News Article

Hardware Focus - NEC SuperGrafx

Posted by Corbie Dillard

In 1989 the PC Engine was still selling quite well in Japan, but Sega's 16-bit Mega Drive system was beginning to pick up steam and Nintendo's Super Famicom console was looming just around the corner. Sensing this, NEC decided that they needed a true 16-bit console if they were to have any hope of continuing their success in the Japanese console wars.

The successor to the PC Engine was originally planned to be an entirely new system with true 16-bit architecture, but somewhere along the lines NEC decided to instead go for a 'quick fix' and thus the SuperGrafx console was born.

Instead of designing a whole new system, NEC basically took the PC Engine hardware and added four times more RAM along with a second video chip which also featured its own dedicated RAM. While this did allow more freedom with graphics design on the console, it also created a lot more workload for the system's single 8-bit processor, somewhat negating the graphics potential that this extra RAM offered. While the system looked good on paper, most gamers could see that it was really nothing more than a slightly enhanced PC Engine system.

NEC launched the SuperGrafx console in Japan in November of 1989 at a retail cost of about $300. This price was for the console only and didn't even include any type of CD-Rom unit. Couple all of this with the fact that the dedicated SuperGrafx game titles cost in excess of $100 and, as you can imagine, most Japanese gamers passed on the console, despite the system's ability to play the entire back catalog of PC Engine titles.

NEC would end up releasing 5 dedicated SuperGrafx titles along with two hybrid Darius games that would play on both the regular PC Engine and SuperGrafx consoles. The dedicated SuperGrafx games are: 1941 Counter Attack, Aldynes, Battle Ace, Daimakaimura (Ghouls 'n Ghosts), and Granzort. While the 1941 Counter Attack and Ghouls 'n Ghosts games were both extremely accurate ports of their arcade counterparts, it still wasn't enough to get this doomed console off the ground. Given this lack of early success, it didn't take NEC long to pull the plug on their new SuperGrafx system, deciding to instead turn their focus back to their regular PC Engine consoles.

There were versions of Strider and Galaxy Force II in development for the SuperGrafx console, but with the quick demise of the system, both were soon cancelled. There are rumored to be prototypes of both games floating around the internet, although no proof of their existence has ever been substantiated. Galaxy Force II would later see a release on the Sega Saturn console years later.

Many video game collectors have snapped the SuperGrafx consoles up in recent years, mainly due to the near arcade-perfect port of Ghouls 'n Ghosts available for the system. With the recent announcement that Hudson will be bringing the SuperGrafx version of Daimakaimura (Ghouls 'n Ghosts) to the Japanese Wii Virtual Console, there's renewed hope that perhaps we'll eventually see all of the SuperGrafx titles, even the cancelled Strider and Galaxy Force II titles, made available on the Virtual Console. It would be great to see gamers across the world finally get the opportunity to experience the few game titles the very unique SuperGrafx console had to offer.

We'll have more information on any possible SuperGrafx Virtual Console releases as it becomes available. For more information on the TurboGrafx-16 console why not check out our hardware focus from last year?

From the web

User Comments (83)



Corbs said:

After writing this I went and dug out my SuperGrafx console so I can play a little Ghouls 'n Ghosts. I had forgotten how cool the system was. It's just a shame it was such a disaster at retail.



WarioFan63 said:

Ive seen conflicting reports that only 5 games ever came out for it. Can someone clear this up for me here?



Rexy said:

The virtual boy's a different beast, though. Nintendo would probably want to shell out some kind of goggles-like peripheral to coordinate with it and make that feel more "authentic" (term used loosely given how awkward the VB was to begin with).

The whole SuperGraphx console history sounds interesting, shame that there was next to no support on it or anything. But it's good to hear that some exposure is coming through with the few titles that ever came on.

And yet, I can't help but wonder what the arrogant people that would potentially scream "we already got the Genesis version, huurgh" would think of this move O.o

@Wariofan93: Those seven games were 1941: Counter Attack, Aldynes, Battle Ace, Galaxy Force II (unreleased prototype though), Madouou Granzort, Strider (though that one's been rumored) and of course, Ghouls n' Ghosts.



