so buyer beware
- Explain how to use Disk Manager for Windows
- Explain how to format floppy disks via MSX-BASIC
- Explain how to use tape to fool the MSX into recognizing an HD disk as a DD disk, and note the quirks that arise from doing so
- Explain how to check floppy disks for mold (very important and hardly ever covered!), and how to clean them
- Explain about holding Ctrl on bootup, when needed
- Briefly explain usage of MSX-DOS

Cassettes:
- Explain how to hook up a tape drive
- Explain about holding Left-Shift on bootup
- Explain different tape-loading methods (run, load, bload, cload)
- Explain how to save to tape, when needed
- Explain occasional issues running PAL tapes on NTSC systems

...I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot, as I'm literally typing this list from memory (and am running on very little sleep right now!), but I think you get the general gist.

So what do you think?

-Tom

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By olonguet

Resident (44)

olonguet's picture

10-04-2018, 14:26

great idea Wink
been thinking about doing this for a while too, just haven't got round to it.
actually, maybe that's sth we could work on together then if you'd like ??

By PAC

Guardian (5118)

PAC's picture

10-04-2018, 17:46

What about a general guide for new or future users instead an specific buyer's guide?

In my opinion your idea is very good helping someone to take the first steps. Right now there is an user in the Spanish forums asking many questions as a newcomer to the MSX standard Smile .

I think that your criteria, after these years of experience, could not be better. Note that the content of the MRC's wiki could be a help for the main points of discussion or to link any content related to it.

By mars2000you

Enlighted (5468)

mars2000you's picture

10-04-2018, 17:17

Quote:

- Explain Japanese/English cartridges, and briefly note region protection in Metal Gear 2 cart

The problem is not with Metal Gear 2, but with Metal Gear, the first game of this great series.

By rderooy

Hero (523)

rderooy's picture

10-04-2018, 18:26

Perhaps some of this is of use... https://www.msx.org/wiki/Buying_a_second_hand_MSX
and also https://www.msx.org/wiki/Buying,_Selling_and_Trading

I don't think you should push people to get an MSX2+ or TurboR, because if you don't live in Japan, they have some pitfalls like power and video out. If all you want to play is "local" games that were published in your local market, then an MSX1 or MSX2 may be perfectly fine.

By mariocavalcanti

Resident (63)

mariocavalcanti's picture

11-04-2018, 01:31

PAC wrote:

What about a general guide for new or future users instead an specific buyer's guide?

Sounds great too!

By wyrdwad

Paladin (751)

wyrdwad's picture

14-04-2018, 05:37

rderooy wrote:

Perhaps some of this is of use... https://www.msx.org/wiki/Buying_a_second_hand_MSX
and also https://www.msx.org/wiki/Buying,_Selling_and_Trading

I don't think you should push people to get an MSX2+ or TurboR, because if you don't live in Japan, they have some pitfalls like power and video out. If all you want to play is "local" games that were published in your local market, then an MSX1 or MSX2 may be perfectly fine.

Unless your local market is in North America, where the standard is much closer to Japan's. ;)

I would certainly mention all of that, though!

Also, sorry it took me so long to reply to this post -- I didn't notice anyone has replied until just now! Guess I wasn't paying enough attention to the new posts on the sidebar.

Thank you all for the responses and links, though! And yes, if and when I get around to doing something like this, I will absolutely ask for help on here every step of the way. I want to make sure that when this video gets made, it gets made RIGHT the first time, you know?

-Tom

By Grauw

Enlighted (8031)

Grauw's picture

14-04-2018, 11:20

As for video, 60 Hz RGB shouldn’t be a problem for European TVs. I think even NTSC composite video works on several TVs nowadays (but who’d want to use that Wink).

However a 230V->100V power transformer is pretty hard to find.

A Philips MSX2 will be much easier to find in the Netherlands than an MSX2+, much cheaper too, and very plug-and-play (with SCART output and 220V), and work just as well for the vast majority of games [1]. MSX2+ and turboR are nice systems, but for someone freshly getting into MSX, or trying to revive some childhood memories, I would look to the earlier generation for a first purchase.

