Bandai RX-78 Gundam Computer Games Preserved!

Introduction

The Bandai RX-78 Gundam home computer was released in July of 1983 in Japan at a price of  59,800 yen along with the BASIC cart and 10 pieces of games and software. This was the same month in which Nintendo released the Famicom in Japan so it never really had a chance and naturally did not sell well. Because of this it became quite the rare system!

Until now only the BASIC cart as well as a single game called Challenge Golf were dumped and preserved for MAME. While many obscure consoles don’t have every piece of software in their libraries preserved, there is generally a fair amount of software preserved. For the Bandai RX-78, that was not the case as the rarity and price of the console and games made this very difficult. Nearly the entire library of games fetches hundreds of dollars per game when they do actually show up for sale.

Searching for auctions is also a challenge. For example, when searching for  Bandai RX-78 Gundam on any auction site you’ll get a large number of results that relate to the anime series. (The RX-78 was the designation given to the original Mobile Suit Gundam robot)

Years ago myself (Hubz) and user SSJ had tried to win a giant lot of games to preserve but sadly failed as we couldn’t get enough money together for the auction in time. In December of 2020 – by chance – I found yet another large RX-78 auction that contained quite a few games (including some of the rarer ones) and knew we had to get it as they came up so rarely.

It cost quite a bit but luckily we were able to win the auction and present our efforts to you today! Finally we got a large chunk of this obscure system preserved and out there for all to enjoy. Huge shout out to those that helped out with contributing towards the cost of it:

Dustin Hubbard (Hubz) – $1300
SSJ – $300
Omar/Bock – $110
Jonas Rosland – $100
Stian Schultz (Carnivol) – $100
Alex Fuller – $20
Christopher Farmer – $20
Fernando Prados Garcia – $11.73
Milton Garcia – $10
Dustin Cooper – $5

Thankfully the system and games all arrived safely. While the up front price was high, it turned out to be a pretty good deal as the system came with almost everything: Boxed, manuals, and even still in-box controllers.

All the games came with their necessary overlays for the keyboard which was another nice bonus. Think of it as similar to the Intellivision controllers with their instructions on the use of each key which is not explained strictly in the game. These are often missing from many system and game lots so it was fantastic to have the original materials.

Let’s talk a bit about the process of preserving these cartridges, as I thought it was an interesting endeavor.

The Dumping Process

The carts themselves were deceiving as far as opening them. After fiddling around with them long enough I was able to pry them up by hand and with a small flathead screw driver, but couldn’t get them completely apart. It took me a while to realize there was a screw holding them together as it was hidden under the label.

I wanted to do as little damage as possible to the cartridges, so I had to figure out how to get them apart without damaging the label. I managed to get each PCB pulled out of the carts by prying them carefully while sliding the PCB’s out and back in once they were dumped. This was quite a pain but it was the only way to do this.

Thankfully all but one cart were small single mask ROM PCB boards that could be pulled out. Super Motocross was the problem one. The game was housed on a longer PCB board than usual with two mask ROMs that required the screw to be removed to gain access to it. I sadly had to damage the label to do this one.

Interestingly, I contacted the owner of https://re-enthused.com/ who had done some videos on the RX-78. He noted that his The Pro Wrestling cart had the same extra long PCB while mine was the smaller one. It’s not clear when Bandai switched from using longer to smaller PCBs or why, but the small PCBs were much easier to work with for preservation efforts. If I had to speculate, the costs of mask ROMs maybe was a reason for the switch.

To dump each of these games, I had to de-solder the mask ROMs and try to figure out what type of EPROM pin-out they used to dump them with help from our resident assistant programmer. Luckily they were standard ROM types (such as 27C64, 27C128, 27C256) so with a little trial and error we were able to get them dumped.

After getting the raw files onto a modern computer, I found that the data had to be arranged properly to make the games work in emulators. Shout out to various members of the MAME community (such as Robbert, Haze, and Hap) for assisting in this effort to make the games playable. Super Motocross was especially tricky since it used two separate mask ROMs instead of the single one that all the other carts had.

All games were the same local memory size size except for Sekigahara which instead of using 16KB of space was 32KB. Sekigahara had a price of 2,000 yen more than the other most expensive games in 1983, most likely due to memory cost.

