You will need the following stuff, and it’ll make life easier if you try to get the ones I mention - unless something newer and better is available!

A text editor

I suggest ConTEXT. It’s a text editor with limited project support, customisable buttons, and most importantly custom syntax highlighting. Download and install it somewhere on your hard disk.

I’ve made a syntax highlighter file. Put it in the \Highlighters\ folder where you installed ConTEXT. This tells ConTEXT how Z80 assembler code should be highlighted to make it easier to work with.

An assembler

I suggest WLA DX. It’s very full-featured, the only downside being the fact that it’s available only as C source. So here are some compiled binaries. Unzip them somewhere on your hard disk and remember where.

A debugging emulator

You don’t need a debugging one but it will surely help. In my opinion, MEKA has the best debugger at the moment. You may find it easier to follow this tutorial if you also use it.


I suggest you get the following SMS docs:

For Z80 reference I recommend:

There are a lot of Z80 docs around, but I like this one for its clarity - the others tend to be better for people who already know how to code and just need reminders of technical details. You will also want the WLA DX manual, which I included in the above WLA DX download, or you can get it from the WLA DX site.

Extract/save them all somewhere handy. You’ll need a PDF viewer for the Z80 User Manual.

Other stuff

You may find it useful to use additional programs, depending on your project. I like to use Paint Shop Pro 7 for image editing (newer versions are less capable in this respect) and frhed for hex editing, for example.

For converting graphics I suggest my BMP2Tile program.

I am lucky enough to have an SMSReader and devcart so I have the software for that too, of course. (Getting homebrew games working on real hardware can be a real trial...) But you won’t need them for a while yet.

Lesson 1 | Setting it up >