TurboGrafx: When 'PC Engine' wasn't hip and rad enough for us
5th Feb 2012 | 16:00
If you're looking at that unattractive word and going "Turbo what?" then you may know the console better by its Japanese name, the PC Engine.
Deciding how to refer to it is a challenge in itself. TurboGrafx-16 was the American name and plain old TurboGrafx the PAL moniker, though it made its way here in such tiny numbers that it was hardly a launch at all.
The machine was a kind of supergroup project between Hudson Soft and NEC, designed to ride Nintendo's slipstream as console gaming took off.
It started well too, but the world of blistering shmups, niche RPGs and cutthroat game dev licensing was far outside NEC's comfort zone, leading to a meek US launch and precious little footing in Europe.
Conversely, the PC Engine had sold like a homegrown beast in Japan, outgunning the NES towards the end of its life with some teeth-crackingly good arcade ports and a TurboCD expansion long before the PlayStation and Saturn made CD gaming the standard.
It wasn't until 1989, that the PC Engine braved America as the TurboGrafx-16 (not strictly 16-bit but so what). By then Sega had already marked out their pitch with mines and barbed wire, making up for the Mega Drive's Japanese kicking courtesy of the PC Engine. The touchdown of the SNES in a maelstrom of marketing and Mario only marginalised the TG-16 further.
All the same, it hung on in there until 1993 - late boosts coming from the TurboDuo with built-in CD drive and a flourishing catalogue of CD-only epics, and from sales of the system being handed off to new NEC/Hudson joint venture Turbo Technologies Inc. before it was rolled up into a mail order business.
With some top-shelf shooters, killer arcade support and all sorts of tantalising Japanese exclusives, it's still a choice bit of hardware for the retro connoisseur.