Lastly in the process, there was various tape software that is loaded with the BS-BASIC cart, which had thankfully been dumped and preserved already. At first my own .WAV recordings of the software wouldn’t load in any emulators for the system, but user Haze figured out the polarity needed to be reversed in order to run it. (Don’t run your tapes backwards, kids)

How do we emulate the system?

Currently – emulation-wise – there are drivers for the Bandai RX-78 in MAME as well as Toshiya Takeda’s RX-78 emulator, which are both imperfect and have a few issues. The MAME driver is the better of the two currently. The MAME devs were able to improve the colors as well as fix other issues due to having some greater references to the games being played on actual hardware prior to this.

MAME will likely see many incremental improvements to this version in the future. It is a bit trickier to get setup compared to Takeda’s emulator, which has a simpler GUI, but MAME of course is more than simply focused on the RX-78. If you would like to run the MAME version of the RX-78 emulation, I will describe how to do so below through a command line (not necessary if you already have a GUI frontend for MAME).

MAME

1. Grab the latest version of MAME from https://www.mamedev.org/

2. Unzip it to a folder and create two folders within the roms directory. Name them rx78_cart and rx78_cass

3. Download the RX-78 BIOS ROMs here and place the ZIP file in the roms directory.

4. The actual ROMs that are linked below each game need to put into rx78_cart EXCEPT Graphic Sugaku, which needs to be placed in the rx78_cass folder. Leave them zipped.

5. The commands you’ll need to run from the root MAME directory for each game are listed in the game sections below.

6. To quit the games you’ll need to hit SCROLL LOCK on your keyboard and then ESC due to how MAME handles computer systems it emulates it won’t recognized you pressing ESC until you do this.

Toshiya Takeda’s RX-78 Emulator

1. Grab the latest version of Common Source Code Project from http://takeda-toshiya.my.coocan.jp/common/binary.zip

2. Unzip the file and navigate to either the binary_win10 or binary_vista directory depending on your OS.

3. Download and place this BIOS ROM in that same folder.

4. Now run rx78.exe and you should be greeted with a black screen with a *L on it and a blink cursor.

5. Simply go up to Cart and then Insert to pick your ROM to load. Not all ROMs work in this emulator though, which is why we suggest using MAME but this is an easy way to load them.


Bandai RX-78 Gundam System Manual

Download Here (600DPI) [External Link]


Mobile Suit Gundam: Luna Two no Tatakai (The Battle of Lunar Two) / Mobile Suit ガンダム ルナ・ツーの戦い (1983-09)

Released By – Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201004

Release Price¥6,000

Download ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

It would be pretty strange to name your computer after the Gundam RX-78 from the popular anime series Mobile Suit Gundam and not include a game based on it. Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle for Lunar Two is – at its core – a basic space shooting game in the vein of Space Invaders.

Waves of enemies will come at you and you blow them up until there are none left. The stage will then advance where you must do that again, but upon completing the 2nd wave you’ll be given the chance to shoot the enemy mother ship, similar to the arcade game Pheonix. After that a screen with the RX-78 is shown and then the game begins again with different colored robots that are worth more but they also get more aggressive. This continues until you lose all your lives.

The game is pretty difficult, as your bullets don’t go all the way to the top of the screen and the enemy will fire upon you relentlessly. You can shoot diagonally – which is a big help – by moving left and right while shooting simultaneously. Shooting straight up is quite risky and makes you practically a sitting duck. The enemy pilots will grow in size seemingly randomly as they get closer to you down towards the bottom of the screen and are worth more when shot in the larger state.

In order to run the game in MAME you’ll need to run it with this command from the command-line: mame64 rx78 gundam


As of version 0.228 of MAME, the audio on the title screen doesn’t seem to be correct.

On the title screen hit ‘Z’ for 1 player or ‘X’ for 2 players. ‘Spacebar’ will start the game.

During gameplay ‘Z’ moves your Gundam left and ‘X’ moves your Gundam right. Spacebar shoots your gun, as mentioned earlier if you want to shoot diagonally you’ll need to be moving left or right while firing.

600DPI Scans –


Champion Racer / チャンピオン・レーサー (1983-09)

Released By – Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201005

Release Price¥6,000

Download ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

Champion Racer is a racing game clearly taking a page off of the contemporaneous Pole Position. The game allows you to select how many laps for the race, where you start of in the ranks at the start, then off you go! Naturally (as with most racers) your goal is to get the highest ranked position before the race is over.

