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The Famicom's Biggest Rival Is 25 Years Old

Posted by Damien McFerran

NEC's groundbreaking PC Engine comes of age

It makes us feel very old to say it, but NEC's popular 8-bit PC Engine console turned 25 yesterday.

Better known in the US as the TurboGrafx-16, the system launched in Japan on October 30th, 1987 (yes, we know we're a day late with this) - a time when the Famicom was enjoying a period of total and utter dominance.

Amazingly, it managed to wrestle market share away from Nintendo's format with its next-generation visuals and amazing arcade conversions such as R-Type and Space Harrier. The PC Engine was also notable for the fact that it was the first Japanese console to receive a CD-ROM attachment.

Although the system struggled outside of Japan, it remained a strong contender in its home territory, allowing NEC to take second place behind Nintendo - Sega was pushed into a distant third. An all-in-one system called the PC Engine Duo (Turbo Duo in the States) was launched later to compete with the Super Famicom, as well as a groundbreaking portable system called the PC Engine GT - which was essentially a PC Engine in mobile form, as it used the same internal tech and took the same game cards. The PC Engine family also included the ill-fated SuperGrafx, as well as many other hardware variants.

We'll be posting up a ridiculously in-depth retrospective of the PC Engine soon, but in the meantime why not mark the occasion by downloading some TurboGrafx-16 classics on the Wii Virtual Console?

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User Comments (24)

MAB

#2

MAB said:

I got a few Turbografx games on Wii VC that got good ratings on NL and I thought they were kind of average TBH ;) nothing comes between me and my Megadrive/Neo Geo classics :) NOTHING!

Omega

#3

Omega said:

In Germany whether the Famicom nor the PC-Engine were that popular. The NES playing second fiddle to the homecomputers (like Atari XL/XE, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, C64 and Amiga) and the PC-Engine was only available over import dealer.

I would say the most popular systems at this time were the C64 and Amiga. At least among the people I know. And the biggest rival to the NES was the Sega Master System.

meppi

#4

meppi said:

Love this little system so much. Only got mine in 2002, but I've had so much fun with it. I can only imagine how mindblowingly awesome it must have been to grow up in Japan instead of Belgium like I did. So many brilliant games.
Really wish we would one day see Gomola Speed on the Virtual Console so more people could play it.

TruenoGT

#5

TruenoGT said:

Love the fact there's so many PCE/TG16 games on the VC, never had one back in the day and it's great to play basically new (to me) 16-bit (or 8 if you're picky) games. Some of my favorites have been Ys 1&2, New Adventure Island, Castlevania, Star Parodier... Pretty bad ass stuff. Having access to these is another reason the Wii is a great console.

LavaTwilight

#6

LavaTwilight said:

I've never heard of it either, but I dunno if that's because it was never released in UK? I dunno maybe it was but, as the article says, it didn't do very well as is evident by us not hearing of it. I've purchased some of the games already from VC, mostly because their counterparts on other consoles (Dragons Fury for Megadrive for example is Devils Crush on Turbografx) weren't available.

Peppy_Hare

#7

Peppy_Hare said:

Just purchased A TG-16. I wanted one all my life. Games are simple, but still very enjoyable.

GeminiSaint

#8

GeminiSaint said:

Bonk 1, 2 and 3 were pretty fun platformers. Neutopia 1 and 2 were also quite enjoyable, considering they basically are Zelda 1.5.

RetrogamerFan

#9

RetrogamerFan said:

I'm pretty sure the PC engine (or any of it's variations) was never officially released in the UK or Europe. I remember seeing adverts for it through grey-importers and reading reviews for the games in the Mean Machine Guide to Consoles series. I really wanted one for a while until Sega confirmed the Megadrive was going to be launched in the UK.
It's great finally being able to play some of the games on the Wii's VC.

Chunky_Droid

#10

Chunky_Droid said:

It's been a long time!

This never got sold in Australia, so I always had the perception that the Master System was always the NES' biggest rival

Wheels2050

#11

Wheels2050 said:

Man, I wish I had the time and money to be able to collect a whole bunch of retro systems and their standout games.

Alas, real life beckons!

