I figured- if we are going to be talking about the Turbographix 16, we have to start at the beginning. And that means talking about the two companies responsible for it’s manufacture and software. NEC and Hudson soft.
The Nippon Electric Company have been around since July 17, 1899. They have been responsible for everything, from switching systems for radio stations, one of the first transistors, early televisions, and the first domestic Japanese computer- the NEAC-2201 in 1958!
Their first home computer- the PC-9801, was released in 1982- and they never looked back! By 1986, the company wanted to get into the lucrative home videogame console market. Little did they know- a videogame manufacturer was looking on the other side- wanting their own console- and had the specs to prove it!
Hudson Soft was founded on May 18, 1973. Initially, it dealt with personal computer products, but later expanded to the development and publishing of video games, mobile content, video game peripherals and music recording. Primarily a video game publisher, it internally developed many of the video games it published, as well as a few published by other companies. It is known for series such as Bomberman, Adventure Island, Bloody Roar, Star Soldier and Bonk.
As a first party software company for Nintendo, they were looking to get from under the shackles of their strict game release rules. so, they came up with their own designs for then-advanced graphics chips- 16 bit before anyone else! Nintendo wasn’t interested- the Famicom/NES was doing gangbusters all over the world. NEC lacked the vital experience in the video gaming industry and approached numerous video game studios for support. By pure coincidence, NEC’s interest in entering the lucrative video game market coincided with Hudson’s failed attempt to sell the designs- so, a partnership was forged. NEC would create Hudson’s chips, build the architecture, and create the console. Hudson would make all the first party software. The PC Engine made its debut in the Japanese market on October 30, 1987, and it was a tremendous success. The PC Engine had an elegant, “eye-catching” design, and it was very small compared to its rivals. This, coupled with a strong software lineup and third-party support from high-profile developers such as Namco and Konami gave NEC a temporary lead in the Japanese market. The PC Engine sold 500,000 units in its first week of release.
To say it dominated in Japan it’s first year was an understatement. Overpowering the Famicom and the MasterSystem, it’s bright, vibrant color palette and beautiful sound ( all created by Hudson’s custom chipsets- Video Display Controller (VDC) chip: HuC6270A, Video Color Encoder (VCE) chip: HuC6260, Sound CPU: HuC6280A also used to program/control sound, and a 6 channel wavetable at 3.58 MHz, PSG, respectively) helped it push ahead of the competition. It’s selection of games helped to define it as well- from companies like Data East, Namco, Capcom, as well as Hudson themselves, gave the system a very unique and well loved library.
Now- we will get this out of the way- I know it only had an 8 bit CPU. but it’s not an 8 bit machine. Not by a long shot. It is a 16 bit system at heart. It’s unique chipsets set it way apart from the competition.
When it came time to bring it to the states, they decided to take a cue from Nintendo- and changed it’s design.
Gone was the small, simple, white box. in it’s place was a system that was a bit- larger. Black and sleek, it was to resemble the VCRs at the time. Do you even remember VCRs? It still used the same HUcard technology. But- it was the controller that gave it it’s name. They added turbo switches. They had three adjustments- to up the level of attack. Kicking, punching, jumping, or shooting could be adjusted to the player’s tastes. The Turbopad begat the Turbographix 16.
But- it was the release date- August 29, 1989, That truly hurt the system in the US. Because two weeks before, The Sega Genesis was released, and the system flew off the shelves. If the Turbographix had hit the shelves a year before… It could have been big. But the system has an amazing fanbase, and there are tons of awesome games! We’re going to start looking at them in the next…
Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981!