Corbs said:

Here are the official SuperGrafx releases, not including prototypes and homemade titles that have been created but not sold officially.

1941: Counter Attack
Battle Ace
Ghouls 'n Ghosts
Darius Alpha (Works on PC Engine)
Darius Plus (Works on PC Engine)

The two Darius games play on a regular PC Engine, but won't display the enhanced graphics. Strider and Galaxy Force II were never released, despite the false rumors that Strider was a limited release. Strider was in development but later cancelled.



Dazza said:

Great article Corbmiester, so were the two Darius games actually SuperGrafx branded or just PC Engine games?



Corbs said:

Darius Alpha is RARE. I mean SUPER DUPER RARE. It was given out as a special bonus to those who bought the Super Darius CD-Rom title. Darius Plus looks like a regular PC Engine release. I own it.



Dazza said:

So we're actually talking just 5 released games for the SuperGrafx, a prototype which never saw the light of day, and a rumour!!



Corbs said:

Pretty much. I own the Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Granzort, and 1941 games. They say Granzort is a pseduo-Keith Courage sequel but I just don't see it. It's similar in some aspects, but it doesn't look or feel much like a sequel to me.



timp29 said:

Wow, how did the megadrive version of strider stack up against the supergrafx?? I vaguely remember the megadrive port being being quite excellent. From those screenshots though, the ghouls and ghosts looks superior to the other ports.



Corbs said:

I saw some screenshots of the SuperGrafx version of Strider one time and it looked pretty sweet. The backgrounds seemed a bit more detailed and the color depth was a bit better. But you're right, the Mega Drive version of Strider was pretty darn good too.

This is one set of screens from an old Japanese gaming magazine.

Who knows, since it's rumored that this version of Strider was completed before it was cancelled, maybe Hudson could finally release it on the Virtual Console and give those who've long searched for the prototype a chance to enjoy the actual game.



KhaoShar said:

Awsome article, Corbie-sama!

Sometimes, retro-gaming is a bit like archeology (I mean the real thing, not the hats-and-whips-indy stuff). You dig up a perfectly preserved specimen of the neanderthal man, and you see the whole point of it. But you also see why it had to be a cul-de-sac of evolution



Bensei said:

@Corbie: If the actual game gets released, then Starfox II, Earthbound Zero and Zelda Gaiden should come too



Rexy said:

Wasn't Zelda Gaiden one of the prototype names for Majora's Mask?
But yeah - Mother 1 coming to an English-speaking VC nation, while almost impossible, would certainly make my day



Betagam7 said:

I wouldn't worry about VB games coming out especially in PAL territories.
According to the revisionists who made Smash Bros Brawl. NO VB games were ever released. Yes that's right: None.
I could have sworn I have ten of them in my cupboard but apparently not!



Terra said:

I honestly fought that the Supergrafx games would never hit the Virtual Console. Great News that another console is coming, albeit an upgraded enhanced version of another console that had 7 games. Still, another one out of the way.

Mother 1 had an english translation complete but just unreleased so it's not completely out of the question.



Adamant said:

@WarioFan63: Ther are 5 or 7 games for the system depending on whether you count the two Darius titles or not. They're not true Supergrafx titles.



Shiryu said:

Strider would now be a cult classic if it ever saw the light of day on this. If capcom had pushed other CPS1 games on this one, who knows if it would have had a different fate.



Jolted85 said:

I can tell that the SuperGrafx was just like the 32X, very few games were released for the system and the company behind it didn't support it well, to those who were talking about Strider, I do believe that the game came out on the pc engine cd-rom attachment as an Arcade card title, also Darius Alpha along with Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire are the two rare games for the PC Engine system, there may be more rare games but those are the two I can think of right now.



Kawaiipikachu said:

Great article & hopefully they will be released next Hanabi festival .
I got 2 questions for you corbe .
1.Are you really a big Turbographix fan as it seems

2.Can you make up your mind about your Avatar ?



timp29 said:

Its all great that we get a new console, but I secretly want the GBA so I can play most of the handheld zeldas

However, as I've been hanging out to play strider for ages, bring on the supergrafx!!

EDIT: How long has strider been 'coming soon'? What part of soon did I misunderstand Corbie, Dazza, your site lied to me



marktheshark said:

Yay! Now if we can just get those Arcade Card games and we're all set!

