Fujitsu FM Towns Marty: A Beginner’s Guide

Presented by Ack

See the other entries in the Retro Gaming 101 Series

It’s unfortunate that Fujitsu’s game console is so obscure.  The FM Towns Marty has a solid lineage with the FM Towns, which had Fujitsu performing many firsts in the gaming and home computer industry.  Perhaps it could be said that the Marty was ahead of its time, heralding in the days of 32-bit CD-based consoles that would dominate the console wars of the mid-1990s, despite Nintendo’s choice of cartridge format.  But Fujitsu didn’t branch out of its home market and never managed to garner the market share it needed to truly compete, instead stepping aside when the big names like Sega and Sony really got started.

Nowadays, the FM Towns Marty is an oddity, held up in collector circles for its obscurity, its rarity, and its quality.  Beyond the likes of the classic Nintendo or Sega consoles, even beyond the likes of the 3DO, Jaguar, or PC Engine, the Marty stands as a true collector’s item, revealing the hidden depths of the import and retrogaming realm.  There is good stuff hidden away in the annals of gaming.  The FM Towns Marty is proof of that.

Background Information

  • In 1989, Fujitsu released the FM Towns computer in Japan.  The machine was one of the first personal computers to feature a built-in CDROM drive, self-booting CDs, and a GUI OS.
  • With the innovation and success of the FM Towns, Fujitsu decided to compete with the console market and began development on a console version of the machine which was to be compatible with FM Towns software.
  • The FM Towns Marty was released in 1991, costing roughly the equivalent of $700 USD.  The high price kept the console from being as popular as Fujitsu desired.  So did the associated image of the FM Towns with being a “kiddie computer” for children, since most of its sales went to schools and younger students.
  • Despite this kiddie image or perhaps to help combat it, Fujitsu did little to stem the number of adult-oriented hentai games which appeared on the Towns and the Marty.
  • To improve the poor sales, Fujitsu released a cheaper revision, known as the FM Towns Marty 2, for 66,000 Yen around 1993 or 1994.
  • By the time of the Marty 2’s release, Fujitsu had effectively given up on the console.  It was discontinued around the time of release for the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation.
  • Despite the console being discontinued, third parties continued releasing games for the Marty until 1999.

Historical Impact

  • The FM Towns Marty was the first 32-bit console in any region, predating the likes of the 3DO in the US and the Amiga CD32 in Europe and Australia.
  • The FM Towns Marty serves as an excellent example of backwards compatibility, as the console was compatible with FM Towns games which came out before its release.  Unfortunately not all of the FM Towns games released afterward are compatible.
  • The FM Towns Marty was one of the first consoles to basically be a personal computer dedicated to being a video game console, making it in some ways the spiritual predecessor of such consoles as the Xbox.
  • The FM Towns Marty is one of the first consoles with a built-in CDROM drive.
  • “Marty’s Law” was developed based on the overall poor performance of the console: if you don’t keep offering something to sell, you can’t increase sales.
  • The FM Towns and FM Towns Marty also suffered from a similar identity crisis that has plagued Nintendo for years: an association with children’s entertainment.  Fujitsu staff who worked on the Marty believe this is to blame for some of the Marty’s failure.

Strengths

  • Compatible with most FM Towns computer games.  Accessories were released for the Marty to make it easier to play these games.  The Marty is also compatible with the FM Towns keyboard and mouse.
  • The overall game list includes many Japanese versions of great PC games, such as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Wing Commander II, Ultima VI, Monkey Island II, and so on.  Some of these games look better than their PC counterparts.
  • Despite being Japan-only, many games for the Towns and the Marty were in English or featured the ability to be played in English.  The Ultima VI port even included full English voice acting.
  • The Marty is known for having many arcade-perfect ports.
  • There is no known piracy protection for the FM Towns Marty, and it can play burned CDRs.
  • Both the Marty and the Car Marty is capable of playing audio CDs.
  • The SRAM cards which used the PCMCIA slot were used to store data, behaving like early memory cards.
  • The Marty featured built in karaoke and a microphone jack.
  • The Marty works with any standard composite or S-Video cable.
  • The controller features a shoulder button which can change screen resolution in some games.

