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Useful Notes / TurboGrafx-16

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Top: The TurboGrafx-16; Bottom: The PC Engine
"The higher energy videogame system."

The TurboGrafx-16, known as PC Engine in Japanese, was a 16-bit console developed by Hudson Soft and sold by NEC that was released first in Japan in 1987 and in North America in 1989. Far more successful in Japan than it ever was elsewhere. Its mascot character was Bonk, or PC Genjin in Japanese where the name was a clear pun on the system's name.

The most unique characteristic of the system was that the games did not come on bulky plastic cartridges but rather on thin TurboChips (HuCards in Japanesenote ), plastic game cards that are about the size of credit cards, but slightly thicker, and with connectors clearly visible on the end.note 


Discontinued? Yes indeed, the system did not sell very well in North America, competing as it did with massively successful Nintendo and Sega contemporaries, in part due to its misleading marketing campaign that falsely touted it as a 16-bit system despite only having an 8-bit processor and due to it being released in America the exact same year as the Sega Genesis— which actually was 16-bit. However, its game library's inclusion on the Wii Virtual Console has lit the fires of nostalgia in the hearts of the few western gamers who played and loved the thing, as well as introducing these old gems to a newer audience.

In spite of its western failure, the system was extremely popular in its native Japan, outselling the original Famicom for a while. In fact, it was this success which, in conjunction with the success of the Genesis in North America and Europe (where, like in Japanese markets, it was known as the Sega Mega Drive), is what forced Nintendo to jumpstart development of the Super Famicom in the first place. It was particularly favored for shoot 'em ups, and many of the Vertical Scrolling Shooters produced for the system offered a narrow-screen "arcade mode" that distorted the aspect ratio to make the graphics seem even more arcade-like.


Like all the venerable systems, this one had a few add-ons of its own. One, the Multitap (a.k.a. Turbo Tap), was a connector for up to five controllers; since the TurboGrafx, unlike its competitors, only had one built-in controller port, this was necessary to enable multi-player in games that supported them. Another was the TurboGrafx-CD (PC Engine CD-ROM2 System) expansion, which opened more possibilities for the game library, especially with the Super System Card. The CD attachment was very successful in Japan, where it helped prolonged the lifespan of the system, but not so much elsewhere, to the point that only a handful of games were ever exported. NEC later released the Turbo Duo, a TurboGrafx console with a built-in CD-ROM drive along with extra RAM and updated BIOS from the Super System Card. The American release is infamous for its advertising campaign, Johnny Turbo. You can read the comics in their entirety here, as well as more info here.

One of the extensions of the PC Engine that was only released in Japan was the SuperGrafx, which added an extra video chip and more RAM to the core hardware. The hardware revision was a complete failure, only having five games exclusively released for it. Slightly more successful was the Arcade Card, released in 1994 in a late attempt to upgrade the capacities of the system; it was mostly noted for its ports of Neo Geo games.

Finally, in the portable market, TurboGrafx had a clear advantage thanks to its slim game cards. The TurboExpress handheld console (PC Engine GT in Japanese) was able to use exactly the same cards as the main console, so that it was essentially a small, portable TG16 with a screen attached. Yes it was heavy, and yes it was a battery-guzzler, but it still was nice to have a lot of those games on the go.



  • 8-bit Hudson Soft HuC6280 CPU that is based on the MOS Technology 6502. It runs at a maximum 7.16Mhz, although games could switch it down to 3.58Mhz or 1.79Mhz; most HuCard games run at 3.58Mhz to avoid overheating the system (as the Japanese PC Engine was quite small), though it runs at full speed for CD games.
  • The actual graphics are generated by two interlocked 16-bit GPUs. These GPUs lacked special effects like multiple backgrounds and translucency that competing 16-bit console GPUs were able to do, but they could easily fill the screen with loads of sprites and one background. One of the GPUs is a video display controller, while the other is a video color encoder.
  • 8 KB of upgradable main Random Access Memory in the base model
  • 64 KB of main Random Access Memory in the TurboGrafx-CD add-on
  • 64 KB of Video RAM
  • Games on HuCards could be up to 2.5 MB.
  • SuperGrafx has 32 KB of main, and 128 KB of Video.
  • The Super System Card beefs up the 64KB of main memory included in the TurboGrafx-CD to 256KB (included by default on the TurboDuo).
  • The Arcade Card, required for Arcade CD-ROM2 discs, was released in two versions:
    • The Arcade Card Duo, for the Super CD-ROM2 and Duo consoles, adds 2MB.
    • The Arcade Card Pro, for the original CD-ROM2 System, adds 2MB from the Arcade Card Duo and the 256KB from the Super System Card.


