Sunday, January 8, 2023

System Review: PasocomMini MZ-80C

PasocomMini was a series by HAL Laboratory to make mini consoles designed after computers which were popular in Japan. The first console was modeled on the Sharp MZ-80C.

It used a Raspberry Pi 1 A+ board inside a plastic shell that closely resembled the computer on which it was designed. It included a Micro SD card which contained the custom HAL Monitor operating system, a custom version of SmileBASIC, and five games.

SmileBASIC uses the hardware of the PasocomMini MZ-80C, which allows DS, 3DS, and Switch SmileBASIC programs to be adapted, entered by hand or via a text file, compiled, and run with full color and sound on the system. The HAL Monitor system, accessible by pressing F11 on a USB keyboard, displayed green graphics on a black background of the original MZ-80C system. The included games can be accessed by entering LD, then Enter. This brings up a simple graphical user interface that can be navigated using a USB mouse or by using the arrow keys and the Enter button on a USB keyboard.

The system is strictly nostalgic as the amount of included games is quite low and the green screen is only appealing to gamers of a certain age. That said, the included games are actually quite fun. 

Heiankyo Alien, created by the Theoretical Science Group of the University of Tokyo, was a game that was popular enough to be ported to multiple systems and released worldwide as Digger. It is a maze game that was originally released in 1979, a year before Pac-Man. The object of the game is to dig holes in the ground, trap aliens, and then use the shovel to pile dirt on top.

Cosmic Cavern, known in Japan as The Biggest Underground Operation in the Universe, was developed by Takaya Aria and released in 1980. It was the first sandbox game wherein bases of any shape are built by digging. It then becomes a defense game as the base needs to be defended.

HAL Laboratory also developed a game included in the console, Jupiter Lander, which was released in 1981. As the name implies, it is a Lunar Lander game where the object is to safely land, using thrusters, on the surface of Jupiter.

The last two games are Zeplis and its sequel Zeldis, which were developed and released by Yasuyuki Suzuki in 1985 and 1986, respectively. They were horizontally scrolling shoot 'em-up games set in space.

PasocomMini MZ-80C is an interesting curio, but that's about all. It didn't have as long a retail life as the PasocomMini PC-8001, so it is fairly uncommon. Because of that, it tends to fetch a hefty price. Five games, a custom emulator, and SmileBASIC don't really elevate this beyond more than an original series Raspberry Pi in a cool-looking shell.

January 9, 2022 Addendum: A mandatory USB keyboard and optional USB mouse, as well as the USB power plug, are not included with the system.

Final Verdict:
2½ out of 5

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