Weaknesses

  • Japan-only, so the Marty can be difficult to track down for non-residents.
  • The dedicated game list is small.  Games can be expensive to purchase, both for the FM Towns and the Marty, and they’re not easy to come by.
  • The Marty only has outputs for composite and S-Video.  VGA-only games on the FM Towns computer that were ported to the Marty had to be downscanned.
  • The drive belt may melt over time, and the unit is considered fragile.  There have also been complaints of damaged capacitors.
  • The reason some FM Towns games will not work on the Marty is because of the limited amount of RAM and processor capabilities.  Such titles that will not work include Super Street Fighter 2 and Samurai Shodown.  Other games require a hard drive, which the Marty lacks.
  • Multiplayer is inaccessible with some FM Towns games on the Marty.
  • There are some complaints about the short length of the Marty’s controller cables.
  • Due to the unit’s age, Fujitsu no longer offers spare parts or additional kits.
  • The FM Towns Car Marty connector is the only type of connector that will work with the Car Marty unit.  Without it, there is no way to connect your Car Marty to your vehicle.
  • The simple controller for the Marty has also received some criticism, due to its few buttons.
  • Some games require both a CD and a floppy disk, so even if a burned CDR is used, a correctly formatted floppy is also required.
  • Many games on the Marty are pornographic in nature…though admittedly some might consider this a positive thing.

Photo by ilDake

 

Technical Specs

  • The CPU is a 32-bit AMD 386SX processor, which runs at 16 MHz.
  • The FM Towns Marty could produce up to 1024 sprites in 16×16.
  • Resolution: 352×232 up to 640×480, with a color palette of 32768 (max of 256 on screen)
  • Audio: 6 channel FM, 8 channel PCM.
  • RAM: 2 MB
  • Utilizes a x1 CD-ROM and 3.5” floppy drive
  • Contains a PCMCIA Type 1 slot, 2 DB9 controller ports, a keyboard port, and jacks for headphones and a microphone.
  • The Marty only outputs in composite and S-Video.
  • The FM Towns Marty included an internal AC 110V power supply, running at 50/60 Hz.

 

Variations

  • The FM Towns Marty is the original unit.  It featured a gray casing and a top-loading CDROM drive.  The processor is a 386 AMD.
  • The FM Towns Marty 2 is the revised, cheaper version of the original console.  It featured a darker shell with a yellow button to open the CDROM drive, but is similar in appearance.  The Marty 2 is widely reported to feature a 486 processor, but this isn’t true.  It utilizes a 386 processor and has basically the same internal structure as its predecessor.  The main differences were the color and cost.  The Marty 2 is also not the same thing as the FM Towns 2.
  • The TC Marty is a variant of the original FM Towns Marty, complete with a printer port built into the expansion slot of the console.  Bundled with the TC Marty was a PCMCIA 2400 bit/s modem.  The TC Marty came packaged with all necessary equipment and supplies in a package labeled Virtual Town TC-Station.  TC Marty units look the same as regular Marty units, except that TC Marty is written in green on them in the upper right side of the unit.

Variation: The FM Towns Car Marty

  • The FM Towns Car Marty was released by Fujitsu Ten, a subsidiary of Fujitsu.  It is effectively a Marty unit for use in an automobile.  A GPS CD for Japan and video screen were sold alongside it, making it an early GPS system.
  • The Car Marty featured a PCMCIA slot, two cartridge slots, keyboard connector, floppy disk connector, a port to connect the unit to your vehicle, and even a handle.  It can also function as a CD player.
  • The Car Marty features a unique one-handed controller called a Navi Pad, though regular Marty joysticks work just as well.
  • To connect the Car Marty unit at home, Fujitsu Ten released the ACD-1 kit, which included the necessary cables.  With a little ingenuity, various cables can be modified to make up for the lack of this equipment.
  • The FM Towns Car Marty MVP-1 is the original Marty unit for automobiles.  The MVP-1 was released in early 1994.
  • Released in late 1994, the FM Towns Car Marty MVP-10 is similar to its MVP-1 counterpart, but with a redesigned drive to make it more durable.  It is also compatible with the GPS unit.

