Roland in Britain
April 25, 2013
Posted by on
Outside Japan, there are only two countries where Roland hardware was widely supported in games: The USA and the UK. There are several differences between the support in these two countries.
In the USA, support started in 1988. The default device was and remained the first generation MT-32, of which there are large numbers in the USA. You can still get one on eBay for $50. Many games sent messages to the LCD display, not just Sierra games. Very few games used the additional sound effects of the CM-32L and LAPC-I, noteworthy ones are the two Ultima Underworld games and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. That was 1993, when American developers were already moving to General MIDI. Consequently, most (not all) American games that support MT-32 but not GM will run on a 286 or even 8088 with 512kB RAM.
In the UK, support started in 1990 and the default device seems to have been the LAPC-I from the beginning. Many games, starting with Supremacy in 1990, used the additional sound effects, many will not even run correctly with first generation hardware. None that I am aware of sends a message to the LCD display.
MobyGames lists a few 1989 UK games that supposedly support Roland, but at closer look, they all evaporate: Ste Cork’s Chuckie Egg port did not support any sound cards, only speaker, as did the original release of Double Dragon II, though Adlib and Roland support seems to have been added in a 1991 re-release. Bloodwych and Millennium 2.2 are Amiga/ST games where the existence of contemporary PC ports is questionable, while 1991 American releases for PC are well documented.
If British composers and developers discovered Roland later, they also acquired greater mastery. When especially good Roland music is discussed, or games where the Roland score is a lot better than the alternatives, the majority of quoted games is usually British. Some of these games are otherwise quite obscure, like King’s Table: The Legend of Ragnarok.
The end of the LAPC-I era in the UK seems to have come around 1994. The last games I found so far where Roland is the best music choice is Sabre Team. It requires a 386.