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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 Japan, 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 Japan 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 Japan), plastic game cards with connectors clearly visible on the end.

Discontinued? Yes indeed, the system did not sell very well in North America, competing as it did with massively successful Nintendo and Sega contemporaries. However its game library's inclusion on the Wii Virtual Console has lit the fires of nostalgia in the hearts of the few gamers who played and loved the thing, as well as introducing these old gems to a newer audience. The system was, however, extremely popular in Japan, outselling the original Famicom for a while. In fact, it was this success which, in conjunction with the success of the Sega Genesis in the U.S. and Europe (where, as in Japan, 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 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 the (admittedly few) 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, which was a TurboGrafx 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 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 Japan) 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.


Specs:

Processors:

  • 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.
Memory:
  • 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.

Sprites:

  • 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.

Display:

  • 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.
  • The SuperGrafx was able to run 2 screens; (SATIRE) however, it was never used in any retail software due to the system's bombing.


Notable Games/Series:

    open/close all folders 

    TurboChip/HuCard #-D 
  • 1943 Kai
    • 1941: Counter Attack (SuperGrafx only)
  • Aero Blasters
  • After Burner II
  • Aldynes: The Mission Code for Rage Crisis
  • Altered Beast (also released on CD-ROM)
  • Aoi Blink
  • Armed Formation F
  • Atomic Robo-Kid Special
  • Bari Bari Densetsu
  • Barunba
  • Batman (Sunsoft)
  • Battle Ace
  • Battle Royale
  • Bikkuriman World
  • Blazing Lazers
  • Bloody Wolf
  • Bomberman
  • Bonk series
    • Bonk's Adventure
    • Bonk's Revenge
    • Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure (also released on CD-ROM in the US)
    • Air Zonk
  • Bonze's Adventure
  • Bouken Danshaku Don: The Lost Sunheart
  • Boxyboy
  • Bravoman
  • Bubblegum Crash
  • Burning Angels
  • Busou Keiji: Cyber Cross
    • Cross Wiber: Cyber Combat Police
  • Cadash
  • Chase H.Q.
    • Special Criminal Investigation
  • Chew Man Fu
  • China Warrior
  • Circus Lido
  • City Hunter
  • Cloud Master
  • Columns
  • Coryoon: Child of Dragon
  • Crush Pinball series:
    • Alien Crush
    • Devil's Crush
  • Cyber Core
  • Daimakaimura (SuperGrafx only)
  • Darius Plus (also released on CD-ROM as Super Darius)
  • Dead Moon
  • Detana!! Twinbee (Japan-only until its release on Virtual Console)
  • Die Hard
  • Don Doko Don!
  • Doraemon:
    • Doraemon: Meikyu Daisakusen (released in the US as Cratermaze)
    • Doraemon: Nobita no Dorabian Night
  • Download
  • Dragon Egg!
  • Dragon's Curse
  • Dragon Spirit
    • Dragon Saber: After Story of Dragon Spirit
  • Drop.Off
  • Dungeon Explorer

    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 
  • Iga Ninden Gaiou
  • Image Fight 2: Operation Deepstriker
  • Imagination Science World: Gulliver Boy
  • It Came From The Desert
  • J.B. Harold Murder Club
  • K.O. Century Beast Warriors: Gaia Fukkatsu Kanketsu Hen
  • Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman 3: Ikai no Princess
  • Kaze Kiri: Ninja Action
  • Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu 2
  • Kiaidan 00
  • Langrisser: Hikari no Matsuei
  • Last Alert
  • L-Dis
  • Lemmings
  • Lodoss Tousenki: Record of Lodoss War
  • Loom
  • Lords of Thunder

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD M-P 

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD Q-T 

    TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD U-Z 

Tropes:

  • 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 its CD-ROM add-on predated the Sega CD, while true, failed to convince most of the American consumers to support this console.
  • 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 Duo. Namely the CoreGrafx I and II (which replaced the original model's RF output with composite A/V), the Shuttle (a less-expensive alternative without the CD-ROM expansion slot aimed at kids), the ill-fated SuperGrafx (an enhanced model that could play a few exclusive games) and the portable GT and LT models (the former being the Japanese counterpart to the TurboExpress). The Duo itself also got two redesigns in the form of the R and RX models. The number of redesigns are enough to rival the Mega Drive's.

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

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