The NEC Turbo Duo
With the arrival of Nintendo's Wii and the new-found availability of Turbo Grafx games, there is bound to be a ton of gamers who are either too young to have heard about it, or just flat out never got to play with one. This thread will hopefully answer all the questions that people new to NEC's machine have, as well as serving for a great center of nostalgia for us Turbo fans.
What is it?
The Turbo Grafx is the US version of the japanese PC Engine. The PC Engine was the first real challenger to the NES (or famicom in japan) to emerge. It was not a true 16 bit system like the later-released Genesis or SNES, but instead featured dual 8 bit processors and a 16 bit GPU. This meant that, while it wasn't as fast as the Genesis or the SNES, it could produce pictures either on par with them (SNES) or greatly above them (genesis). The PC Engine caught on BIG in japan, where it continued to be produced until the last game (dead of brain) was released in 2001. Banking on the success of the PC Engine, NEC, makers of the PC Engine, and Hudson (who were basically co-owners) decided to release it into the US under the name "Turbo Grafx 16." Meanwhile, back in japan, NEC looked ahead and saw the Megadrive launch, and fearing they'd fall behind, prepped for the release of the PC Engine CD, a cd add-on.
The PC Engine with CD attachment
Why did it fail?
-Slow release of bigger game
NEC US was stupid about releases. They'd pass up sure-fire hits like Street Fighter II' to release duds like JJ and Ken.
-Lack of US 3rd party support
While in japan, Konami, hudson, and even Sega were behind the system, key 3rd party figures like EA were 100% behind the genesis. This meant more games came out faster on the genesis.
-Slow release of the Turbo CD
yes, as weird as this sounds, the main reason the Turbo Grafx failed is because they didn't get the CD attachment in the US out fast enough. In japan, it was less an attachment and more a sequel system - as soon as it was released, it gained MONSTEROUS popularity and regular PC Engine games (released on small cards called Hu-Cards) dried up. The US was slow to release the (overly priced) CD attachment which meant they basically had no new games lined up for a long while.
A hu-card, called a Turbo Chip in the US
So what about the CD attachment?
The CD attachment is the only addon in history to ever succeed. This is because, unlike the Sega CD, the jaguar CD, and so forth, NEC was staunch in their support for the add-on. In actuallity, the add-on was really treated more like a seperate system, sort of like the difference between the NES and SNES. The idea was to release the turbo CD in 2 parts - first as a stand alone-system (which would later become the turbo DUO) for people who wanted to get in on the new games, and then as a discounted add-on which would allow gamers with existing turbo grafx to experience the new system at a discounted price. In addition, to force acceptance of the CD attachment, hu-card releases would quickly dry up, and all developers would switch to the PC Engine CD. In japan, this tactic worked flawlessly. Gamers, happy with their PC Engines, flocked to the PC Engine CD or PC Engine Duo. In america, the CD attachment was slow to be released (1991 vs 1989) and as such, NEC saw their market slip away.
The US Turbo Grafx 16
So what was so special about the CD attachment?
Quite a bit, actually. While basic hardware was the same, there were several key components that made having a CD attachment worth getting. For one, you could now save your game. Hucards were produced to be as tiny as possible, being the size and width of approximately a credit card. As such, it was impossible to add in a battery for saving games. A seperate add-on to the back of the PC Engine, called the Memory Bank, could allow you to save your games, but it was overpriced and since it wasn't standard, it was never really used. Since the CD attachment had memory built in, all games featured saves.
In addition, the original PC Engine and Turbo Grafx featured ONLY RF-out. No RCA plugs on the system. This meant fuzzy picture, and mono sound. The CD Attachment featured stereo sound, as well as RCA video-out.
The CD attachment also allowed for some really large games, which developers took advantage of (unlike with the Sega CD). Rather than bogging down games with FMV (which were huge, mind you), developers opted to use real time anime cutscenes when dealing with video on the PC Engine. The end result is pretty gorgeous, and can't really be explained, only seen. This results in infinitely clearer cutscenes that are more awe inspiring, and ultimately, a lot less filling. The developers could then use the remaining space to make monsterous games, like Comic Fantasy, or Ys IV. These games simply weren't possible on Hu-Cards due to their size limitation. More-so than on the genesis or SNES, which could get into the 32-meg size area, the PC Engine games were limited to basically 4 and 8 meg games.
The CD attachment also had a ton of ram, which could be upgraded. It came packed with 16k of ram, which brought the total ram of the system up to 32k. However, NEC soon released the Duo Card 2, which brought the total memory up to 64k. A small hu-chip that had nothing but ram, that was inserted into the card slot of the PC Engine while playing a CD game. The Duo Card 2 was standard in the US, and quickly became the standard in japan. This was, however, followed up by the Duo card 3, also called the arcade card, which brought the total ram up to a whopping 128k. This meant faster load times, longer levels, bigger cutscenes, and generally more of everything. The ram is the single reason the PC Engine CD could produce a flawless port of fatal fury special.
Finally, the CD attachment allowed for more hardware tricks, like even better scaling and rotation.
The Turbo Tap
Were there accessories?
Oh yes. In addition to the CD attachment, there was also the multi-tap. The PC Engine was weird in that it only had one controller port, so all multiplayer games needed a multi-tap. This was a blessing in disguise, however, as the multitap allowed for 5 players at once. Thus, if a game is multi-player on the PC Engine, it'll allow normally up to 5 people at once.
There were also arcade sticks, and a small memory card released for the duo called the Tenoke Memory Bank, the world's first memory card. You could insert it into the hu-card slot without a cd game inside and copy files off the internal memory onto it.
The Turbo Stick
Wow... so what games were released?
[continued on next post]