Oh, and Corbie, I can't seem to access your site (Virtual-Turbo), are you able to fix it?



Dazza said:

@timp - It wasn't looking that good for Strider up until recently. The early ESRB rating it had got withdrawn, or hidden. A few months ago it popped back up on the OFLC and PEGI so it is only really a matter of time until it should appear on VC I would say!

The Mega Drive version is a fine conversion so you won't be missing out as this didn't make it to the SuperGrafx.



Bensei said:

@Betagam7: It means not released in Europe. Afaik VB games haven't been sold outside of America and Japan.

@Rexy: I don't know if it was named Ura Zelda or Zelda Gaiden, but one of them was an add-on for OoT which changed some quests (Master Quest turned into this) and was planned to have some other nice gimmicks like linking up a Gameboy Camera with it and using your photo on a mask in the game



slangman said:

Would be great if the SuperGrapx came over to the west. So is it still worth getting the Mega Drive version of Ghouls N Ghosts if we do actually get the SuperGrapx version?



Twilight_Crow said:

O.o I didn't know about the Supergrafx existence, thanks for the explanation Corbie, great article.
I was going to buy Ghouls n Ghosts, for MD, but I'll wait to check this one's out.



Corbs said:

@ Kawaiipikachu - Yes I'm a pretty big PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 fan and no I can't make up my mind on my avatar, atlhough I'm pretty happy Greg is back.



Objection said:

I'm not really too bothered about these games coming, but I wouldn't mind either-the more, the merrier.



Corbs said:

Since we decided to make this a Hardware Focus, I rewrote part of the article to better fit into that category.



Rexy said:

@Terranigma, comment #17: It's true that Mother 1 did get a prototype translation. But what are the odds of Nintendo still having the data now ready for distribution to other territories? Given that everything was stored on one single cartridge before being hacked open for distribution in ROM format, this availability concern should be something to think over moreso regarding any English release.

@Bensei, comment #26: From what I've read and understood through web searching, Ura Zelda was what the Ocarina of Time Master Quest was known as in Japan, and Zelda Gaiden was one of the early names for Majora's Mask. I would have thought that the Gameboy Camera feature stated to have been included there too could have been too hard to program personally, especially since it only prints out in black and white.



Chunky_Droid said:

Wow, nice article Corbie, I never even knew there was a SuperGrafx! I can only hope for Ghouls 'N' Ghosts for a NA release



Hilanderous said:

@ Corbie - Except for Ghouls 'n Ghosts and 1941, there isn't much info on the other Supergrafx games on Wikipedia. Since you are the expert; what are they like/ about?



Eltigro said:

I'm very much interested in the SuperGrafx games. I've been a TG-16 fan ever since I got mine back in high school. I still have the box and everything it came with in the attic. I often drooled over pictures of things like the SuperGrafx or the PC-FX in magazines, wishing I could afford one.

If/When 1941 for the SuperGrafx comes out on VC, it will be a definite download for me.



Corbs said:

It's a nice little console and it will play all PC Engine games and connect to all PC Engine peripherals. It just has extra RAM and an added video chip. The unfortunate part is that NEC didn't add an extra processor to handle this extra workload so the visual benefits the console offered up weren't nearly what they could have been. As I said in the article, the Ghouls 'n Ghosts port is the most accurate home version of the game, other than the actual arcade version that's included in the Generation compilation on the Sega Saturn. It just didn't offer enough of a step up in game quality to warrant the $300 price tag and then still having to buy the games at a whopping $100 each.



Atlantis1982 said:

@6. Corbie

Wow, that is a real small amount of titles; so little it didn't went past half the alphabet. xD



bash said:

@39 Corbie

Speaking of nice little systems, I wonder if Nintendo has considered releasing any of the Gameboy/GB Color/GB Advance games for Virtual console directly for virtual console and/or with the ability to download to the DS wirelessly though the Wii. That'd be awesome, they have a heck of back catalog of portable games!!



Devastator said:

The VC needs to obtain support for 3DO games. Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and that game show game where you went up multi colored stairs to the top were great games. I think it was called Twisted.



