Hardware Focus - NEC SuperGrafx

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?