FM Towns emulators
FM Towns system is a Japanese variant of PC, built by Fujitsu from February 1989 to the summer of 1997. It started as a proprietary PC variant intended for multimedia applications and PC games, but later became more compatible with regular PCs. In 1993, the FM Towns Marty was released, a game console compatible with existing FM Towns games.
The "FM" part of the name means "Fujitsu Micro" like their earlier products, while the "Towns" part is derived from the code name the system was assigned while in development, "Townes". This refers to Charles Townes, one of the winners of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics, following a custom of Fujitsu at the time to code name PC products after Nobel Prize winners. The e in "Townes" was dropped when the system went into production to make it clearer that the term was to be pronounced like the word "towns" rather than the potential "tow-nes".
|Name||Operating System(s)||Latest Version||Open-Source||FMT||Marty||Active||Recommended|
- 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.
- 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.
- Preliminary driver. It’s not a skeleton anymore, but it’s far from being up to snuff.
- A new FM Towns emulation project, started in January 2020. Compatibility is preliminary, but some games like Afterburner II boot and run. Currently available as source only, but the author is interested in offering binaries in the future. Early release builds started popping up in late June 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.
The computer's sprite handling was well in excess of that offered by the 16-bit consoles of the time, allowing some very accurate ports of early nineties Japanese arcade games. Combined with the big box packaging, this led to many of these ports becoming expensive collectors items. Being one of the earlier instances of a fully integrated CD-ROM computer with x86 underpinnings, it also saw a lot of PC ports, some of which were enhanced in interesting ways, such as a fully voiced version of Ultima VI.
A fun fact about the FM Towns was that several American games, originally for DOS (PC), had unique and arguably superior FM Towns ports, especially a few early 2D point and click adventures from LucasArts. Notable examples include LOOM (CD music, 256 colors, uncut dialogue), Wing Commander (fully reprogrammed as a 32-bit protected mode game that actually runs at a consistent speed) and Ultima VI (with Ultima VII-style keywords and a highly questionable voice track). The FM Towns verson of LucasArts' Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is the only one with 256 colors.
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.
- “Tsugaru” – FM Towns Emulator Project (in.coocan.jp). Y Combinator (2020 May 23)