Guide: How to play MSX/MSX2 games on the RG350

I’m nearly done with my Hope Computers guide (an accomanpiment to the Home Console/Handhelds and Arcade guides I published last week), but in creating this guide, I’ve learned a lot about some of these systems, and I think it’s worth putting together separately from the guide. So today let’s talk about MSX and MSX2 systems, and how to get them running on your RG350 devices.

MSX computers have a very interesting story. They started in 1983 as a family of computers designed to establish a single standard in home computing. Microsoft (in partnership with ASCII) created the firmware for the system, and major companies like Sony, Yamaha, Panasonic, Toshiba, Daewoo, and Philips all created systems within the MSX (and later, MSX2 and MSX2+) standard. The MSX standard didn’t take off in the US, but it was important in Asia, South America, and Europe throughout the 1980s. Before the Famicom (NES) took off in Japan, many of game developers (like Konami) produced their games for the MSX/MSX2; most notably, the original version of Metal Gear, and the only version of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, were developed by Hideo Kojima for the MSX and MSX2.

MSX/MSX2

RG350 emulator: OpenMSX (0.13) (source)
Recommended game file types: .mx1, .mx2, .rom, .zip

To get started, unzip and place the OpenMSX file in the media/data/apps folder of your internal SD card. Place the game files in the sdcard/ROMS/MSX folder (or however you name it) on your external SD card. OpenMSX is unique in that it loads a BIOS file called “C-BIOS”, which was made from the ground up and doesn’t have any issues with copyright like other BIOS files. C-BIOS supports .rom, .mx1, and .mx2 files (as well as .zip versions of those files) but it cannot run .dsk files, which are a common MSX file type.

Starting up this version of OpenMSX will open right into the program, and you’ll have to select “Load ROM” from the OpenMSX menu to start the game. Note that this version of OpenMSX will not load games directly from SimpleMenu; you’ll still need to navigate to the ROM within the OpenMSX menu after you’ve chosen a game already. There is a version of OpenMSX (called OpenMSX-0.15-selector, available here) that will load the game directly from SimpleMenu, but it only works with .rom files (not .mx1 or .mx2 files) — also note that a popular MSX file format, .dsk, will not run in C-BIOS.

This emulator will emulate several different MSX platforms (called “machines”). Some of these were region-locked. Some games can only be played on machines from their region; for example, the original Metal Gear will only run on Japanese machines. To change machines, press START or POWER to open the OpenMSX menu, then select “Hardware” and “Change Machine”. The default is “C-BIOS MSX2+”, but you could change it to “C-BIOS MSX2+ JP” to play Japan-exclusive games. The emulator will revert to its default machine when you restart the emulator.

If you want to get real in the weeds, you could use the actual system BIOS for an MSX computer and load that instead of the default C-BIOS . To do so, you will need to place the system BIOS files in the /media/data/local/home/.openMSX/share/systemroms/ folder on your internal SD card (no specific naming is required, OpenMSX will detect whether it’s the right BIOS). You would then want to enter the OpenMSX menu on your device, and select “Hardware” and “Change Machine”, and select the actual machine you are emulating (like the Sony HB-F1XDJ, for example). You could then set this as your default machine, and it would boot into this machine from here on out, with a different landing page and the actual OS experience from that machine. As an example, t he pictures above illustrate the operating environment of the Sony HB-F1XDJ MSX2+ system. The only advantage this has over the default C-BIOS setup is that you can now load .dsk files, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to actually run the .dsk file after it’s been loaded. So long story short, it’s probably to your advantage to stick with the C-BIOS configuration anyway.

This emulator has full external keyboard support via an OTG adapter!

MSX/MSX2 Controls:
START or POWER button: OpenMSX menu
SELECT button: virtual keyboard
L1/R1: volume up/down 

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