Ricardo91 said:

I barely even know what a Supergraphx is. I saw it mentioned in RG's Bargain Hunt section and that's it. Thanks for the info Corbs!
It'd be pretty silly to get a system on the VC that only had 5 games on it though, and I'm not interested in Ghouls and Ghosts. Personally, I'd rather have the Saturn. I really want to play PD Saga, Nights, and Radiant Silvergun without having to sell a kidney.



timp29 said:

@Devastator: Yes I had a 3DO and thoroughly enjoyed it. Street fighter was great, but the 5 button controller was a bit or a hassle. It sounds like the 3DO version was the best super street fighter, because you could play as akuma
But I think the 3DO games would probably be too big for the wii's puny memory. I still have super street fighter 2 turbo somewhere.



Rexy said:

@bash, comment #41: While easy to emulate for single player games, the Game Boy's long line of additional peripherals including the link cable and - as stated above - the Gameboy Camera to name such examples makes it difficult to incorporate the system's full set of functions, thus not necessarily technologically stable to be part of the VC catalog right now. Also, since the DS games can play Game Boy Advance carts anyway, there's no necessary need for that branch of the GB line through the Wii Shop Channel at all.



Kawaiipikachu said:

I just realised something .
the games had a $100US price tag meaning it would be about $200AUD back then & i thought the price of games here in Australia are bad enough .



Corbs said:

With the rumor of a new DS system with an SD Card slot, this GBA back catalog might become a reality. There has to be some reason the new DS is rumored to have an SD card slot. Of course it's also rumored to include a digital camera, so it could be used to save the pics. Who knows at this point.

Oh no! The avatar-changing disease has struck Mr. Cheez. And you killed the cute little mouse. shame on you!



Jay1 said:

Rexy, I can't see why the Gameboy's peripherals would make any difference. Any peripherals which aren't emulated can simply be flagged as not connected. There's no reason the Gameboy would be technologically unstable.



timp29 said:

True, rumble pack functionality of the n64 hasn't affected games too much. And does the gameboy link cable functionality with the GC work with the wii still?



Cally said:

The Ghouls 'n Ghosts port? How does it compare to the version on the Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1?

That game probably helped kill my Xbox, along with God knows how many brain cells, from all the hours I spent trying to get past the last stage to the real boss without turning it off (can't remember if I knew what I was doing or not). I did beat Ghosts 'n Goblins tho.



Corbs said:

It's not quite as good as the arcade version found in the Classics Collection, but close. If you've got the Capcom Classics Collection or the Capcom Generations 2 for Sega Saturn or PSX, stick with those.



Rexy said:

@timp29, comment #49: I don't think so, I can't remember seeing any ports for a GC-to-GBA cable on the Wii anywhere.
Even if the Game Boy line is considered, this would mean having to cut back on certain pleasures and all. As stated, multiplayer options (which seems to be the Wii's main focal point altogether) won't work unless there's a way to be able to link 2 Wii systems together; this would mean that the involvement of more than one players in a party game, or trading Pokemon, would be impossible.



timp29 said:

Sadly pokemon was the cartoon that I used to imatiently wait to finish before dragon ball z came on. Thus, I have a lot of irrational pokemon hate, which I hang on to for novelty sake. Not being able to trade pokemon is a real tragedy <insert sarcasm here>

I never owned a GC but I thought the GC-GBA cable plugged into a controller port? I could very easily be mistaken on this one.



alxtlvra said:

@ Rexy : I always try to see problems as chances, the problem of the game link emulation of game boy games could be a great chance to use WiFi play instead (like Dr. Mario Rx), or local wireless play (with NDS). Possible and would be same game play.



brooks83 said:

Rexy: I will have to go double check, but I'm almost 100% sure that the GC to GBA link cable works with the Wii, as it plugs into the GC controller port.



Rexy said:

Well shut my mouth!
I thought that with the lack of Game Boy Player support, links to the Game Boy library were out of the question but I understand where you all are coming from.

But like I said, Game Boy Advance games are fine because you can play them on the DS anyway without the need to download game data.

Even if these problems can be seen as "chances" per se, what are the chances of the ROM data for the original Game Boy game files being hacked so that they can actually DO support online connections in the first place? I can understand that the function itself might be able to work, but the real question is how to incorporate it into past games, if that ever DOES happen at all.



