PC-9800 Series Emulation Guide

By Mike Pavouris / March 21, 2008

Since the Night Slave review was published we've had a few readers inquire about PC-98 emulation, which can be a bit tricky to figure out, at least for those who don't speak Japanese, because all the major emulators are made by Japanese people and are hosted on Japanese websites. So Mike recently sat down and wrote a simple guide, which should get you on the right track to enjoying Night Slave and many other virtually unknown PC-98 classics.

The best PC-9800 series emulators are the following:

- Neko Project II (most user-friendly interface)

- Anex86 (widest game compatibility)

- T98-Next (decent interface, decent compatibility)

If you plan to play many different games it's essential to have all these emulators, because despite Anex's great compatibility there are still many, many games that won't work on it and will only run on the other emus. If you just want to play Night Slave, then just get Anex.

PC-98 games come in image files, not ROMs. These image files come in three different formats:

- CD images

- Floppy disk images

- Hard disk images

CD images are the least common format (not many PC-98 games came on CD) and also the hardest to emulate. Emulating a game from a CD image in any of the emulators is usually a lengthy, tricky process, which differs for every game.

Floppy disk images are the most common format, but they come in many different filename extensions. The most common is .FDI (which Anex uses) or .HDM. If you have such images just open up any emulator, mount the disks in each floppy drive, and hopefully they'll work. If one emulator can't read a certain type of file then try with a different emulator. If the filename extension is not recognized by any of the emulators you will need to download a small program from here called 'vfic'. This is a simple program that can convert any PC-98 floppy disk image into a different format. So if you have unreadable files you can just shove 'em into vfic and convert them into FDI's, and then they're guaranteed to be readable by Anex.

Sometimes games cannot be run directly off the floppy disk images and need to be installed to a hard disk image first. This is a lengthy process where you must first format a hard disk image and then use the floppy disk images to install the game. However, for the most part, you should be able to find games already installed to a hard disk, therefore saving yourself the installation hassle, which leads me to...

Hard disk images. Games that have already been installed to a hard disk image are the simplest to run. All you need to do is load the HDI file in the emulator and then run it. (The HDI image of Night Slave can be found here, by the way. Also note that by default the game's music is set to MIDI mode, which can only be emulated if you set the drivers up. All you need to do is change that option to FM1 and the music will work just fine.)

So if you want to run Night Slave just start up Anex, mount the HDI image in HDD slot 1, click start and you are off.

You may also find that the text font in games seems messy in Anex. To fix this, download Neko Project II, which comes with a good font file. This is labeled font.tmp in the zip archive. Then open Anex, go to config, select font, and load this font file, which is far better than the Anex defaults. If the text is still showing up garbled you may need to change your computer's regional settings for non-unicode programs to Japanese.

And here are the best non-Japanese PC-98 sites on the web:

Tokugawa Corp.: French awesomeness, and still my favorite site on the net. Always has been the best English resource for PC-98 over the years. Unfortunately, it's not what it used to be... Years ago the forum was enormous and brimming with great information and tutorials, but then it all got lost... Ever since then the new forum has been moving incredibly slowly. Thankfully, the very respected and easily most tech-knowledgeable guy that ever posted there, Ashura, has currently got a long-running thread up with various PC-98 game uploads, which is worth checking out. The site also hosts an extremely helpful screenshot database for thousands of PC-98 games (it's not a complete list though), which is great to randomly go through just to see if you find anything that looks interesting, at which point you can then begin to hunt down the game.

Also of note is the articles section which includes a lot of interesting stuff, including a step by step guide on how to create a bootable hard disk image, which as I mentioned before is what you need to do if you are required to install a game from floppy disk images.

PC98 Images: Great site. Updated every few weeks with some very rare images. Unfortunately, uploads are only around until the next update, so get 'em quick or just contact site owner RyoCokey and he will send you what you want.

EMUMAX: Chinese ROM site with the biggest collection of PC-98 images on the net. Thousands upon thousands of games, but still not every PC-98 game ever (to get all of them you gotta go scavenging around Japanese peer-to-peer programs...) You may need to do a Google translation or something to register as it can be a bit tricky, and registration is required to download stuff.

So yeah that's pretty much it. There are literally hundreds of PC-98 games I could recommend beyond Night Slave, so I won't even bother... Hmmm, maybe I'll do some kind of write up in the future about the best of them, who knows. There's certainly a hell of a lot more quality stuff out there. In the meantime, why don't you do some digging around yourselves and see what hidden gems you manage to uncover?