Accessories

  • To help gamers play the many ports of the FM Towns, Fujitsu released a keyboard and mouse for the Marty, as well as a joystick.
  • To handle the port of Street Fighter II, Fujitsu released a six-button version of the Marty controller.  Capcom released an adapter for the FM Towns and Towns Marty to allow compatibility with the CPS Fighter arcade stick.
  • To use the GPS system for the Car Marty, Fujitsu Ten released the NVK-1A Navigation Kit, which included the GPS antenna, software, Navi Pad, etc.  Other types of GPS software was available, as were alternate GPS units like the Alpha 8000 AV.
  • PCMCIA cards manufactured for use with the FM Town Marty came in either 2MB or rarer 4MB sizes.  A special modem card was also manufactured, but only sold as part of the Virtual Town TC-Station pack.

Emulation and Homebrew

  • ScummVM supports versions of the FM Towns ports of various LucasArts games.
  • UNZ is a Win32 emulator for the FM Towns and FM Towns Marty games.
  • Xe is another emulator for Windows and Linux that can emulate the FM Towns Marty.
  • While there has no been much in the way of console mods for the Marty specifically, there has been some interest in its internals.  Here is a thread from the NFG forums in which the FM Towns Marty 2 was taken apart.  This separate thread on NFG discusses the Marty’s CDROM laser.
  • Because the ACD-1 kit to use the Car Marty at home is rare, there has been some work to manufacture replacement cables using other tools and a soldering iron.
  • There has been some homebrew game development for the FM Towns which may work with the FM Towns Marty, such as the game Frog Feast.

Additional Information

12 Comments

  1. Retrogamer0001 says:

    Had no idea this thing even existed – it just goes to show you that there really are some obscure and unique items in the catacombs of retro gaming! :)

  2. Daniel Rehn says:

    This is a very nicely and fully researched post—great to see—and hopefully it will make the FM Towns Marty that much less obscure.

    [Slightly off-topic, but http://fmtownsmarty.tumblr.com/ posts some wonderful (animated!) screen grabs from legacy Japanese home computers. Despite the name, the editor mainly posts NEC PC-88/98 captures.]

  3. Infernos says:

    To Ack:

    Don’t you contradict yourself here?
    “To handle the port of Street Fighter II, Fujitsu released a six-button version of the Marty controller.”

    Super Street Fighter 2 doesn’t work on the Marty, so why would they release a controller for it?
    The 6 button controller you are talking about only has the Fujitsu branding on it, it was meant for the FM Towns computer and not the Marty, although it could work on the Marty (don’t know).

    “The dedicated game list is small.”

    The FM Towns has more than 700 games released for it, that is not a small library by any means, and most of them do work on the Marty.
    There are over 30 arcade ports alone.
    From Taito: Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands, New Zealand Story, Operation Wolf, Chase H.Q., Volfied, Cameltry, Puzznic, Palamedes, Final Blow and PuLiRuLa.
    From Sega: AfterBurner, Turbo OutRun, Columns, Galaxy Force II and Last Survivor.
    From Capcom: Super Street Fighter II and Muscle Bomber.
    Neo Geo ports: Samurai Spirits (Samurai Shodown) and Garou Densetsu Special (Fatal Fury Special), both from SNK, and Viewpoint from Sammy.
    From Namco: Splatterhouse, Libble Rabble.
    From Toaplan: Tatsujin Oh (Truxton II), Hishouzame (Flying Shark) and Kyukyoku Tiger (Twin Cobra).
    Raizing’s first shmup Mahou Daisakusen (Sorcer Striker) also makes a rare appearance (along with the X68000 version these are the only ports of this arcade game).
    Other shmups are Image Fight from Irem and Raiden Densetsu (Raiden Trad) from Seibu Kaihatsu.

    Then there’s also Puyo Puyo from Compile, Marble Madness from Atari and
    two fighting games: Blandia Plus from Allumer and Death Brade – Mutant Fighters from Data East.

  4. Phillyman says:

    Love it! Between my monthly subscription to Retro Gamer…..and reading Racketboy…..I will finally get all the information on the consoles I missed out on.

