Whether you owned a C64 or ZX Spectrum, you claimed you had the best 8-bit computer. But which one had the best graphics?
Forget Stallone vs. Schwarzenegger, Betamax vs VHS, and Liverpool vs Everton, throughout the 1980s, there was only one real rivalry: Commodore 64 vs ZX Spectrum.
It’s one that still carries on to this day, not least in Facebook groups.
The computers had many crossover titles, and many unique releases. Comparison, therefore, is relatively straightforward. And yet, even then things get pretty contentious. While the Commodore 64 had a 16-colour palette of pastels, the ZX Spectrum boasted bright, day-glo (and typically 1980s) colours.
But, of course, the discussion of graphics isn’t all about the colours. We need to consider smoothness, frames per second, depth, scrolling, the ability to handle multiple sprites, and the ZX Spectrum’s big shortcoming: bleeding.
Finding a smart comparison is difficult, but I think we can use Rainbow Arts’ Factor 5 release Turrican (1990). Not only did the C64 version look absolutely outstanding, so did the ZX Spectrum game.
So, let’s take a look at Turrican on the C64:
Here’s the ZX Spectrum version of Turrican, running the same level:
As you can see, while the C64 version offers a smoother collection of icons and sprites, the ZX Spectrum offering has a surprisingly impressive animation. Graphics and icons are more cartoony, but it remains impressive in its own way. Back in the day, the C64 version of Turrican was lauded as comparable to the Amiga version (recently re-released on current gen systems), and while this wasn’t 100% true, it was certainly among the most technically impressive releases on the system.
However, the ZX Spectrum release appears to stand up just as well, from a graphical point of view, at least.
So, what is the answer? Well, hopefully you’ll help us decide using the poll above, and we’ll be revisiting this topic soon to consider other comparable aspects of these two computers.
Gaming since 1984, retro gaming since 2004. Contributes to Linux Format magazine and MakeUseOf.com.