Me & NEC

My life with the Turbo Grafx-16
July 28, 2008

December 24, 1989 9:30pm EST

An empty tree with little to no presents and a distraught boy heads for bed.

December 25, 1989 7:30am EST

An NEC "Turbo Grafx-16" console falls down the chimney on Christmas morning.

The boy is once again happy.

It's actual domestic launch date was in it was still a fairly unknown hype machine when it launched head to head against the new Sega Genesis/Mega Drive.

Move over Shigeru Miyamoto!

The PC-Engine in Japan or TG-16 in the United States became a new alternative to the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and the aging 8 bit Nintendo Entertainment System.

NEC licensed technology from "Hudson Soft", a video game manufacturer, to create a video game console. It also happened to be less expensive at launch than the Genesis.

In actuality, the system had only a 8 bit CPU, with a 16 bit graphics card. So it had the NES/Sega Master System aesthetics with a visual Genesis-esque flare.

Between the NES still pumping out games, the Genesis vs. SNES debate, and the slow support of game developers for the TG-16, it is no wonder why it never lasted more than 5 years.

NEC and Hudson Soft ended up developing most of the games and it proved too little when other software companies ventured to the more popular SEGA and SNES. Most game developers only wanted to create titles for the most popular the TG-16 was beat out ever time by the big 2.

Included in the system came a single two button controller.
The "TurboPad" was very similar to the Nintendo directional pad.

However, instead of an "A" and "B" button it had a "I" and "II". Also, the "start" button was replaced with "run" and on the top of the controller it had an adjustable turbo switch for each button. It shared turbo qualities akin to the NES "Max" and/or "Advantage."

This was the definitive system for only children like myself due to the lack of controller ports. You had to buy the "Turbo tap" to have 2 or up to 5 players join in a game. Pretty lame, because I knew only 2 people with TG-16's yet we couldn't bring pads over and play each other because of this stipulation.

On a happier note.....

Gone are the bulky plastic cartridges.

The TG-16 games were on sleek, small, pocket-sized Hu Cards.

The "Hu cards" came in CD jewel cases with a game booklet and plastic sleeve. "Hu card" or "Hudson card" was developed by Hudson Soft and was also known as the "Turbo Chip" in North America.

NEC's foray into the handheld market demolished the Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear and Nintendo Gameboy.

It was the Turbo Express and it played all of the console games. Graphically superior and more convenient than the competitors.

Only years later would Sega release the "Nomad" which copied NEC's overall concept by being able to play Genesis games portably.

One cool thing was the fact that you could watch TV on the Turbo Express via the consumed batteries faster than a sad girl eating ice cream.

Good idea........only it cost nearly $300 in 1990! Ouch!
I had one but I sold it on Ebay in 2000 with all of my games for a good amount.

The Turbo Duo, which played the CD games, was equally impressive back then. Though it had very good games, the price and lack of consumer awareness killed it.

My biggest gripe was that I could never find a place that rented Hu cards. Every game I had to purchase blindly from "Montgomery Ward" or "Toy's R Us."

Below I listed a few games I owned, with a little summary describing my recolections of the title.


Keith Courage in Alpha Zones

This is a good but very repetitive title where the hero Keith Courage must avenge his father's death by ridding the world of the evil and poorly named B.A.D. gang. This was the original pack in game for the Turbografx-16 and although the game was decent enough, it really failed to spark up interest for the system. You start as human walking to the right in a village.....a rainbow appears and turns you into a midget Gundam robot.

You have a sword and can shoot bombs out as well. It's a hack and slash game that is more fun now than it was when I was a kid.

Double Dungeons

This is a totally boring dungeon based RPG much like the older "Might and Magic" series. This ugly 3D role playing game would have been decent if I didn't get lost all the time because everything looks the same and there should have been some kind of in game map system to guide the gamer as well. Double Dungeons may be one of the few role playing games on the system but this is no Final Fantasy or Y's!

It sucks in so many ways. Booooring!
Thanks Grandma!

China Warrior

China Warrior is a very limited side scrolling beat'em up starring some fighter who looks very similar to Bruce Lee. The characters are quite huge and even fairly detailed as well as some of them fill up nearly a quarter of the screen but of course, they are also very stiff looking in the process so there's a trade off. Another problem with this game is the constant looping music which doesn't even change when you enter a new set of levels.

China Warrior was only created to show off the Turbo Grafx-16 graphical abilities, because the game play is laughable when compared to a real fighting game. This game can be easy if you memeorize the patterns. It's really a test of reflexes.......and that is when it ceases to be a fun game.

Dragon Spirit

Here is another shooter on the Turbo but features a young prince who transforms into a fire breathing dragon. In the game you must save a princess from a evil army of demons across 8 deadly levels. Like Namco's classic shoot'em up Xevious, enemies attack from both the sky and the ground.

Dragon Spirit is not one of the best shooters on the system thanks to some bland graphics but the list of power ups and attacks is not too bad. Still pretty crappy thinking back.

New Adventure Island

The plot does not deviate much from most other Adventure Island games. While Master Higgins and Tina are leaving the church after getting married (Presumably after the events of Super Adventure Island), a shadowy figure called Baron Bronsky and 6 of his underlings kidnap Tina and 6 island children.

The player's job is to guide Master Higgins through 6 worlds with 4 levels each (The last being a slightly smaller level with a boss) to rescue the children, and then finally defeat Baron Bronsky in his fortress to rescue Tina.

