Gaming on the SVI Spectravideo

MSX Logo from

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.Β  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! πŸ˜‰

The Games

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
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? πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚


    • Hi mate!

      I really don’t know how much these computers cost these days. Had a look at e-Bay now, but didn’t find any for sale. Interested in getting one? πŸ˜‰

      I checked YouTube and found quite a few demos for the MSX-1 by the way. Incredible how much these programmers manage to get out of the old hardware. πŸ™‚

      Talked to my parents. They are going to bring the SVI Spectravideo the next time they visit! πŸ˜€ Will for sure take some pictures and test it out. Since it uses 3.5″ floppy disks, I believe I can try some of the newer stuff that has been released for the MSX. I’ll keep you posted! πŸ™‚


  1. I got this feeling/urge I should collect all that stuff I never had. πŸ™‚ First on my list is the C64.

    I remember in the very early days I had the Amiga I knew someone who had the MSX with 3.5 inch floppy disks and being foolish we tried seeing if it (MSX games) booted on my Amiga 500. Of course not buy hey I was young. πŸ™‚

    I just came back from my parents and went through some old stuff. Took some pics. Check So much more I have there. Not sure if you have Twitter but if so follow me on!/thebucketdiary

    Looking forward to some more MSX stories. πŸ™‚


  2. One of my best friends had a Spectravideo. I remember that the joystick was right next to the keyboard, and couldn’t be removed from the computer.
    He had just one game (I’m quite sure it was Frantic Freddy), but it was great! πŸ™‚


    • Hi Mads,

      Cool that one of your friends owned a Spectravideo. Too bad he only had one game for it though.. hehe.. πŸ˜€ I’ve seen photos of that machine with the integrated joystick. Strange design.


  3. That SVI-738 indeed had a V9938 VDP in. That’s actually the video chip of the MSX2, but it only came with 16kB of VRAM, as it is an MSX1-machine. But still, the specs of that V9938 still apply. E.g. you can actually use several MSX2 modes on that machine, although only from machine code and limited to having only 16kB VRAM (64kB or 128kB VRAM is needed for half or full V9938 capabilities).


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