The TurboGrafx-16, designed by Hudson Soft and sold by NEC Home Electronics, was released in Japan in the distant 1987. Except for its original name, it was also known as PC Engine in Japan. Its PAL version, based on the American model, is referred to simply as TurboGrafx and it was available in some European countries.
You might think that this console was somewhat doomed since the beginning, because it had to compete with legends like Famicom, Sega Genesis and, a little later, Super NES. But, surprisingly, it managed to outsell Famicom, becoming its main rival in Japan. Due to the fact that it has plenty of variations (around 17) and kept altering and improving over time, it managed to survive in the market and become a huge success in the Land of the Rising Sun. After all, it was a smaller and sleeker version of many of the consoles of that era, and it remained like this until it was discontinued in 1994, when it was succeeded by PC-FX. Most of its games are available in Japanese.
TurboGrafx-16’s design was easy-on-the-eye and it had a powerful software lineup. So, why did it last so little?
The answer lies in the fact that the marketing team did serious tactical mistakes and wasn’t familiar with the videogame market. So, the console never became a hit outside of Japan and the company lost its faith in it. Sadly, if that didn’t happen, probably its future would be completely different.
When it comes to its features, TurboGrafx-16 has an 8-bit CPU, a 16-bit video color encoder, and a 16-bit video display controller. The GPUs are capable of displaying 482 colors simultaneously, out of 512. With dimensions of just 14 cm × 14 cm × 3.8 cm (5.5 in × 5.5 in × 1.5 in), the Japanese PC Engine is the smallest major home game console ever made. Games were released on HuCard cartridges and later the CD-ROM optical format with the TurboGrafx-CD add-on.
The TurboGrafx-16 controller, officially named the TurboPad, features a rectangular shape with a directional pad, two numbered "I" and "II" buttons, two rubber "Select" and "Start" buttons, and two "Turbo" switches for the I and II buttons with three-speed settings. The switches allow for a single button press to register multiple inputs at once (for instance, this allows for rapid-fire in scrolling shooters). The TurboGrafx-16 only has one controller port; NEC later released a peripheral named the TurboTap, which plugged into the port on the system and allowed for five other controllers to be plugged in at once for multiplayer games. The choice for the existence of only one controller in the package was a huge minus because, at that time, most of the games were multiplayer and the extra controller equals extra cost.
When it comes to uniqueness, TurboGrafx-16 has plenty of little charms that contribute to making the gaming experience fun. For example, when you turn on the power switch, a little tab moves over the end of the game card slot, just like it does in the actual hardware. There is absolutely no use for this feature, but it adds up an authentic charm. Just like its main-menu effects do, where you get to choose between different interfaces and you’re rewarded with a pixelated ‘’boom’’.
In conclusion, TuboGrafx-16 was an interesting console that, with a more experienced team, it would be skyrocked.