Looking forward to your feature articles though, NL. I love reading about the history of various systems - I've got a Retro Gamer hardware handbook that I absolutely love reading. There's such a rich history behind many of these systems!

Boo_Buster

#12

Boo_Buster said:

I remember this system and it's different iterations, but in America it seems like it was basically Nintendo, Sega and Atari that ruled the roost. I had Nintendo at home and an old Atari at my Aunt's, but I always enjoyed Sega as a few of my friends preferred them over Nintendo. Not me though ;)

LavaTwilight

#13

LavaTwilight said:

@Wheels2050
Real Life keeps beckoning me too, knocking at my door, calling on the phone, following me about when I do my shopping. I occasionally entertain myself with it but then it passes and I'm back to Computer Games. Good times!

CorbsAdmin

#14

Corbs said:

One of the best video game systems ever made still to this very day. They'll have to pry the PC Engine out of my cold, dead hands someday! LOL :D

Urbanhispanic

#15

Urbanhispanic said:

The Turbografx-16 had a lot of good games during its time. It's too bad Nintendo hasn't released any of their games in such a long time. :( They need to put more titles in their VC service, pronto!

vio

#16

vio said:

No kidding. We haven't seen a single TG-16 release on VC since Rondo of Blood way back in March of 2010!!! Then again, that may have something to do with Hudson's downfall... But heck, we haven't seen any VC releases for any platforms besides the Neo Geo in quite a while now. I love the Neo Geo, but this is getting ridiculous.

theconejo

#17

theconejo said:

Holy turbo grafx! My cousin had one along with a snes, while I had a gotten a sega genesis. It was a cool system. Notably I remember playing splaterhouse and the hardest game of my childhood.... Kieth courage. I picked up a tg16 at a garage sale in late 90s and found kieth courage soon after. Still hard. There were no save points if I remember correctly. Fun though.

I think I have a bonk game and definitely a arcade stick for it too.

NintendoCat14

#18

NintendoCat14 said:

Heh, the Turbo-Grafx 16. I've always wondered what would have become of gaming if NEC kept making gaming consoles... anyways, happy 25th, Turbo Grafx.

Zombie_Barioth

#19

Zombie_Barioth said:

Never heard of the Turbo-Grafx 16 growing up, I guess that shows how poorly it did over here. The first time I remember hearing of it was back when Nintendo Power did an article about it.

@NintendoCat14 Its fun to think about isn't it? What if Hudson or Atari were still in the game.

SparkOfSpirit

#20

SparkOfSpirit said:

The Turbografx is a great system. I wish we could get more VC games from it, though. I always wanted to play Legendary Axe.

Sean_Aaron

#21

Sean_Aaron said:

Brilliant system. The fact that the Japanese Wii VC shop has nearly as many PC Engine games as Famicom games (and I can remember there were a couple of occasions where it had more) says it all. Best arcade ports of 80s games you can get are on this platform. I'd go so far as to say it would be worth picking up a Japanese Wii just for this catalogue - I cannot imagine how hard/expensive it would be to track down many of these games.

Nekketsu3D

#22

Nekketsu3D said:

I'm still in the illusion that someday these games Nintendo will launch the Nintendo 3DS Eshop. :(

kartus

#23

kartus said:

The Master System was indeed the Famicom's correct rival; the purpose of the PC Engine was to beat all of that tech. It's much like the Dreamcast; it's a in-between, you compare it to the GameCube/PlayStation/Xbox even if it was released long before any of that tech was shown.

Surprisingly, the original comparison to the Super Famicom and the Mega Drive was a bit more apt, especially when you bring the PC Engine CD into things.

Steviis_Father

#24

Steviis_Father said:

I love this little guy so so so so so so so so so so much. ;)

Anyone who mourns the disappearance of Hudson Soft should either track down and obtain a unit for themselves, or download some VC games on Wii. It's a good chance that these two options may be the only places left to experience Hudson at its finest... And whether you're a fan of the system or not, simply because Akumajo Dracula X: Chi No Rondo (Castlevania: Rondo of Blood) was released for this system, and Nintendo decided to release it on VC, Wii owners SHOULD download this gem before it gets pulled off the Wii Shop permanently.... then the game goes back to being extremely expensive and rare.

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