Famicom Family BASIC

I love BASIC! I don’t make a secret of it. It was the product, even before DOS, that launched Microsoft. It was invented to be the language to bring programming to the masses, and, for a short time, it fulfilled that function. (These days, if you want to learn coding, I suggest Python. Not only is it a lot more capable and modern, but you can actually get a job writing it.)

Used to be if you had a new computer you wanted families to buy, you had to have a version of BASIC to ship with it. The Apple II had two, one written by Steve Wozniak himself. Right off the top of my head, computer systems with BASIC, go! Altair, Apple II, Commodore Pet, Vic-20, 64, 128, Plus-4, 16, Atari 8-bit, TRS-80, MS-DOS, Windows (Visual BASIC carried the torch for many years), and, most improbably, the Atari VCS/2600, in its BASIC Programming cartridge, an effectively useless cart for its stated purpose that’s nonetheless an excellent hack. The machine has 128 bytes of RAM, but it can still run BASIC, by jove.

The Famicom has a version of BASIC too, coming in at the end of the language’s heyday. Over on the Peertube instance diode.zone, user RE:Enthused did a two-part introduction to it that may be of interested to people who still think in terms of FOR/NEXT loops.

Let’s look at Family Basic on the Famicom, Part 1 (8 minutes) and Part 2 (17 minutes).

Now, on the Sharp X68000

The SuperGrafx is a failed system that had only five games, only three of which seem to be worth playing. The Sharp X68000 series of high-end personal computers, which were only released in Japan, on the other hand, is probably the popular gaming system Westerners have heard the least about.

As I said yesterday, the X68000 cost three grand, and that was just for the base system. If you thought the NeoGeo was expensive, hah. It’s price was justified in that it was a computer, indeed a workstation, and had a variety of software other than games. But it did still have a lot of games, including some of the best arcade conversions, including excellent ports of Rygar, After Burner, Strider, Final Fight, Street Fighter II and Detana! Twinbee, and a well-remembered recreation of the original Castlevania up to then-current aural and visual ideals. The X68000 even got conversions of Atari arcade games like Marble Madness, and even KLAX, that would I would have loved to have played back then.

The X68000 also worked a lot like a MS-DOS machine from the time. It ran mostly HUMAN68K as its OS, a DOS clone made by HudsonSoft, although it also had windowing OSes. Despite how it seemed in use though, it used Motorola 680X0-family processors, like original iteration of the Macintosh. But while it has a DOS-style OS, it’s a home computer with a dedicated sprite chip!

At times it feels like this blog is a recap of my gaming-related Youtube explorations, but I have no qualms about it when they’re as excellent as the two I have this time. One is a review of the “pro” version system from four years ago, from someone who went and obtained one:

Three years later, RMC returned with a more thorough exploration of a different machine of the line:

And this one is about emulating it, which is probably the closest most of us will ever come to trying out any of its software: