When I try to think about the first time I played video games, I remember only blurry images of games played with a big white keyboard. That keyboard was connected to a monitor and we had a red joystick to play with. I couldn’t remember a single name of the games we had for the system or the name of the machine. I tried to search the console and the games on the internet for years without any success. But you know, when you are not looking the most likely you will find what was lost in the first place.
I went to the electronics store named Verkkokauppa.com in Helsinki and just when I was leaving, I noticed the elevator can take you to a video game museum. It wasn’t a very big museum, but there I saw it! The keyboard was in the glass cabinet. Also, the red joystick was there. All warm memories of my first video games came rushing back to me. The keyboard was a MSX Spectravideo SVI-738 X’Press and the joystick was a Spectravideo Quickshot II Turbo.
I took a couple of pictures of the keyboard and the joystick and sent them to my father and he immediately recognized the machine, but he couldn’t remember any names for the games we played. The search went on and luckily my big brother and big sister had better memory than I and with their help we found the games. The first games I ever played were Track and Field, Konami’s Golf, Konami’s Tennis, King’s Valley, Alpharoid and Yie ar Kung-Fu II.
The fact that I couldn’t find any information concerning the MSX Spectravideo home computer, was because it was not a very popular machine at the time. There were lots of other similarly looking keyboard type consoles in the market like Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum which were much popular machines than MSX. My father got the SVI-738 MSX from his friend and who knows where he got the machine in the first place. It came along with its own official carrying bag, because it was meant to be used as a portable computer. Even today it is not very easy to find on any of the auction sites on the web, but yet again I was lucky. I bought the machine with seven game cartridges from a Finnish auction site named Huuto.net.
I made some research on the subject and the MSX brand reviled quite an interesting history. MSX was a Microsoft’s attempt to standardize home computers architecture the way that programs and games can be played on a different manufacture’s machines. In this case, a company named Spectravideo made the SVI-738 X’Press to a MSX standard, and now all games and software products that only holds the MSX logo will work on the machine. Of course, this held companies down to achieve more impressive graphics from their products. To compete with the other companies, a new standard had to be created. A MSX2 and MSX2+ were created, but it was too late when the world was introduced to the Nintendo Entertainment System.
When Nintendo players were playing Super Mario Brothers, MSX players got the chance to play the first Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear in 1987, which was originally coded for MSX2 computer. Nintendo got the game ported to NES console the next year, but heavily altered and without Kojima’s supervision. Metal Gear was published by Konami, a company which was a big publisher for the MSX computers in the 80’s. This can also be seen in the lineup of my first games I played on the MSX.
Track and Field, Konami’s Golf and Konami’s Tennis were my first games I remember playing among with King’s Valley, Alpharoid and Yie ar Kung-Fu II. Konami published lots of sports games for the MSX computer and it is really no wonder why. They were great couch multiplayers for the whole family. Konami’s Golf and Tennis games can be played up to 2-players and Track and Field even 4-players. First time seeing the graphics of a golf ball flying through the air with a ridiculous sound effect was something unforgettable for a six-year-old me. I have never seen anything like that before. A realization happened in my mind, the first impression of what video games are.
I remember the quick repeating button presses when running a 100-meter dash against your opponent. The quicker you repeatedly press the run button, the faster the player will run. The game mechanic was so simple, but yet it was so hilarious at the time. Today, in a world of fast internet and generic third and first person shooters we think we are playing together, but the truth is we are really playing alone. Konami’s MSX sports games are like party games of its own time. These games are simple reminders that games are supposed to bring us together and have fun, no matter how silly the game mechanic is.
In part 2 I will go through the other three MSX games mentioned here: Alpharoid, King’s Valley and Yie ar Kung-Fu II.
What is your first memory when you first played a video game? Leave comment below.