Steviis_Father said:

i know this isn't related...but given that this is latest post on monday, I was wondering where the virtual console/wii ware release is today...

Did Mega Man 9 eclipse releases for 2 weeks or something?



Rexy said:

I won't be surprised. The only way to find out though is to just peacefully wait for another couple of hours or so.



deadbattery said:

The U.S. gets Super Turrican 2 today, plus 2 Wiiware games, one of which is Bomberman Blast. Sigh, another annoying single-VC-game release week.



Rapadash6 said:

Wow, I never even knew about this console until now. Sounds a lot like what Nintendo did when they designed the Wii hardware. ^^' Of course I don't mean that as an insult, though. The Gamecube hardware was far more capable than anyone gives it credit for anyway, imo.



Ricardo91 said:

@The Corbmeister . Yeah. Waluigi fed the poor thing his tacos, and he died instantly, cause the secret ingredient is arsenic. Then he took over my space to advertise them, hoping other suckers would buy in and suffer the same fate of theat poor cute little rodent. Then Wario came and farted on Waluigi's face, killing him by aphixiation. Then he took the spot from there.

Edit: Ah, The crazy things I come up with in the morning...



Corbs said:

Well you picked a good one with Wario. I like Waluigi too, but Wario is still my favorite.



Wiiloveit said:

I like Wario too, since he's funnier that Luigi's nemesis, and I find that Waluigi just gets annoying. And he's too tall.

Oh, and I don't keep agreeing with you and "bigging you up" (as it were) all the time (especially on WWW) because I'm your wannabe-minion or anything Corb's, so don't get worried. The ice climber avatar you gave me just ruined everything



KhaoShar said:

About that GBA-to-Wii thing: I got curious about this and actually experimented myself by connecting a GBA to my Wii using my copy of FinalFantasyCrystalCronicles. Guess what: it works!

Seems a little strange, 'course actually i thought I had tried to use my GBA with Splintercell a few month' ago and that sort of didn't do it, but that might be a problem N could possibly fix with their next firmware update?



Cally said:

@Corbie/Adamant/somebody else who knows stuff:

I keep hearing the PCEngine has 700 games on it in Japan (we got, what, just over a hundred between the Hucard and CD titles?). I'm kind of curious where you research this stuff on the net, like the most notable Japan-only PCE/TG-16 titles and such.



Corbs said:

Wow, I wouldn't even know where to begin. I've been researching PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 console and games since I first got on the internet back in 1997. Most of the sites I originally used have gone under or been taken down. Most of the information is stuck in me head I've been over it so many times. : )

Check this site out. It's one of my all-time favorites.



timp29 said:

Nice site corbie, will have a look over that. Just at a glance there is a massive amount of games there. Thats some real untapped potential for VC



Eltigro said:

Corbie, that is an excellent site. I'm surprised that I hadn't seen it before. I've looked up lots of TurboGrafx sites over the years. There used to be another good one called... lets see... what was it... something like Virtual Turbo or something... whatever happened to that one...



Ricardo91 said:

@Corbie. Nice site!

And I changed to a Wario avatar in anticipation for Wario Land Shake It. Gonna pick it up this weekend. I love that morbidly obese garlic muncher.



Corbs said:

Well I'm going to eventually archive the Virtual Turbo reviews into one 16-bit gaming site along with my Super NES and Genesis/Mega Drive sites. But that's down the road a ways. For now I'm going to concentrate on VC-Reviews and WiiWare World. Don't worry, the reviews will be back.



timp29 said:

Corbie do you own Strip Fighter II from the PC Engine?? Thats looks awesome I'll never forget when I learned you could get 'adult' games for the 3do, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Of course I was raging with hormones at the time, but Strip Fighter II looks like the best rip off ever.



StarDust4Ever said:

They should have also given the Super a 4x speed processor and Mode 7 graphics. That would have been a beast!

I could actually picture Nintendo trying to do something half-donkey like that with Wii in the not-so-far future, just so they can make it 720p/1080i compatible

@Corbie: thanks for changing your avatar back. That goofy mask thingy gave me and probably everyone else on VC the creeps



KhaoShar said:

ttplayer92 wrote:

The GBA can connect to the wii?