  • 64 sprites on screen (128 for the SuperGrafx), with 16 single-width sprites per scanline.
  • Sprite size is a minimum of 16x16 and a maximum of 32x64.


  • Resolution is variable, but most games ran at 256x240.
  • One background layer (two on the SuperGrafx) composed of 8x8 tiles.
  • 512 total colors, but the sprite layer and the background layer each could have up to 241 at once (the two background layers on the SuperGrafx shared those).
  • Connects to monitors using an RF modulator; the CoreGrafx and Turbo Duo models dropped this in favor of composite video.
  • In the U.S., it isn't necessary to get a separate system. An accessory called the TurboBooster was released that attaches to the system itself, allowing it to be hooked up with AV cables. An upgraded version called the TurboBooster Plus was later released which also adds backup RAM for saving game data on games that have a save feature. All of these were incorporated into the later CD accessory in both regions.


  • The console only had one controller port as standard, but could support up to five controllers via the Multi Tap/TurboTap (which launched alongside the console). While one controller port might seem like a step back from the likes of the NES and Master System (which both had two controller ports), it is worth noting that controller ports were still a novelty among early Japanese consoles, as the Famicom and the SG-1000 (Sega's first console), both launched in 1983, featured hardwired controllers instead and only had ports for additional peripherals (although Sega consoles did start having two controller ports as standard from the SG-1000 II and onward).
    • The TG16 has a Din-8 controller port instead of the mini Din-8 used by the PC Engine, rendering controllers and peripherals between both versions incompatible without an adapter cord. The Turbo Duo would later revert back to the same mini Din-8 port used by the Japanese consoles, resulting in many of the same peripherals being re-released under the Duo branding.
    • It was notably the first and only game console (aside from its successor, the PC-FX) to feature turbo switches on its stock controllers. The Turbo Pad resembles a standard NES control pad in its shape and has the same number of buttons: a d-pad (although circular instead of cross-shaped), two auxiliary buttons (Select and Run), two fire buttons (I and II) and a turbo switch for each fire button for up to three settings (normal, turbo and auto).
    • The control pad that came bundled with the Japanese launch model of the PC Engine did not originally have turbo switches. The Turbo Pad was released separately as an option, but because the price difference between the standard Pad and the Turbo Pad was pretty minimal, the Turbo Pad became the preferred option for additional controllers and NEC gradually phased out the standard controller. Succeeding models from the CoreGrafx and onward, came bundled with the Turbo Pad and the U.S. version of the console followed suit.
  • Once fighting games started becoming more prevalent thanks to the success of Street Fighter II, six-button controllers were released for the console in Japan such as the Avenue Pad 6 and the Arcade Pad 6. The latter ended up replacing the Turbo Pad as the bundled controller with the PC Engine Duo-RX (the last model of the console produced).
  • The Turbo Stick is essentially this system's answer to the NES Advantage; a joystick peripheral for playing games with "the arcade feel".note 

