1989 - 1994
With Sega's slogan for the Genesis being, "Genesis does what Nintendon't," then a good one for NEC's Turbo Grafx 16 would have been, "We've got a video game console too...Hello?"
NEC's Turbo Grafx 16 was a beautiful console that so many gamers missed out on because they favored the more popular Nintendo console or Sega Genesis. It had a couple quirks that left many wondering just what NEC was thinking, and in addition didn't have any mainstream titles that necessarily stood out among gamers of the era. However, as a whole, the console still brought with it a fair amount of games, many of which were incredibly enjoyable to play.
Though the console didn't have a mascot, so to speak, one would arise in the form of Bonk from the game Bonk's Adventure, and its subsequent sequels. Though not as loving or charming as your Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog, this large headed prehistoric boy quickly became the face of the Turbo Grafx 16.
A unique peripheral to the console was the TurboBooster which did away with the standard RF plug in, and allowed for higher quality picture and sound through A/V cables. The TurboBooster-Plus, not only included the upgrade of the original Booster, but also added memory for saving your game, though not all games supported this feature.
Most annoying to those who supported the Turbo Grafx 16 was that a separate peripheral was needed just to be allowed to play two player games. The TurboTap was a small box that would plug into the lone controller port on the console, allowing up to five controllers to be plugged in.
NEC also produced standard individually packed controllers which they called a TurboPad, and the larger arcade type stick, the TurboStick. Both could be utilized with the TurboTap, as well as plugged directly into the console for single player games.
Though the console didn't have a large variety of games, many of the ones produced were far superior to those of the Nintendo and Genesis. Rather than make bulky cartridges, each game came on a flat card with the inards exposed, making them easily susceptible to damage if not taken care of properly.
The packaging utilized was much like the original packaging of CD's. I.E. each card was packed inside of a case, which was then slipped inside of a very nicely designed cardboard slipcase. All of this was then shrink wrapped, keeping everything nice and neat.
While it wasn't unheard of for the Turbo Grafx 16 to have games which were also available on the NES and Genesis, for the most part the company stuck with its own individual titles, making the majority of them exclusive to the console.
Below are images of all 94 cartridge based games for the console released in the US.
As the Turbo Grafx 16 picked up speed, a CD ROM was eventually added to the console which expanded its library. However, the majority of these games were only released in Japan, leaving the CD based catalog of games pretty slim for most American buyers.
Because it was removable, a unique feature built into the CD ROM system was that it could also be used in conjunction with headphones to be a somewhat portable CD player for standard music CD's.
In the hopes of getting more customers to buy into the console, an updated version known as the TurboDuo was later released. This version encorporated both the cartridge and CD based peripherals together into one system.
Despite NEC attempting to compete against Sega and Nintendo in the console wars, the company conceded the battle in 1994, ceasing production.
NEC produced what was probably the most advanced hand held gaming console for its time in 1990. The TurboExpress was not only a portable gaming device, but with the addition of the TurboVision (sold separately of course), you could convert the device into an antenna based color television. You children of the 80's know exactly how hot that concept was for its time.
Television aside, the TurboExpress offered something that no other handheld device offered for its time - A portable gaming system that allowed you the ability to play your entire library of TG16 games (with the exception of the CD based ones). NEC never produced one game that was only playable on the TurboExpress. Instead, it was simply a means to take your console games on the go. No handheld gaming system up to this point in time could boast such a concept, though it would be copied by Sega in 1995 with the release of their Nomad console - a portable Sega Genesis.
Join us next time when we take a look at Nintendo 64!
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