  5. Infernos says:

    Oh, I forgot to add another important detail. You see, the FM Towns game library might not be particularly interesting to console gamers.
    But those that grove up playing games on various computers around that time like DOS, Amiga or Atari ST, will no doubt recognize a lot of the games here:

    From LucasArts:
    Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
    Loom
    Secret of Monkey Island
    Monkey Island 2
    Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
    (Out of these, both Zak McKracken and Loom are considered the definative versions available on any platforms. All 6 have English mode as well.)

    From Origin Systems:
    Ultima games (Trilogy 1-3, IV, V, VI, Underworld: The Stygian Abyss and Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds).
    Space Rogue
    Strike Commander
    Wing Commander (plus the Secret Missions expansion pack, Wing Commander II and Armada)

    From Psygnosis:
    Awesome
    Infestation
    Microcosm
    Scavenger 4
    Shadow of the Beast 1 and 2
    Lemmings 1 and 2

    From Sierra:
    King’s Quest V (has English language mode selectable)
    Mixed-Up Mother Goose

    From Westwood Studios:
    Legend of Kyrandia 1 and 2 (both have English language mode selectable)
    Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos

    From New World Computing:
    Might and Magic games (III: Isles of Terra, IV: Clouds of Xeen, V: Darkside of Xeen and World of Xeen)
    Tunnels & Trolls: Crusaders of Khazan
    King’s Bounty
    Planet’s Edge: The Point of no Return

    From Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI):
    Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Heroes of the Lance, Dragons of Flame, Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon, Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession)
    Stronghold
    Legends of Valour
    Veil of Darkness

    From Maxis:
    SimCity
    SimCity 2000
    SimEarth – The Living Planet
    SimAnt
    SimFarm

    From Bullfrog Productions:
    Populous games (the first one, Promised Lands expansion pack and Populous II: Trials of the Olympian Gods)
    PowerMonger
    Syndicate

    From Interplay:
    Battle Chess
    Cyberia
    Castles 1 and 2
    J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I and Vol. II

    From Infogrames:
    Alone in the Dark 1 and 2
    Advantage Tennis
    Drakkhen

    From Broderbund:
    Prince of Persia 1 and 2
    Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe (has English language mode selectable)

    Other computer ports include: Flashback, Return to Zork, Rocket Ranger, Incredible Machine, The Horde, 4D Sports games (Boxing, Driving and Tennis), Dungeon Master (plus Chaos Strikes Back and Skullkeep), Wizardry (V, VI and VII). And that’s just scratching the surface…

  6. Patrick BBE says:

    LukeMorse1 and Gamester81 are the few Westerns that own this console.

  7. Awesome! This has been on my list for a long time but it is a bit expensive. Can’t wait to see the games list on here.

  8. pephartytheworm says:

    Calm down Infernos, I think when he said “The dedicated game list is small.” he meant exclusives. If you can name more than 10 games that are exclusive to the FM Towns, I would appreciate it, as thats all I can think of that aren’t edutaintment.

    I can confirm from your list alone that 5 will not work on my marty and on your second list even more. And yes I do have mouse and keyboard also.

    Another interesting thing I have heard contradictions when it comes to compatability, Genocide 1 and 2 as a good example. Some can get it to play others can’t. I have not been able to get a burnt copy to work on mine, but I will try to aquire a retail copy soon to test.

  9. pephartytheworm says:

    @Patrick BBE
    There are quite a few westerners that own one, but does lukemorse1 count when he lives in japan? Now when you are talking about just the US I can think maybe around 25 or so stated they own one from reading forums, but there is probably more as I see different ebay sellers from time to time selling a system.

  10. Infernos says:

    @ pephartytheworm

    Well you’re right about the exclusives, there’s not a lot of them. These are the ones I know of:
    Rayxanber
    Mega Morph (sequel to Scavenger 4 by Psygnosis)
    Megaspectre
    Shooting Towns
    Super Shooting Towns
    Abel
    Alltynex (a doujin shooter)
    and a couple Data West games.

  11. kruuth says:

    If I remember correctly, there were two versions of SF for the FM Towns, Street Fighter 2 and Super Street Fighter 2. I don’t recall if the adapter was for both the Marty and the FM Towns.

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