The weird and wonderful world of the PC-98
May 14, 2024 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Pastel cities trapped in a timeless future-past. Empty apartments drenched in nostalgia. Classic convertibles speeding into a low-res sunset. Femme fatales and mutated monsters doing battle. Deep, dark dungeons and glittering star ships floating in space. All captured in a eerie palette of 4096 colours and somehow, you’re sure, from some alternate 1980s world you can’t quite remember… Drawn painstakingly one pixel at a time, with a palette of 4096 possible colours, pushing the limits of these 80’s era machines memory, these early graphic artists and hackers alike have left an indelible mark on the world of digital art and internet culture, only to be forgotten in the passing of time. But what made this boring business computer from Japan so special?
The strange world of Japan’s PC-98 computer [contains some NSFW pixel art] / More striking imagery: Incredible pictures from an era of games we never got to experience [CW: flashing lights] - Tumblr: High quality [SFW] pixel art from PC-98 games - The Art of PC98 - Amino: The world of PC-98 Pixel Art - Galleries from @noirlac, @item, and posted by Rhaomi (7 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
I stumbled onto these via ROM sets on archive. org recently and they've been interesting to try out (well that is if you're into old PC games). Worth mentioning that the developer of the PC-98, NEC, also released the console PC Engine (known as the TurboGrafx-16 outside of Japan) which has some fun games as well.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:29 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

In 1992/93 I went to Japan on business and PC-98 stuff available everywhere in the stores/malls in Akihabara. I had never heard of this platform before but obviously this was HUGE in Japan, bigger than Windows or Novell.

(Macintosh was also very well represented and I was told this was because Apple did an extremely good job localizing every thing they made for the Japanese market, including---and significantly--- documentation.)
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 1:17 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Mac’s also had the LaserWriter which made the high density of kanji output look a lot better than what the crappy Windows printers could do back then.

When I flew off to Japan in ‘92 I had a IIcx w/ 13” AppleColor monitor in my checked luggage, and it served me very well there until the internet and PowerPC Macs arrived.

Used to love going to Akihabara on my day off, to grab the latest Login magazine and see what was new on the shelves.

Ironically NEC buckled under the Windows tide when Windows 98 hit and the PC-98 platform, along with the other smaller Galapagos Syndrome PCs (DOS-V, Sharp X68000, Fujitsu FM Towns) got washed away.
posted by torokunai at 2:27 PM on May 14

I'm absolutely fascinated with the alternate history of home computing in various parts of the world (As a retrocomputing enthusiast, moving from australia to the USA was actually wild in this regard - what do you mean the apple2 actually had games?! What do you mean the amiga was dead by 1990??! it was just getting started then!), and I'm actually a little sad we've lost that - It's obviously better for society that we settled on some things that are common, but I do miss the concept of regional computing.

While I love the fm-towns and the msx more, the pc98 is particularly interesting to me because the dos/v stuff is just _so close_ to the american style PC, while being absolutely different to it. I remember back in the 90s linux days, you could actually run linux on it and there was a PC98 x server which used the video hardware even. But it was just PC linux! Just... not!

There's an excellent youtube channel, old games database (japan) which has been endlessly educational to me about early japanese computer gaming, and I love it deeply. It's not for everyone, but it's absolutely for me.
posted by jaymzjulian at 3:24 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]

I have a lot of love invested in my extremely heavily messed-around with Miyoo Mini, it goes everywhere with me.
It primarily exists to play trpgs.

Over the course of a couple years of adding and removing ports and emulators I somehow grabbed a folder full of bizarre, pixelated games - almost all of them in Japanese - and they've sat forlorn in a sub-directory, their little emulator icon faithfully occupying a distant corner of my launch interface.
Now I know what the hell these are.
Thank you, this is why I come here.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:13 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

The giant skeleton is an homage to, or ripoff of, the woodcut Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre

posted by BrotherCaine at 4:37 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

There was a very recent anime about PC-98 games (and time travel), "16bit Sensation."
posted by one for the books at 12:34 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

« Older May is for Lyme and ME and Autoimmune   |   “interesting and adventurous and exciting and... Newer »

You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.