There are some quirks thrown in as well, such as the fact that if you run out of fuel you’ll be forced to retire. If you purposefully attempt to crash into other cars, you’ll be given a speed penalty. Once per lap you’ll get a chance to stop at a pit stop to refuel, repair your vehicle, and get it going at top speed once more!

In my own experience, the game is rather unforgiving. If you crash once, it can be very difficult to get going again, especially in the middle of the turn. The game will annoyingly have cars smash into you from behind if you’re not careful, which in turn makes it even easier for this to happen over and over endlessly. If you are unlucky and have this happen more than a few times you’ll be forced to slowly drudge through the race until you get to a pit stop to repair the vehicle. Sadly, the game only contains one course.

In order to run the game in MAME you’ll need to run it with this command from the command-line: mame64 rx78 cracer

As of version 0.228 of MAME there are color and graphic issues and there is no stoplight to begin the race. The game is fully playable despite these imperfections.

When the game loads hit ‘Spacebar’ to begin the game with one player or ‘Backslash \’ for two players. Press a number on your number pad or row for the amount of laps you want, and after that hit ‘Spacebar’ again. The game will then begin! ‘Ctrl’ is your gas and ‘Alt’ is brake; the arrow keys steer your car.

600DPI Scans –


Perfect Majong / パーフェクト・マージャ (1983-09)

Released By – Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201008

Release Price¥6,800

Download ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

Every early Japanese computer needs a Majong game and the RX-78 is no exception. Like most Westerners, I readily admit I have only a very basic understanding on how to play Majong despite it’s rampant popularity on obscure Japanese video game systems.

When you begin you’re given various options which can be set, then the game begins. The keyboard overlay (provided below) is almost necessary as a reference to all the potential inputs for the controls. The RX-78 keyboard is not laid out exactly like a modern day QWERTY style keyboard, so a few of the keymaps in MAME are not accurate by default. In all though, it does a very good job.

In order to run the game in MAME you’ll need to run it with this command from the command-line: mame64 rx78 pmahjongg

If you want to just get into the game and try it out here are some directions as of the 0.228 version of MAME.

‘Backspace’ is no on questions and ‘Home’ is yes (on Windows or Linux). If you hit no on the first prompt it gives you, it will go right into the game. Hit yes and you’ll be able to change various game settings.

The speed setting is set by pressing ‘9’, ‘0’, or ‘-‘ on the keyboard (then 1-3 for difficulty). The skill setting is set by pressing ‘Page Up’, ‘Backslash’, and ‘End’. (a 1-3 for skill level).

Press ‘Spacebar’ on the screen where the tiles are flashing to advance to the main game. Here you can swap your tiles out by pressing the row on your keyboard starting with ‘Caps Lock’ (which is the first tile) all the way across.

600DPI Scans –


Hamburger Shop / ハンバーガーショップ (1983-09)



Released By
– Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201011

Release Price¥5,000

Download ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

In this game about the toils of service workers, you control a female carhop. Given an order (which is unfortunately only shown once), you must then deliver it to the car that pulls up by picking up the proper food as the backroom cooks randomly present it. Take the wrong item and a sound will play letting you know it’s wrong and you’ll have to try again.

If you take too long the driver will leave and you’ll lose a life, of which you have three. Lose all three and it’s Game Over. Other obstacles to your success include a dog, which if you touch it the item you are holding will be lost.

After every 1,000 points, the game will do a slot machine bonus round and if you get enough hamburgers to show up you’ll get some extra points. The game subsequently increases in difficulty after these bonus stages.

I was impressed with the colors and the sprite work which comes out favorably when compared to other games in the RX-78’s library. The actual game play is so simple you’ll likely get bored of it quickly.

In order to run the game in MAME you’ll need to run it with this command from the command-line: mame64 rx78 burger

You’ll need to wait through the title screen before the game will ask you how many players. Hit ‘Z’ for one player or ‘X’ for two Players. Then hit ‘Z’ or ‘X’ again and the game should start.

