Are you Japanese?

On my latest trip, I managed to find a copy of Zork 1 for the PC-98! And let me say, let the adventure begin!

I went to Beep and the place next door I always forget it’s name, and I found this burried in the back for a mere ¥2,860! Not exactly what I thought would be a bargain, but flipping it over however…

Zork 1 for the PC-98!

¥7,800 YEN! From 1991!Honestly I don’t even know what is up with the price of software in Japan! Clutching this thing in my hands for the ¥2,800 makes it feel like a steal so of course I buy it!

Contents of the box

Nice to see that opening of the box gives me a catalogue, a manual, minimal map, registration card and a diskette! And I’m hoping I can read it using a USB drive.

Now I have no pc98 gear in Japan, and I’m trying to not have a mountain of hardware here, the i7 desktop and 30″ cinema display are already feeling ‘too big’ for this place anyways. I go to hardoff and pick up 2 USB floppy drives hoping to read the 3 1/2″ diskette.

Now I bought an IBM & some weird iMac looking drive, I was hoping between the two drives, maybe one would work. And I was right for buying the two. The IBM drive didn’t read the disk AT ALL.

However this iMac looking Logitec LFD-31US did the trick!

Apparently you need what is known as a “3-mode USB floppy drive”. Whatever that means. Although I can read the disk fine from Windows 10, winimage was unable to make a disk image. Disk Explorer is another option, which also specializes in the PC-98’s weird 1.2MB on a 1.44MB disk, however it couldn’t read the disk either.

I write a simple C program to read 512, 1024, 2048 blocks from \\.\A: (the physical drive), however it was cut short after 138kb. Maybe a hidden bad sector? Xcopy ran without issues, so who knows.

Looking at what I could dump, it does look like a bootable image:

and the xcopy did pick up MSDOS.SYS & IO.SYS. I though Microsoft was so against people redistributing MS-DOS, but then again aren’t most PC98’s floppy only?

I was able to cobble together a DIY disk image, and it doesn’t work fully on Neko Project II sadly. However Annex86 works fine.

On boot there is a nice graphical logo, and animation as the door opens. Really cool I have to say. Searching through zork.exe there is some interesting strings

  • Are you Japanese?
  • MS Run-Time Library – Copyright (c) 1988, Microsoft Corp
  • Original copyright (c)1988 Infocom Inc.
  • Used under license from Activision. All rights reserved.
  • (c)1991 SystemSoft
  • Copyright VACS Corp./ASCII Corp.,1986-90.
  • @(#)sunedit.c 1.0 07/03/1989 by VACS Corp.

Well that’s interesting. I was wondering how to trigger the ‘Are you Japanese?’ and well it turns out it’s pretty simple:

I’d have to figure out how to type in things like eat/sleep take… Although it is a twist on the old Infocom style. Now could this have ‘saved’ Infocom before their sale to Activision? I guess there was a market for Infocom games in Japan, although probably far earlier than 1991.

6 thoughts on “Are you Japanese?

  1. If you want the disk dumped properly with a KryoFlux, hit me up, I can do that for you.
    The PC-98 floppies were a bit special, as you noticed, so most simple USB floppy drives can’t read the disk at all because they only know about 720k and 1.4m floppies. I guess the “3-mode” means that they also support 1.2m floppies. But any form of copy-protection will throw these simple µC-based floppy controllers off the track…

    • From a web search, that certainly seems to be what “3-mode” means. I gather from what I’d read online previously that in fact some USB floppy drives are only 1 mode – 1.44MB, not even 720KB support.

    • I did not have a PC back then or access to one. But right the “pc booters”. I forgot about having read about them.

      I recall tools to extract the data files, I think they used their own “OS” like running bare metal I did with that interpreter on a Cisco router.

      I’ll have to dig for one of those images.

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