In the US though I agree a Japanese system makes more sense, and if you’re then importing from Japan anyway, might as well go for a 2+ if it’s not too much more expensive.

By rderooy

Hero (523)

rderooy's picture

14-04-2018, 12:00

I think all "modern" TV's sold in Europe handle NTSC just fine. Modern, being anything released in the last 10 years at least.

My own LCD/LED TV's all handle composite NTSC just fine. But I upgraded in the meantime all composite devices to component or HDMI.

The other way around, is still problematic apparently. Strangely enough most American TV's still don't handle a PAL signal, even though you would expect them to use the same electronics these days.

By wyrdwad

Paladin (751)

wyrdwad's picture

14-04-2018, 20:32

rderooy wrote:

I think all "modern" TV's sold in Europe handle NTSC just fine. Modern, being anything released in the last 10 years at least.

My own LCD/LED TV's all handle composite NTSC just fine. But I upgraded in the meantime all composite devices to component or HDMI.

The other way around, is still problematic apparently. Strangely enough most American TV's still don't handle a PAL signal, even though you would expect them to use the same electronics these days.

There are ways around it for hardcore gamers -- PAL-compatible TVs do exist here, certainly (though I've never personally seen one, as far as I know), and I know people who use Framemeisters to decode the PAL signal and output in NTSC. But the bigger concerns with importing a system from Europe as opposed to Japan are: the step-down converter and plug shape converter you'd need (you can technically get away with using a Japanese system without any converter at all here, since the voltage is so close and the plug shape is the same; it's probably safer for the longevity of the power supply to get a step-up converter anyway, as I've done, but it really isn't an absolute requirement), and the 50 Hz play speed.

The latter is a deal-breaker for me, since converters are fine and dandy, but I absolutely can't STAND when a game is played at a slower speed than intended -- especially the music! If I'm familiar with a game at all and notice the music playing slower than I know it's supposed to, I just immediately turn it off -- that's a great big "no thanks" for me! Wink

Somewhat hypocritically, though, I don't mind as much if I'm playing a PAL game on an NTSC system and the music is playing a little FASTER than intended. But that also comes up a lot less frequently -- I can only think of a small handful of homebrew MSX titles I've played for which this occurs, whereas there are considerably more cases of popular Japanese games playing slower than intended on a PAL system.

That does bring up a question that might be good to address in this eventual buyer's guide, though: if someone does buy a PAL system, is there a way to trick it into playing NTSC games at the proper speed, should the owner have a TV or monitor capable of decoding the 60 Hz signal? And I guess the reverse question is also worth asking: is there a way to trick an NTSC system into playing games at PAL speed if the owner has a TV or monitor capable of decoding the 50 Hz signal? I know there's a BASIC command to switch between NTSC and PAL standards, but is there any means of easily doing this for cartridge or disk titles that aren't launched through BASIC, or would that require opening the system up and flipping jumpers or something?

-Tom

By Meits

Scribe (5387)

Meits's picture

14-04-2018, 23:17

Cartridges boot at the default frequency of the system or the frequency hardcoded in the cartridge (especially the last Konamis have it hardcoded, so nothing to alter there without hacking). For other cartidges goes that you could boot your MSX without the game present (best way is a switch/slotexpander), put the computer on your favorite frequency and start the cartridge. (There are ways for that, I just never used it, cuz I played rom to disk hacks in my youth).

A disk which hasn't got the prevered frequency hardcoded can be boot in every frequency you'd like. As I only used disk games/conversions in the early 90s I never played anything on 50Hz (being in Europe). If there's an autoexec.bas you could alter it and save it to never have to worry again with that particular game. This mostly went for rom to disk hacks. The other games which autoboot/were released on disk there's the following way to boot it on 60Hz if you're in Europe and want to play it the way it should be played:
Boot computer without disk inserted. Wait for Basic. Insert disk. Type:
VDP(10)=0
POKE &HF346,1
_SYSTEM
and there you go.

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