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Hi,I would caveat this post as it's not a flame-war just a simple look at another machine that didn't gain much traction in the UK and the US but was very popular in Europe and was better than I gave it credit for.
A while back I shared that I had bought an MSX and later bought a ROM Cart of Bosconian. The reason I bought the Cart was I played the A8 version of Bosconian and thought the game was great. I didn't know what to expect from the MSX version but I have to say I was impressed. Given the MSX version was released in 1984 and the A8 in 2017 that is a very long time and while the AY sound chip could never hope to beat a POKEY it is not awful ( you have to remember I have also owned a Spectrum 48K with a mono beeper for sound so I come with a different expectation ). The graphics are not too bad as well and you can see that the MSX's 32 Sprites come into play with a lot sprites on the screen and possibly more than the A8 version although they are not multicoloured.
So I have added to YouTube Videos to compare the two to show you and see what you guys think.
For a 1984 release that MSX conversion looks pretty good. I think I still prefer the A8 with better colours and sound but yes, pretty good. By sheer coincidence I was playing the 2600 version of Bosconian earlier today. Considering the hardware limitations of the VCS it really is an amazing version!
I watched a video of the 2600 version a while back, and it's so good it would have been considered a good 8-bit version for 1984 exactly as it is!
As to the MSX, it's a machine that I've had more than a passing interest in, and have done research on it, ( the SEGA SC-3000 line too) trying to decide what other 8-bit computers from that era I could stand the downgrade from what I'm use to on my Atari 8-bit (sprites excluded, I know the MSX has 32 of them) but sprites are not a main consideration for me in the power of an 8-bit and the Atari has so many more abilities and capabilities in other areas than most other 8-bits.
At this point in my research I've come to the conclusion that the only other computers I could accept in my home next to my Atari's is the Commodore 64 and the Coleco Adam. Unfortunately the Adam has very, very, very little software in it's library beyond compatible Colecovision cartridges, which is well under 150 games. and Colecovision games are inferior and don't use the Adam to it's potential, so I don't know if I am getting it. Just the C64 for now, but, I intend to take a second look at the MSX line, Sega SC-3000 line and the BBC micro. Because without some nostalgia thrown in, I'm too spoiled with my Atari to learn to like most other 8-bits.
Anyway, back to MSX Bosconian, yeah, I would have thought it a decent version in '84, even if it is single colour sprites. It sort of reminds me of the Spectrum colouring without the colour clash of the Spectrum. And compared to the Atari version, it just goes to show, sometimes it's better we had to wait an extra 35 years for our version or it may have been worse than the MSX version, especially since I don't think there was much sprite mult-plexing back then, so the game at best would have been more like the Sinistar proto. Not bad, but not nearly as good.
As to MSX compared to Atari with the number of on-screen sprites, the Atari version's sprite multiplexer allows it to get as many sprites as the arcade on screen, however many that may be, and the MSX version doesn't use more than the arcade. The alien formations you see in the MSX video don't come along until at least level 5 or 6 on the Atari version, so you don't see it in the video above until later on, if at all. But watching the MSX version there knowing what comes later in the Atari version I can tell you the Atari keeps up, and with multi-coloured sprites.
You are bang on with the msx/speccy comparison Baker. I believe a lot of titles were able to be quickly converted between the machines as they shared the Z80 processor. The MSX might have sold better if European developers had spent more time exploiting it's benefits.
Some of the Japanese releases were of a very high quality, plus had the benefit of being on cartridge as well. If I had to go for a particular model it would need to be the Sony Hit-Bit as that was the first one I saw way back in an issue of C&VG.
The Adam always seemed like a very exotic beast. I remember drooling over the Silica Shop adverts for it in the magazines of the time. It looked like a proper business computer with it's fancy tape drive and printer all included.
Of course you are totally correct though, nothing can compare to the all round exquisiteness of our beloved A8 lineage