Notable Games/Series:

    open/close all folders 

    TurboChip/HuCard #-D 

    TurboChip/HuCard E-H 
  • Eternal City: Toshi Tensou Keikaku
  • F1 Circus
    • F1 Circus '91: World Championship
    • F1 Circus '92: The Speed of Sound
  • F-1 Dream
  • Fantasy Zone
  • Fighting Run
  • Final Blaster
  • Final Lap Twin
  • Fire Pro Wrestling Combination Tag (First game in the entire series)
    • Fire Pro Wrestling 2nd Bout
    • Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Legend Bout
  • Fushigi no Yume no Alice
  • Galaga '88 (Galaga '90 outside of Japan)
  • Genji Tsuushin Agedama
  • Genpei Touma Den
    • Samurai-Ghost
  • Gomola Speed
  • Gradius
    • Salamander
  • Hana Taka Daka!
  • Hanii in the Sky
    • Hanii on the Road
  • Heavy Unit
  • Hono no Toukyuji: Dodge Danpei

    TurboChip/HuCard I-L 

    TurboChip/HuCard M-P 

    TurboChip/HuCard Q-T 

    TurboChip/HuCard U-Z 

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD A-D 

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD E-H 

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD I-L 

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD M-P 

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD Q-T 

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD U-Z 


  • Americans Hate Tingle: The TG16 failed to get a foothold in North America, especially after its claims of being a 16-bit console were questioned. Advertising campaigns showing that the Turbo Duo as a stand-alone console was less expensive than a Genesis and Sega CD combined, while true, failed to convince most of the American consumers to support this console. However, it could also be likely because Sega did in fact took proactive action and aired ads showing why the Genesis was superior to the TG16 in the limited markets where the TG16 was to be tested in.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The TurboExpress. It was a handheld version of the TurboGrafx-16 in full color, capable of playing virtually all the HuCards, and it even supported multiplayer. Unfortunately, its ambitious novelty was quickly negated by very obvious hardware problems; the early LCD screens were highly prone to pixel failure, and sound failure was very common due to cheap capacitors. The tiny screen made it very hard to read game text (a deal breaker for RPG fans), and it needed a whopping six AA batteries for three hours of play time. And the aforementioned multiplayer was usually restricted to one screen, with very few games designed to take advantage of the co-op possibilities allowed by the Turbo Link cable.
  • Name's the Same: The PC Engine shares its name with the OS of the NEC PC-88VA, a model of their PC-8800 range of PCs also launched in 1987. The two platforms are otherwise unrelated.
  • No Export for You: Most of the system's later titles (as well as the Arcade Card upgrade) were not released outside Japan due to the TG16's failure in the United States. A few games, such as Bomberman '94 and Snatcher, ended up being ported to the Genesis/Sega CD for their western releases.
  • Product Facelift
    • The Turbo Duo, essentially a TurboGrafx-16 with built-in CD-ROM drive and the upgraded RAM and BIOS required to run Super CD-ROM2 discs, was a last ditch attempt to revitalize interest in the system in North America with little success.
    • The PC Engine had even more hardware variations and configurations in addition to the original white console. Enough to rival the Mega Drive's. These include:
    • The CoreGrafx - A black recolor which also replaced the original model's RF output with composite A/V.
    • The CoreGrafx II - Functionally identical to the original CoreGrafx, but has a different color scheme that matches the updated Super CD-ROM2 disc drive released at the same time.
    • The Shuttle - A less-expensive alternative to the CoreGrafx without the CD-ROM expansion slot aimed at kids.
    • The SuperGrafx - An enhanced model with an extra CPU and video RAM that only had five exclusive games.
    • The PC Engine GT - The Japanese counterpart to the TurboExpress.
    • The PC Engine LT - Which has a flip style similar to the later-released Game Boy Advance SP and could support the CD-ROM add-ons.
    • The PC Engine Duo - The Japanese version of the Turbo Duo. It has three variants of its own: the original, the Duo-R and the Duo-RX.
  • It's Pronounced "Tro-PAY": The official name for the CD-ROM2 format/add-on is not "cee dee rom two" or "cee dee rom squared", but rather "cee dee rom rom". Most people tend to omit the extra "rom" though.

Alternative Title(s): PC Engine, Turbo CD, Turbo Express, Supergrafx, Turbo Duo, Turbo Grafx CD


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