Which 8-bit computer had the best graphics?

Relitigating the 1980s is always fun. Up today: did the Commodore 64 or the Amstrad CPC have the best colors?

Both machines were technically similar, with the most practical option being a 320×200 screen resolution limited to 16 colors. But whereas the C64's colors (top left) were muted and subtle, the Amstrad's (top right) were bright and garish.

A thread at CPCWiki collected a set of artworks rendered by both machines. For lovers of these old systems, it's a great versus-battle, where the same limitation resulted in two entirely different styles of minimalism.

C64 Vs CPC #06

The Amstrad looked great when you want to do brightly-colored cartoony scenes (particularly appropriate for a certain arcade-style look) but was very much limited in its expressive potential by the bizarre, almost broken set of shades to choose from: there are 7 nearly-identical bright greens, no truly dark colors, and only a single grey. The Amstrad "grey problem" is well-illustrated by the above picture.

The Commodore allowed for subtle gradients—three greys!—making it more painterly, more versatile. In the following image, for example, Kirk and Spock get recognizable skintones on the C64, whereas on the Amstrad they seem like glowing orange caricatures despite it literally being the same underlying pixel art.

C64 Vs CPC #02

All of the Commodore colors are dull, though. Compare the explosions in this Commando art: the CPC's looks like a nice glowy arcade explosion, whereas the C64's looks like a spreading puddle of dog vomit.

C64 Vs CPC #14

On the other hand, Commodore commando isn't horrifically sunburned. So there we go.

Here's my "Amstrad cheat sheet" for trying to get gradients out of its hot 'n' nasty color scheme:


As a childhood Amstrad owner, I have to admit that the question itself is a little misleading. The Amstrad tended to look great in screenshots like these, at least for arcade games, but the Commodore's faster sprite-handling meant that it usually had better frame rates and scrolling.

[via Indie Retro News.]

P.S. Keep walking, Spectrum/Tandy owners.