-AM- Old Computers #3: NEC PC8801

This computer never saw the light of day outside of Japan but within that repressed archipelago it was the personal computer king in the 1980s. It was used for for practical applications but also had a rather extensive gaming collection. The PC8801 and PC9801 were actually a long-running series of models updated incrementally until they basically transformed into a DOS PC by the end of the decade. The PC88’s parts and much of its software was incompatible with standard PCs, even after they switched over to Windows. I may have exaggeratingly accused Apple of slapping a different name and higher price on the same product as PC’s but that’s literally what NEC ended up doing in the waning days of their line.

But back in the early PC88 days it was unique and very successful, inspiring NEC to release a dedicated home video game console, the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) in 1987. That’s a nice fun fact but there is some other information that’s way more interesting to American video game nerds – Nintendo actually released games for the PC88 series! That’s right – games like Excitebike and Ice Climber were NOT NES/Famicom exclusives, they also came out for PC88. Even more interesting is that Nintendo allowed Hudson to develop alternate versions of a few MARIO GAMES for PC88. These games included Punchball Mario Bros., Mario Bros. Special, and Super Mario Bros. Special.

You can see screenshots of these games and more at this site

Don’t get too excited, though, Super Mario Bros. Special is pretty shitty but what I appreciate about it is that it shows just how delicate the formula for Super Mario Bros. really is. The running and jumping are a little different but it’s just enough for the controls to be sloppy. If the NES version had played like this it definitely would not have been a hit game. Here’s a link where you can download this game and an easy-to-use PC88 emulator to give it a shot:

link link link link

PC9801/8801 series: introduced 1982


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