NFG's PC-98 Buyer's Guide for the MS-DOS Gamer

Started by RobIvy64, February 19, 2015, 08:48:15 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


It's great seeing a surge of interest in the West for the PC-98! The renewed interest has sparked some great initiatives, such as the PC98 HDD images, and English tutorials. It is by far the best value in JP computers right now.
So, you're looking to buy a PC-98? Cool! Here is a quick FAQ that may help you choose the right system:

°PC-9801 vs. PC-9821: Which do I buy? For ease of setup and lower cost, I recommend a 9821. The 9801s uses SCSI for    it's HDD interface, which will leave you requiring a $100 SCSI to CF converter, should you go that route. 9801s are, however, preferred for the early PC-98 games.

°Can I buy one model that will run all PC-98 games? Very much like an IBM compatible PC, there is no one model that will play ALL games. Most PC-98 collectors will tell you that you need at least 2 machines. I've found that a low to mid-range PC-9821 works very well.

°PC-9801-86 FM.. what the heck is that? If you're buying a PC-98 to play games, this hardware is a requirement. The PC-9801-86 is the NEC part number for the Yamaha YM2608-based FM sound card. Some models have this sound chip built-in to the motherboard.

°Are they any particular models that are recommended? I really prefer the 9821C models for their smaller size, however these were engineered with more of an integrated design. These have the PC-9801-86 FM sound built-in. The CPUs are generally soldered low-end 486SX processors, which are fine for most DOS-based PC-98 games. Some models include: PC-9821Cs2, PC-9821Ce2, etc... The "A-mate" models are considered the grail since they feature high-end 486DX2 processors and 86 FM sound. Avoid the Cx models.

°Can I plug in my old Packard Bell PS2 keyboard and mouse? No. The keyboard and mouse connectors are 100% proprietary. At minimum, you will need a keyboard. It IS a computer after all... Consider picking up a VGA adapter while you're at it (approx 750Y on Yahoo Japan Auctions)

°Fine, i'll just go out and buy the fastest PC-9821 I fan find. Will that work? The video hardware was gradually changed throughout the PC-98's lifecycle. The addition of a Cirrus Logic accelerator designed for GUI such as Windows 95 caused compatibility issues with some PC-98 video modes. It's best to stick to a pre-1995 system for the best compatibility with DOS-based games.

°I've got the information I need, now where do I buy one? You will pretty much have to import one from Japan. You may see one on eBay, but don't bother. As of this writing, expect to pay approximately 2000-5000 JPY for a tested 9821Ce2. Keyboards are common and will sell for approximately 1000 JPY. Shipping via EMS to North America will be in the neighborhood of $100.
"Console Mods" lurker


Your guide has inspired me to start saving for one of these machines. I hope the price doesn't spike soon  :P

Thanks RobIvy


Nice guide. One other important thing to note is that you need a monitor that supports a 24kHz horizontal frequency, or a scan converter like the XPC-4. Some of the later V models can be switched to standard VGA frequency by holding GRPH+2 during boot, but older models (like the A mates and C mates, and all pre-9821 models) definitely require a compatible display.


Quote from: kobushi on February 20, 2015, 07:56:43 PM
[...] Some of the later V models can be switched to standard VGA frequency by holding GRPH+2 during boot[...]
I had no idea this was a thing. That's immensely helpful, actually. Mine has VGA out, but I was getting an 'input not supported' error (despite having perfectly-visible video output on the monitor) and I've just  been putting up with it since I could still navigate. Thanks for the tip.

Is there good documentation for a list of these function keys?


Here are the major shortcut keys. Sorry for the Japanese, but I don't have time to translate this right now.
Depending on the computer model, some of these might not do anything.

[GRPH]+1  640×400で垂直同期24kHzモードになります。
[GRPH]+2  640×400で垂直同期31kHzモードになります。
[HELP]  BIOS画面(ソフトウェアディップスイッチ)になります。
[CTRL]+[CAPS]+[かな]+[GRPH]  起動時にCPUスペックやヴァージョン情報が記されます。
[STOP]  ウォームブート(GVRAMなどの内容を残したままリセットできます)
[CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[STOP]  立ち上がった後[COPY]キーを押すと、メモリイメージをフロッピーディスクに書き出します。(PC-9801VX以降のようです)
[CTRL]+[SHIFT]  BIOSを初期状態に戻せるようです。(PC-9801RX以降?)
[ESC]+[HELP]+1  BIOSのバージョンを表示します。(フラッシュメモリのBIOS ROMを持つ機種のみのようです。)
[ESC]+[HELP]+8  BIOSの書き換え準備をします。(フラッシュメモリのBIOS ROMを持つ機種のみのようです。)
[ESC]+[HELP]+9  BIOS初期化をします。(フラッシュメモリのBIOS ROMを持つ機種のみのようです。)

Also, here are the exact specs of the display modes. The 32kHz mode is not quite standard VGA, so some monitors will complain about the signal even when the screen is visible.

PC-9801 640x400@56Hz
Dot clock: 21.0MHz
Horiz. 24.83 kHZ
Vert. 56.42 Hz
Polarity: Neg.

PC-9821 640x400@70Hz
Dot clock: 25.2MHz
Horiz. 31.5 kHZ
Vert. 70.15 Hz
Polarity: Neg.


And if you buy a PC-98 that have an IDE/ATAPI interface don't fast connect an IDE HD to the PSU.
This is because in this NEC proprietary PC, power connectors, while being the same as an IBM PC clone has the voltages of 5V and 12V reversed.
I saw this alert in a youtube video with a guy disassembling the parts of a PC9821Cs2.
He said he learned this the hard way when burn a CF adapter with the card.



I added your guide to the r/pc98 wiki. I am currently a moderator there, and I have been attempting to majorly reform the subreddit into a PC-98 database and hub of some sort for anyone interested in the PC-9800 series in general.

In addition, I have also posted my own guide, the "98digger's PC-98 Buying Guide" on the wiki as well.


I won this lot. Interested in your opinion about it. Midi card for pc98 and Roland Sound Canvas SC-55mkII I have.
Chose to run 3d games  and dumping 5 inch floppy disks.  Need to buy FM PC-9801-86 sound card, mouse and keyboard.
In references I have not found a link to the site "In the "Links" section at the end of this document, I have a link to a Japanese website that provides info on which PC-98s have conflicting PCM sound and which ones do not."

I plan to buy PC-FXGA card, I can connect it?