Review by TheSAMMIES
Disocvering The Past
The PC98 series of computers were good for more than just gaming. In fact, back in the early 90s, just about every work computer in Japan was one of these guys. The fact that they were so common and easy to obtain in Japan is part of the reason why it had so much popularity. This was the system for computer gaming back then. In the west, it is known more as a retro porn machine than an actual computer, but dont let those stereotypes fool you. The PC98 was an amazing system and is a great platform for Japanese PC retrogaming.
Hardware- The two main models of PC98 are PC9801 and PC9821. The 9801 model is the standard version. It will play about 99% of the games fine and run programs like a dream. It has two floppy drives. Some games require installation of many floppy drives, but this is pretty easy to figure out with a guide. The 9821 version is only really good for running a few games, but it boasts all kinds of neat additions like a CD drive, higher graphical capabilities, and a faster processor. The 9821 model may be a little harder to get your hands on than the 9801 version, but its totally worth it.
All PC98 computers will also run PC88 games. Thats right! NEC worked very hard to be sure that the PC98 is backwards compatible so you can run your PC88 floppies on it without any major problems. Thats how I play my PC88 games, by the way. Well, that and emulation. If I cant get a game running on my systems, I just try to emulate it, but Ive said it before and Ill say it again: Emulation will never be the same as playing the real thing.
Actually installing and running games can be a chore at times. Its sad, but many people of today probably wouldnt have the patience to put up with this thing. For one, you need to learn the PC98s version of BASIC commands. If you dont even know what BASIC means, then you have a lot to learn. Also, a good portion of games have install processes in Japanese. Youll have to at least know a bit of katakana to understand how this stuff works. Once you get the hang of it, everything will become second nature and youll be installing and running games left and right.
Game Library- The PC98 has a pretty deep selection of games. Most people who are aware of the system seem to have to preconceived notion that it mostly just plays an endless ocean of vintage hentai games. While this is true, The PC98 does in fact have a lot of porn, some of them are amazing and have actual gameplay. Night Slave is one of the best action games of all time and it was never ported anywhere else. It never came overseas and probably never will. This is your only way to play it.
If youre into RPGs, the PC98 has you covered. There are plenty of western computer RPGs such as Wizardry and Eye of the Beholder along with some pretty original Japanese ones too. There are some good action games too. Rusty is something that Castlevania fans simply must play if they are interested in the PC98. Lastly, a good number of PC98 games are independent. You can find all kind of old goodies from comikets of years past. Okay, so an awful lot of the homebrew stuff is porn too, but the good stuff is really good. This is also the only way youre going to play the first five Touhou games. Theyre all very impressive, especially considering that only one guy made them all.
The PC98 is like an ocean. Theres a lot to see and a lot to do. You could simply skim the surface, but you can dive deep into its game library and even get lost. A lot of its games remain undocumented, even in todays age of easy information. Theres a lot to discover on the PC98. Its a beautiful system, but you have to work hard to get it to work for you. Take the time to learn its version of BASIC commands, maybe even learn a bit of Japanese to make installing and running games easier. You can keep retro gaming history alive if you just try hard enough. It isnt nearly as hard as it sound. Playing PC98 games is a rewarding experience and owning a PC98 to do so is more than worth it.
Cool Fact- The PC98 was made by NEC. Thats right, the same NEC that made the Turbografx-16. NEC is awesome.
Also Try- The X68000 shares a lot in common with the PC98. Sharps dual towers are much more equipped for straight up gaming and are probably preferable to the PC98 in some respects. Its probably my favorite gaming platform, too and has a ton of awesome games for you to try.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: NEC PC98 Hardware (JP, 12/31/85)
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