As for should we be debating this - this single question topped all others in schoolyards around Britain in the 80s. It came down not to which was actually better, but which machine our parents bought us for Christmas.
The Spectrum was a cheap machine, put together by an innovative businessman who wanted to see every home with a personal computer. It wasn't particularly good at any one thing (although programming was, apparently, made relatively easy), but it was cheap; pound for pound better than anything else out there. The C64 on the other hand was a custom piece of kit, with some pretty amazing stuff going on inside, not least with the soundchip. However the machine was much more expensive, and to get the best out of the machine required a diskdrive which made it almost unaffordable in austerity 80s Britain. That's why the Speccy was far more prevalent, and theerfore more popular; kids tend to not admit that their machine is 'second best'.
However all that is regarding the power of the machine, and as I've already said if it was simply a case of power then the Speccy would not even come close to the C64. Having said that one could argue that a C64 didn't come close to a diskdrive equipped Atari 800XL.
This was a time when programmers attempted to make the best of what they had - when there were no boundaries to what could be achieved; an almost limitless universe for the player to trade/fight/police/pirate? No problem. Conversions of arcade machines which had 100 times the power of the home machine? No problem. Converting 16 bit games into machines with nowhere near the same capabilities - and still make them as playable? No problem.
Invariably it comes down to games; and games tended to be best on the system they were originally designed for. Just like Dropzone/Eletraglide/Fractulus on the A8 beating the C64 conversions hands down, ganes originally designed with the Spectrum in mind were better than the C64 ports. And games programmed initially for the C64 were better than their Speccy ports.
The dificulty comes with games that were designed by different teams for different systems simultaeneously. Sometimes it came down to the quality of the programming team given the task, sometimes to the fact that one machine was simply better at doing certain games than the other. The most interesting are those which built the game around the capabilities of the host machine. Quatron/Paradroid, Buggy Boy and Carrier Command are just 3 games were the designers took different approaches, came up with different types of game , but all based around the same blueprints. Which is better? Neither, it's all down to preference. Doyou prefer a game that's more like the arcade? Well that's Buggy Boy for the Speccy. Do you prefer a game that is based around the arcade , but everything's shrunk but at the same time made much more playable? Well that's the C64. Do you prefer top down with a more shoot 'em up style? That's Paradroid on the C64. Do you prefer isometric with a more strtegic approach? That's Quazatron on the Speccy.
Whichever way you look at it, for every fgood C64 game there's an equally good Speccy game; it really is a draw and then it all comes down to your more favourite games. Me, I plike playing Mugsy , Wheelie and Atic Atac , so it has to be the Speccy. I do also enjoy plyaying many C64, but if I'm being honest it's the SID tunes more than the games that draws me to that machine.
Mr Flibble says...
"Game over , boys!"