Saturday, 21 April 2012

MSX Round-Up #1

As a gamer of an almost exclusively retro variety, it's strange to look back on a system that I know bugger all about like the MSX. I suppose it's quite arrogant to assume that something must've been a failure simply because I haven't heard much about it, so although it was just that in the US and European markets, it's surprising to discover not only how popular and influential it was in the Far East, but also how many top titles and franchises found their way onto it, and in some cases started life there as well. In this series of posts I'll be taking a look at random selections of them to discover just what I've been missing, and here is the first:

Time Pilot (1983)

I've actually played this one somewhen before but I can't remember on which system. VCS perhaps? I guess it didn't leave much of an impression on me in any case. It's a multi-directional shooter which places you in charge of a jet-fighter of some sort which is sent through five different time zones where you must destroy a set number of enemy craft, as well as rescue friendly pilots drifting through the danger-zone by parachute, before the boss ship arrives. Defeat this and travel to the next period. That's about it! Time Pilots is regarded as one of Konami's best early games, and some of these really simple shooters are very addictive and great fun, but this one just doesn't do it for me. The background doesn't change until the last stage so it gets very repetitive, both to look at and to play, and it's just strangely unsatisfying to play, for me at least. It must've been a very early MSX release but surely they could've expanded the concept a little? ... 5/10

Magical Kid Wiz (1986)

This Sony release is one that I hadn't previously heard of but its name caught my eye as I perused the MSX release list. As expected, it's a platform game - in this case, one starring a wizard who has been charged with the usual platformer task - rescue a kidnapped princess! To do this, our tricksy wizard has to battle across a meagre-sounding three rounds and defeat three dragons on each before the princess has the opportunity to thank him appropriately. The game is comprised of scrolling outdoor sections as well as flick-screen interior areas, both of which are filled with malevolent ghosts and other scary creatures. Wiz is, however, able to cast ten different magic spells to ease his progress by collecting the relevant icons which are found in treasure chests and other places. These range from special attacks, speed-ups, a shield, and all the usual stuff. The graphics are a bit messy, especially the outdoor sections, but it's a challenging and pretty enjoyable game with some catchy music, and it's also an MSX exclusive! ... 7/10

Golvellius (1987)

It's well known by those who know me that I rarely have the time (or patience?) to play through RPG's but there are a few that I like such as this one. Okay, it's more of an arcade adventure than an RPG which casts you in the role of a young green-haired fellow sent to look for... you guessed it - a missing princess! It's therefore a game set in the world of swords, evil beasties, and various magical objects and it includes scrolling side-viewed dungeons as well as large overhead-viewed forests and deserts and things of that nature. The Master System version is one of my favorite games of its type so I was very interested to see what it was like in its original form here on the MSX. Sadly, it's rather poor. The music is quite nice, as it is in later versions, but the graphics aren't. They're occasionally flickery and the choice of colours is mighty unpleasant, not to mention unnatural. Worse than that is the horrible controls which caused many angry shouts on my part, and there are some awful faults with the design too - it's easy to get 'stuck' between two enemies and lose all your energy in a few seconds, for example. I look forward to trying the MSX2 version (which is different) but I've already seen enough of this one... 3/10

Arkanoid (1986)

Every time I'm exploring a new system (one that's new to me, I mean) and I find that it hosts a version of Arkanoid, I just have to try it out even though I know it'll almost certainly be almost exactly the same as usual. Since the 'same as usual' is generally ultra-splendid, however, it's more than worth the effort! Sure enough, this version is a great one which does the job as well as any other. It plays well with a control pad with accuracy and responsiveness both fine. Sound was never Arkanoid's strong point and the sound of the ball hitting stuff is the predominant noise here. Graphically it reminds me of the NES version and features accurate backgrounds and the usual colourful bricks. The only possible bad point is that it's hard to see the letters on the power-up capsules but they're different colours anyway so it doesn't matter really. Another top version of an eternally-playable game! ... 9/10

Choro Q (1984)

You might expect this game to be the first in the long-running Choro Q (a.k.a. Penny Racers) series of cutesy racing games as I did, but it's actually a wholly unrelated game by Taito. It does feature the same kind of cars though, which are (or at least were) a popular line of toys in Japan, and somehow manages to incorporate them into a side-viewed platform game! Each short stage (around two screens wide) features three platforms with gaps in. Your job is to guide your small yellow car around the platforms, leaping up and falling down the gaps as required, and knock objects on them to the floor in the correct order. The objects are actually components of other ChoroQ cars and successful construction of one affords you temporary protection from the other vehicles roaming the platforms which you normally need to jump on top of to kill. It's a very basic and repetitive game but it's also insanely addictive, for a while at least, and pretty good fun... 6/10

I'll be taking a look at another random selection of MSX games soon - thanks for visiting! :)


  1. Haven't played the MSX version, but seek out the arcade version of Time Pilot and fall in love - it's one of my all time favourites, Top 20 definitely!

  2. I'm not that keen on an version of Time Pilot I've played to be honest. I know it's a popular one but I didn't really get on with it. Maybe I need to try it again. Part of the problem could be that I never played it in its day so I don't have a nostalgic attachment to it :|

    1. I didn't play it until it was on the Konami collection on the DS, and fell in love with it straight away, ha! Played the arcade version a few times at various conventions now, got to say I'm addicted.

      Just looked it up, and the arcade game's three years older than I am, gosh.

    2. Haha, that buggers up my theory then :P That's also great though, nothing says 'retro gamer' like playing that were made before you were born :)