MSX – Tales of Popolon – Gameplay

“For many centuries, the world had been at peace. Lands were prosperous, and people reached old age. However, all of that was about to change…

Suddenly, towns started being attacked by beasts, killing many. Storms started sinking ships into the ocean and ruined crops. People started to think that they had lost the favor of the Gods of Olympus…

In response, one night, Thanatos, the God of peaceful death, appeared in the dreams of the mighty hero Popolon.

Popolon, I am Thanatos! The Gods of Olympus need your help! An Evil fortress has been built in Olympus against our will… Someone is causing people to die, and their souls are being sent to be trapped in the fortress, preventing them from reaching Hades!

You are our only hope Popolon! Only mortal souls can enter the fortress. Please go and stop the source of evil!” (source: ToP Github page)

31 years after the release of Knightmare by Konami on the MSX, we get a fourth episode in the Popolon saga courtesy of Santiago Ontañón Villar. Santiago is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Drexel University, who’s actually done quite a bit on the MSX and on remaking MSX games for PCs & Macs (See: Braingames’ page) Smart cookie!

There are a ton of new games getting released on the MSX nowadays thanks to the amazing community built around our beloved 8-bit boxes. This particular one caught my attention because:

  • it’s related to the Knightmare series/Konami and
  • it’s got a nice physical release done by Matranet.
  • but more importantly, the game uses ray-casting, yes, ray-casting on the MSX, who knew right?

For the uninitiated, “Ray-casting is the use of ray–surface intersection tests to solve a variety of problems in computer graphics and computational geometry.” (Source: Wikipedia).

If you’ve played Wolfenstein 3D then you’re familiar with the technique of ray-casting. Tales of Popolon plays in the same manner and if you know what the hardware the MSX is based on, you know it’s absolutely not 3D friendly. In fact, the game minimum’s specs are MSX1 with 16kb of RAM and it still runs smoothly.

Unsurprisingly: “In Tales of Popolon you play as Popolon, an ancient Greek hero tasked with a mission from Thanatos. He must discover who is trapping souls of people in an evil fortress built at the base of Mount Olympus and stopping them! You will have to find your way around the labyrinthic fortress, defeating monsters that inhabit it while collecting weapons and other power-ups that are spread over the fortress.” (source: ToP Github page)

In a nutshell, the game is a classic dungeon crawler where you move through small corridors fighting enemies with your fist and various other weapons like a sword. So far I’ve seen keys being required to move from one area to the next. However, I haven’t been able to spend much time playing it, just yet. In this day and age of super realistic 3D graphics, I’m very surprised how neat it is and how well it plays.

As you can see Matra did a really good job with the physical release, the box is actually quite small but gorgeous and it also comes with a manual.

Here is a little gameplay video, I used my Panasonic MSX2 FS-A1 MkII through the Framemeister for this one:

If you are an MSX & Knightmare fan it’s definitely worth picking up, it is an impressive technical feat, even just on that basis it’s worth looking at.

There are several ways to get hold of this game:


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