FM Towns emulators

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FM Towns
FMTOWNS 2F.jpg
Developer Fujitsu
Type Home computer
Release date 1989
Discontinued 1997
Predecessor FM-7
Emulated

The FM Towns was a Japanese line of personal computers designed and manufactured by Fujitsu between February 1989 and the summer of 1997. Fujitsu designed it under the codename Townes[N 1] as their own proprietary variant of the IBM PC platform, intended for multimedia applications and video games, but it gradually became interoperable with regular PCs over time. The "FM" part of the name is short for "Fujitsu Micro," which was in line with their earlier products. The e in "Townes" was dropped to help users avoid confusion over a possible mispronunciation of Townes as "tow-nes".

The FM Town's sprite handling was well in excess of even 16-bit consoles of the time, which allowed game developers to port early 90s arcade titles much more accurately to the FM Towns than on other systems. Combined with big box packaging, and the ports were eventually highly sought after by collectors later on. With CD-ROM support from the start, it also had a lot of ports of existing PC games, with differing amounts of content expansions to take advantage of the FM Towns' own hardware. Several American DOS games had unique and arguably superior FM Towns ports, especially a few early 2D point-and-click adventures from LucasArts. Some notable examples include LOOM, Wing Commander, and Ultima VI. The FM Towns version of LucasArts' Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is the only version of the game with 256 colors.[1]

In 1993 Fujitsu released the FM Towns Marty, a game console which was compatible with existing FM Towns games.

Emulators[edit]

Name Operating System(s) Latest Version Open-Source FMT Marty Active Recommended
UNZ Windows V0.5 L30
Xe Windows Linux 2.16.2 ~
MAME Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD 0.226 ~ ~
Tsugaru Windows Linux macOS v20201111
FM Towns/Bochs Windows Linux 1.2.1 ~

Comparisons[edit]

UNZ
The only FM Towns/Marty emulator with very high compatibility, last updated in 2010. Despite the website and documentation being in Japanese, the emulator is available in English. It cannot run ISOs directly: images must be either burnt to a CD and read from the disc or mounted to a virtual drive. Floppy disk images, however, can be loaded directly. The emulator requires a number of ROM files, which can be found here. The only noteworthy thing UNZ isn’t yet capable to run is Windows 95.
Xe
An old multi-system emulator for Linux (x86 and PowerPC) with decent FM Towns Marty support. Windows port requires GTK+ Runtime. It requires a very odd BIOS file to work, obtained by concatenating the two MAME-ready ROMs into a single file named ‘marty.rom’, then placed into a subfolder titled ‘bios’. On Windows, this can be achieved using the command copy /B mrom.m36 + mrom.m37 marty.rom.
MAME
Preliminary driver. It’s not a skeleton anymore, but it’s far from being up to snuff.
Tsugaru
A new FM Towns emulation project, started in January 2020. Compatibility is preliminary, but some games like Afterburner II boot and run. Early release builds started popping up in late August 2020.
FM Towns/Bochs
A patch of Bochs that makes it somewhat compatible with FM Towns, deemed to be the first working emulator for the system. Just like regular Bochs, its configuration file needs a lot of tweaking to work (rough documentation here). It has been long abandoned, compatibility is very spotty and emulation is remarkably slow, so don’t hold your breath.

Emulation issues[edit]

A true and proper open-source FM Towns emulator has been severely lacking all the way up to 2020. Though, by late 2010's, a few modern emulators such as MAME and Tsugaru strove toward this goal.

Sometimes around May 2018, Jon Campbell, the lead author of DOSBox-X has stubbed the emulator such that other aspiring coders can build an FM-Towns core into their own fork. There have been discussions, but so far, nobody has taken up on that offer yet.

Notes[edit]

  1. After Charles Townes, the winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics; it was common for Fujitsu to use Nobel Prize winners as product codenames during development.

References[edit]

External links[edit]