It is a lot like the NES and SNES versions, with the similar levels and characters. A simple fun game. Check it out on the Wii virtual console or ROMs online.

Sonic Spike Volleyball

This game is so mediocre I can't even find decent pictures to describe it. It is volleyball game with anime style characters. Some hotties in bikinis play as well as some goofy dudes. You can pick countries and that pretty much wraps it up. Awkward controls and monotonous gameplay make this a bargain bin game. I got this in my basket on Easter.......I would rather have got some "Peeps" and another copy of "The Killing Joke."

Bonk's Adventure

Bonk is a very fun action game featuring everyone's favorite head-butting caveman who is trying to save Princess Za and her homeland. Bonk must fight his way through your typical video game stages like ice worlds and underwater levels but then the game throws in a few strange challenges at you like going inside a giant dinosaur itself.

The only real problem with I have with Bonk's Adventure is that it was far too easy and it only comes with only 5 levels. Sure, it's a great game for the kids and the casual player but the pro gamers will be done with this game in a few days or even hours, no problem. Try putting the turbo swith up to flip spin across the level. You can pretty much fly with this technique and avoid most damage. Check it out on the Wii virtual console or ROMs online.

Blazing Lazers

Called "Gunhead" in Japan, this is my favorite shooter of all time. Even more than "U.N. Squadron" for SNES and "Gigawing" for Dreamcast. Check all three out if you don't know.

In this famous vertical scrolling shooter it's your mission here to pilot the 80 ton Gunhed Star fighter and go up against the Dark Squadron army lead by the mysterious enemy known as the Master Computer. This game is loaded with firepower and 9 huge levels. Not a very difficult game but provides enough challenge and variation with weapons to make the replay value very high. Blazing Lazers comes very recommended. Check it out on the Wii virtual console or ROMs online.

Games not reviewed that I owned

Legendary Axe
Ninja Spirit
Jackie Chan Action Kung Fu
Legend of Hero Tonma

The Turbo Grafx 16 had a short run and died sooner than it should have. High prices, lack of games, no advertising, and very little domestic support are all reasons for it's demise.

Just like during its initial launch the TG-16/PC-Engine killed the Genesis/Mega Drive overseas in Japan. It would take that same favoritism to the very end.

It's CD games edured until 1995 in the U.K. and Japan in small cult success due to rare, fan popular games such as "Fighting Street" (aka Street Fighter), "Y's: I, II, and III" and "Castlevania: Rondo of Blood."

The system by the sales figures alone was a failure......but, you can't deny that it had a small impact on the video games we play and enjoy today.

Hu Card Games
Aero Blasters
Air Zonk
Alien Crush
Andre Panza Kick Boxing
Battle Royale
Blazing Lazers
Bloody Wolf
Bomberman '93
Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure
Bonk's Adventure
Bonk's Revenge
Champions Forever Boxing
Chase HQ
Chew Man-Fu
China Warrior
Darkwing Duck
Davis Cup Tennis
Dead Moon
Deep Blue
Devil's Crush
Double Dungeons
Dragon Spirit
Dragon's Curse
Dungeon Explorer
Dungeons & Dragons: Order of the Griffon
Fantasy Zone
Final Lap Twin
Galaga '90
Ghost Manor
Hit The Ice
Jack Nicklaus Turbo Golf
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu
JJ & Jeff
Keith Courage in Alpha Zones
King of Casino
Legend of Hero Tonma
Legendary Axe II, The
Legendary Axe, The
Magical Chase
Military Madness
Moto Roader
Neutopia 2
New Adventure Island
Night Creatures
Ninja Spirit
Parasol Stars
Power Golf
Samurai Ghost
Side Arms - Hyper Dyne
Silent Debuggers
Soldier Blade
Somer Assault
Sonic Spike Volleyball
Space Harrier
Super Star Soldier
Super Volleyball
Takin' It to the Hoop
Tiger Road
Time Cruise
Tricky Kick
TV Sports Basketball
TV Sports Football
TV Sports Hockey
Veigues Tactical Gladiator
Victory Run
World Class Baseball
World Court Tennis
World Sports Competition
Yo Bro

Turbo Duo CD
Addams Family, The
Beyond Shadowgate
Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure
Buster Bros.
Camp California
Cosmic Fantasy 2
Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams
Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes
Dungeon Explorer II
Dungeon Master: Theron's Quest
Dynastic Hero
Exile: Wicked Phenomenon
Fighting Street
Final Zone II
Forgotten Worlds
Gate of Thunder/Bonk's Adventure/Bonk's Revenge
It Came From the Desert
J.B. Harold Murder Club
Jack Nicklaus Turbo Golf
John Madden Duo CD Football
Last Alert
Lords of the Rising Sun
Lords of Thunder
Magical Dinosaur Tour
Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra
Monster Lair
Prince of Persia
Riot Zone
Shadow of the Beast
Shape Shifter
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol II
SimEarth: The Living Planet
Splash Lake
Super Air Zonk: Rockabilly-Paradise
Terraforming, Syd Mead's
Valis II
Valis III
Ys Book I & II
Ys III: Wanderers From Ys

This is article #3.

Please check out my others.

It did not feel that long ago

Behind the masks

Thanks for the support.

More Articles From Riphard
An unhandled error has occurred. Reload Dismiss