Gaming on the SVI Spectravideo
Today I’m going to take you on a journey back in time. We’re going to visit the latter half of the 1980′s. At that time I was the proud owner of a computer called the SVI Spectravideo, which was MSX compatible. It came with a 3.5″ floppy disk drive, 64 KB of RAM and a cartridge slot. Not bad for a machine released in 1985! I was particularly pleased about the floppy disk drive, as it meant that all games loaded pretty fast compared to tape based competitors. The same goes for the cartridge slot as well.
For those of you who are interested, here’s a quick run-down of the specifications:
CPU: Zilog Z80A (3.58 MHz)
RAM: 64 KB (+16KB VRAM)
GPU: Yamaha V9938 supporting resolutions up to 256×192, 16 colours and 32 sprites
Sound: General Instrument AY-3-89 (3 sound channels, 1 noise channel, 1 envelope controller)
Storage: 3.5″ floppy disk drive and a cartridge slot
Video: Integrated TV-modulator for both PAL (Europe) and NTSC (USA)
As you can see, this system had a lot of potential at the time of release, but it never caught on like the Commodore 64 did. Might have something to do with marketing?
Now, let’s have a look at some of the games I used to play on my SVI Spectravideo. If you’re ready, then buckle up and fetch a TAC-2 joystick!
One of the first games I got on cartridge was Knightmare from Konami. I’ve written a review of it that you can read here. This game is basically an upward-scrolling shoot’em up from 1986 that had awesome graphics for its time. You controlled a knight that was on a mission to rescue a goddess called Aphrodite. On your way to glory you encountered a wide range of different enemies that did their best to wipe you out. When you reached the end of a level, you had to fight it out with a boss. These bosses could be incredibly hard to beat, but it was possible with some practice. Even though the game was quite difficult, it was very addictive. I’ve got lot’s of good memories from playing this legendary game.
Knightmare on the MSX
Another game that I remember enjoying was Oh Shit!. The title of the game is a bit funny, but it doesn’t reveal much. It’s simply a Pacman-clone for MSX compatible systems. The only difference from other versions of Pacman is that the game plays a sample that says “Oh shit!” when you die. I found a video of it at YouTube. You’ll hear “Oh shit!” after roughly 15 seconds.. enjoy!
Played Boulderdash before? If you enjoyed it, you might want to check out Blow Up! from 1987. It is a bit like Boulderdash, but much more advanced. You can set out mines to blow enemies to pieces and even shoot with a pistol. The levels are both challenging and fun, with a lot of different puzzles to solve. Used to play this game to pieces, but did never complete it as far as I can remember. It’s never too late though, so maybe I should give it another go again? Over 20 years later? Anyway, here’s a video of the gameplay:
If you are interested in the Gradius shoot’em up series, it could be that you are familiar with Salamander on the MSX. This side-scrolling shooter is pure excellence. Great gameplay, wonderful graphics, cool music and even a two-player co-op mode! Played this game over and over and over again when I was a kid. I still enjoy a game of Gradius from time to time, but playing Salamander is something special for me. My father was hooked on this game as well, so we played together a lot. Good memories.
Apart from games that I played occasionally (Break Out and Ping Pong), these were my favourite MSX-titles. I still remember them today and hopefully I’ll try them again sometime in the future. My SVI Spectravideo is still at my parents house, so I might do a search next time I visit. Would be fun to take it home and connect it to the TV in the livingroom.
Any former or present MSX-owners out there? What are your favourite games? Do you still play them? Would love to hear from you.