The Sharp x68000 Computer

A Wonderful 16-bit Japanese Computer System

The Sharp x68000 is the one computer system I wished I had the opportunity to own and I only discovered it via emulation and going through the retro computer listings on eBay and other sites. This is because the x68000 was only released in Japan and where I live, the most popular systems were the Commodore Amiga and to a lesser extent, the Atari ST, which also happened to be the machine I used the most at that time.

Two Japanese Ads for the Sharp x68000

Sharp x68000 System Hardware Specification

Let’s start with some hardware specs for the standard X68000 ACE model which was released early 1998 (source: x68000 User Manual):

  • 768 KB Character Generator (16x16, 8x16, 8x8 — JIS 1+2)
  • 512 KB Graphic
  • 16 KB Static RAM
  • 512x240, 512x256, 512x512
  • 640x480
  • 768x512
  • 1024x1024
  • Max. 256 Simultaneous Colors on Screen
  • 128 sprites per screen; 16 sprites per line
  • 16 colors per sprite selected from 16 palettes
  • Priority control
  • Super-impose
  • 2 Backgrounds
  • 2 channels (stereo or 2 mono)
  • 8 voices, 8 octaves
  • Noise Generator
  • Sample Rate 22 kHz
  • 4-bit Mono PCM
  • Component RGB In/Out — equipped for NTSC-J Cable TV
  • 2 x MSX Joypad Ports
  • Headphones Jack
  • Microphone Input
  • The tower case looks like two connected towers, with a retractable carrying handle
  • Software controlled power switch
  • QWERTY keyboard, 113 keys
  • Single Button Mouse

Hardware Variations Comparing Other Models

RAM

  • X68030 Model (1993) — Genuine Motorola 68030 CPU 25 MHz
  • EXPERT-HD, PRO-HD, EXPERT II-HD, PRO II-HD: 40 MB

Sharp x68000 Power Supply Issues

One of the most common issues with x68000 systems today are issues with the power supply unit ‘blowing up’. This may have been contributed to by the fact that the power supply is in an ‘always on soft power state’ and there were no switches other than via the front of case power button that performed a timed power off. If you happen to get one of these machines, most likely they will be sold with a power supply issue. You will have to seek out a suitable replacement power supply or be prepared to ‘convert’ a suitable PC power supply for usage inside the x68000.

The Sharp x68000 Operating System

The X68k ran an operating system developed for Sharp by Hudson Soft, called Human68k, which features commands very similar to those in MS-DOS (typed in English). Pre-2.0 versions of the OS had command line output only for common utilities like ‘format’ and ‘switch’ while later versions included forms-based versions of these utilities, greatly improving their usability. At least three major versions of the OS were released, with several updates in between. Other operating systems available include NetBSD for X68030 and OS-9.

Sharp x68000 Peripherals

New section coming soon!

Six of the Best Sharp X68000 Games In My Opinion

There does seem to be a ‘rough rule’ where if an arcade conversion was made, the x68000 version is likely to be one of the best. This has been true for many games that I have discovered particularly for titles made by Capcom and Konami, but like all systems, there are some failures too.

Other Great x68000 Games

If you have decided to explore the x68000 system more — well done! — can I also recommend these game titles as well:

Some other games worth trying out

Space Harrier; Super Hang-On; Strider Hiryu; Street Fighter II; Pacmania; Zugya; D-Return; Geograph Seal; R+R; R-Type; Dragon Spirit; Gemini Wing; Salamander; Image Fight; Nemesis ’90 Kai; Fantastic Night Dreams: Cotton; Detana!! TwinBee; Etoile Princesse; Terra Cresta; Blue Wings 2; Parodius Da!; Sol-Feace; Granada

Update 2018: Puzzle and Logic Games

I received a question in the comments below from Matt Sephton about recommended puzzle or skill games — with his preference being not so much block or drop type games.

Sharp x68000 Game Box Art

Along with great games and near arcade perfect conversions, the x68000 also has in my opinion some of the best game cover art from the late 80’s and early 90’s. Many of the titles are hand drawn artworks and the amount of detail in these artworks is something else. Below are three examples of this fine artwork:

Detana!! TwinBee
Strider Hiryu
Fantastic Night Dreams: Cotton

Sharp x68000 Emulation

With the system’s power supply problems, this makes the computer unfortunately a reasonably difficult machine to maintain. However, with emulation of the x68000 virtually 100% accurate, you can experience this machine in all it’s glory using an emulator under Windows.

Links to more Sharp x68000 Information

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