One word, three letters: Yup! ^^_



Corbs said:

I got Strip Fighter 2 a few years back. I don't play it much but it's good for a laugh from time to time. The "adult" games are always fun, some more than others. Steam Hearts for the PC Engine is a bit risque since it basically involves the creatures raping each other at the end of levels, although they toned it down quite a bit in the PC Engine version and even more censored in the Saturn version.



snabald said:

The SuperGrafx version of Ghouls and Ghosts did have nearly arcade perfect graphics - the sound was another story though.



timp29 said:

That site corbie listed has great comparison screenshots between arcade, turbo/super grafx and arcade. There is still a step up to arcade in the background textures like walls and leaves, but I don't know whether that is a turbografx or supergrafx version.
I also noticed that damien from here got credit on that site corbie listed.



Corbs said:

It's a great site, and I too noticed that Damien was credited. Damien freelances all over the place so it's no real surprise to see his name pop up quite often. I've been visiting that site for years. Still one of the best.



parallaxscroll said:

Corbie wrote:

Many video game collectors have snapped the SuperGrafx consoles up in recent years, mainly due to the near arcade-perfect port of Ghouls 'n Ghosts available for the system.

__snabald wrote:

The SuperGrafx version of Ghouls and Ghosts did have nearly arcade perfect graphics

No, Ghouls 'N Ghosts on SuperGrafx did NOT have even close to arcade perfect graphics. Even though the SuperGrafx version was the most graphically detailed CONSOLE version at the time (1990) the actual true difference between Arcade and SuperGrafx was not slight or tiny. See the comparison below.
It's not accurate to say something like "the graphics of the SuperGrafx version were not quite as good as the arcade".
They were, in reality, a long way from the arcade.
The first arcade-perfect home version of Ghouls 'N Ghosts was the one released for the Sharp X68000 computer in 1994. In fact, X68000 Ghouls 'N Ghosts was the most accurate home version of the game, not the Saturn & PS1 versions released in 1998. While it's not fair to compare a high-end computer that cost well more than $1000, to a $300 console, the fact remains that SuperGrafx was not capable of near arcade perfect results.

The ROM of arcade Ghouls 'N Ghosts was 32 megabits while the ROM of the SuperGrafx version was only 8 megabits. Thus 1/4, aka, a quarter. Actually that's a more accurate assessment of the graphics, SuperGrafx was 1/4 the arcade. While the MegaDrive-Genesis-Wii VC version was even less, because its ROM was 5 megabits, thus about 1/6th the arcade.

The CPS arcade hardware that ran the arcade game used a 16-bit 68000 CPU @ 10 MHz, and graphics hardware capable of pushing 256 sprites. CPS could display 3 independent scrolling layers, could display several thousand colors on-screen at once from a pallete of over 65,000 colors, with a screen resolution of 384x224.
The SuperGrafx hardware wasn't comparable even though it was enhanced from the PC-Engine.

The comparison below will give you some idea of the vast differences between the Arcade, MegaDrive-Genesis, and SuperGrafx versions. Most people do not realise just how much graphical detail & color was cut out of the MegaDrive-Genesis-Wii VC and even the graphically improved (over MD-Gen) SuperGrafx version. Notice that the *only home version that is TRULY arcade-exact is the X68000 version, even though X68000 is not a console but a home computer.

CPS-1 Arcade version, 1988

SuperGrafx version, 1990

Mega Drive / Genesis version, 1989 (Wii VC GnG is this version)

X68000 version, 1994




parallaxscroll said:

Regarding the unreleased 16-bit PC Engine 2 (NEC released the modestly upgraded 8-bit SuperGrafx instead), here are a few news clips from EGM and one from GamePro.

There was also Namco's unreleased 16-bit Super System, which almost became the PC-Engine 2 because NEC wanted to use Namco's console as the basis for one version of the PC Engine 2 but Hudson killed the deal.








JustanotherGamer said:

Excellent article on the SuperGrafix (PCE 2) That is a system I never owned. They might have done better to make it an actual 16 bit system.not just another upgraded 8-bit system.

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