‘Z’ and ‘X’ will move the carhop around the bushes in opposite directions. ‘Spacebar’ will pick up the food items from the cooks and ‘Spacebar’ will also let the player sit the order down at the car which provided the order. You can only carry one item at a time.

Perhaps most interestingly, Bandai actually released a handheld in 1981 also called Hamburger Shop. While we have limited info on that game, it appears that the gameplay of the RX-78 game was based in part on this earlier progenitor.


                                                                                                                         Image taken from http://handheldempire.com

600DPI Scans –


Tatakae! Ultraman / 戦え!ウルトラマン (1983-09)

Released By – Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201012

Release Price¥5,000

Download ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

Another famous Bandai property is given a game on the RX-78. As Ultraman, you face off against the Alien Baltan creatures that press on your harder and harder as the game progresses.

The game is rather basic: all you can really do is walk around, shoot your laser, jump to dodge attacks, or kick the enemy. The Alien Baltans constantly teleport anytime you get near them which makes them quite difficult to hit, though it can be done with lots of practice.

Hit them enough times with your laser attack and they’ll perish. Clear them out and you’ll move on to the next level. Should you get zapped by them or spend too much time in a level, then you’ll lose a life. Once all three lives are up it’s a standard game over.

One cool feature of this game is that there’s actually a two player mode in which one person controls Ultraman and the other the Alien Baltan! The two players can fight against one another for the high score.

It’s highly recommend to play this game in joystick mode, as the keyboard key layout (described below) is pretty tough to use. To start a game in joystick mode you need to hit the right arrow key after boot up. Once you’re in the game you simply use the arrow keys to move, ‘Ctrl’ to shoot your laser, and ‘Alt’ to jump. Hit ‘Alt’ in a direction and you’ll do a kicking attack that can knock down your enemy if oyu manage to reach them..

In order to run the game in MAME you’ll need to run it with this command from the command-line: mame64 rx78 ultraman

600DPI Scans –


The Pro-Wrestling / ザ・プロレス (1983-09)

Released By – Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201013

Release Price¥6,000

Download ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

The Pro-Wrestling is likely one of the first professional wrestling games released on a console or computer. Sadly in this case it’s strictly 2-player only: there is no CPU opponent for you to play if you’re enjoying the RX-78 solo.

It’s a pretty basic wrestling game and there are only two wrestlers to pick from. According to the manual, each has their own individual move sets depending on how you move the joystick while hitting the joystick buttons, which is kinda neat. We haven’t been able to figure out how to do them in MAME, which could either be an issue of emulation or of us just being not very good. Just like in any wrestling game, in The Pro Wrestling a player must do these moves enough times to their opponent in order to result in damage. Once a certain invisible threshold is reached, the wrestling can pin the other and win the match. Afterwards, the game will ask you if you want to go again.

To control the 1st player you’ll use the arrow keys and ‘Ctrl’; to control the second player you’ll need to use ‘R’ for up, ‘F’ for down, ‘G’ for right, and ‘D’ for left. The ‘A’ key will allow the wrestler to perform their moves. It’s very difficult to be lined up correctly to hit your opponent, and it seems like it usually only takes a single move to pin them.

In order to run the game in MAME you’ll need to run it with this command from the command-line: mame64 rx78 theprowr

600DPI Scans –


Super Motocross / スーパーモトクロス (1984-06)

Released By – Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201024

Release Price¥6,000

Download ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

Super Motocross is a single screen dirt bike racing game. There are two modes: you can either compete against your own scores or challenge a second player in speed or time trials. In total there are three courses to experience. Each racing track has hazards you’ll have to navigate, such as rough terrain and logs which will wreck your bike if you go over them too quickly. The steering is a bit awkward, but you’ll have to get a handle on it in order to get the best times!

Steering and acceleration for the bike is controlled with the arrow keys, with the up arrow acting as forward movement and the back arrow to slow. Hit the ‘Ctrl’ key for braking and ‘Alt’ to do a wheelie, which is necessary to get across ramps without wrecking, not just for style.

In order to run the game in MAME you’ll need to run it with this command from the command-line: mame64 rx78 smc

600DPI Scans –


Sekigahara / 関ケ原 (1984-06)

Released By – Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201027

Release Price¥8,600

Download ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

Special thanks to obskyr and Charles Norwood for their help in understanding the gameplay of this by translating parts of the manual.

An amazingly ambitious game for the platform, Sekigahara stands out in the RX78’s library. It uses a 32KB ROM size as opposed to all the other RX78 games we have – which use 16KB – almost certainly due to the complexity of the game. The major downside to this particular program is that there is no computer AI programmed, so once again it’s a strictly 2 player game.

The game is basically a re-enactment of the famous Japanese Battle of Sekigahara. Each player’s army has several divisions represented by numbers and each division has several individual soldiers of different types within it. As in most turn-based tactics games, you move your soldiers into position, they fight, reposition, rinse, repeat until one side wins the whole battle or manages to kill the other’s shogun.

There’s a lot of complexity to the rules governing how the match-ups between different units play out, which serves as the major tactical element. There is some adherence to historical accuracy as well, because the different groupings are labeled by the full names of their commanders as they were at the actual battle.

If you want to play the game, I highly recommend joystick mode, which requires specific inputs to start. The game will otherwise assume you’re playing with a keyboard only, and that makes thing much harder to maneuver.

To start Sekigahara in joystick mode hit ‘S’ on the title screen, after which you’ll hear a sound, then press ‘G’. That will begin the game in joystick mode with the 1st player getting to move their units first.

Should you wish to play the game in keyboard mode, you can maneuver around the map with a cursor using the arrow keys. Press ‘Ctrl’ to pick a unit. Once you select a unit, the arrow keys will move it around. You can move two units per turn with any unit, and once you complete your move the other player will get to move, or you can press the ‘Alt’ key to skip your turn.

The second player controls are ‘D’ for left, ‘F’ for down, ‘G’ for right, and ‘R’ for up. The ‘A’ key will select your unit and ‘S’ will skip your turn. Player One’s army is red and Player Two’s army is blue. If two opposing units are moved next to each other, at the end of the current player’s turn, a battle will begin.

Unfortunately as of version 0.228 of MAME there are issues with the controls and they would not work properly once a battle begins. Once that is fixed in a future MAME version, this section of the article will be updated.

In order to run the game in MAME you’ll need to run it with this command from the command-line: mame64 rx78 sekigahara

600DPI Scans –


Graphic Sugaku / クラフィツク数学 (1983?)

Released By – Bandai
Catalog ID – 0201035

Download ROM
Download BS-BASIC ROM
Download Manual [High Quality] (600DPI)
Download Manual [Medium Quality] (600DPI)

Download 1200DPI RAW Scan Images (External Link)

Tapes were also a media used with the RX-78, though they require the BS-BASIC cart in order to be loaded. Graphic Sugaku (Graphic Mathematics) is one such program and seems to be quite rare judging by previous prices. In fact, most RX-78 tape games seem to fetch high prices unfortunately. Luckily most of the games are also on cart except for a couple exceptions. Still, preserving software for these systems is important too and at least we were able to knock out this one since it came included in the lot that was purchased.

I won’t pretend I know what’s going on with this program, but it seems to allow you to input various things and it will draw graphs for you so it’s definitely some sort of educational software.

Cassette games are loaded differently into MAME than cart games and have some requirements. You’ll need to put the graphmaths.zip rom in a subfolder of your MAME roms directory called rx78_cass like this:

You’ll also need to throw the basic.zip ROM linked above in your rx78_cart folder roms directory we made earlier for these games. Once you’ve done that you’ll need to run this command from the command-line in order to make the software begin: mame64 rx78 graphmaths

You’ll be greeted with a BS-BASIC cart screen and you’ll hear some annoying audio, which is the tape playing. First we need to stop and rewind the tape so hit your scroll lock key and then hit tab. Go to the tape control option and then hit the stop option then the rewind option. You shouldn’t hear tape audio any longer so go ahead and hit tab to get back out to the emulator screen. Type MON and then press enter on the emulator. After that type L and then hit enter. It should ask you for a file name and you’ll input GRM. Once you do that it will be waiting for the tape to play so hit tab again and tell the tape to being playing. After awhile you should see the program loading and you’ll need to wait about a minute and a half for the game to complete loading. Once it’s done this type RUN and the software will begin.

600DPI Scans –

About Dustin Hubbard

Founder and owner of Gaming Alexandria. Obsessed with high quality scans of games for all systems as well as preserving games before they are lost.

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