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Video Game Uber Fun Fun List: TurboGrafx-16

Author: Philippe
Posted: 06 Mar 2005

Every now and then it's good to know where all the cops are hanging out. In 1987, all the cops were hanging out at the donut shop. And the Chinese know (oh whey oh), they walk the line like Egyptians. In the theaters, I was thrilled to see my favorite wrestler of all time, Andre the Giant, acting in a movie called The Princess Bride and a computer company called NEC entered themselves into the video game business by releasing the PC Engine in Japan. Sporting a possible 256 different colors as opposed to NES' 52 and also sporting a 16-bit graphics chip, the system was just miles ahead of the competition and sold over a million units in its first 2 years.

http://www.davidsclazzic.com/images/SYSTEMS/TURBO.JPGHaving done so well in Japan, NEC decided to try their hand on the American market and, in 1989, the TurboGrafx-16 was released. Unfortunately, there were problems almost instantly with the system's popularity in these United States. The first problem I saw with the system (and this was me at 10 years old, remember) was that there was only one joystick port. No playing with friends unless you shelled out a few bucks for the multi-tap thing they released. The cord for the joystick was also maddeningly short, which meant playing ridiculously close to the TV where there are no comfy chairs. They, of course, sold an extension cord, though. The final straw, though, was the CD-ROM drive. The best and biggest games were only available through that CD drive. Unfortunately, it was 400 dollars, raising the total price of the system to around 700 bucks.

After shelling out all that money, you couldn't even play any really good games because the NES/Genesis third-party development deals sucked all the talent dry. The system still sold fairly well for the first few months. However, once the Genesis was released a few months later and offered the same graphics for way cheaper and a better computer on the inside, the TG16 died a quick death and was out of the market having only sold about half a million units. Goodbye and good riddance? They released another bunch of reworked systems and add-ons over the next year or so, but none of them did very well. Despite all the nonsense that went along with the system, there were still a few good games to make it worth remembering. Not worth buying, in my eyes. Luckily, my friend Rob had a system and we hauled it out of the closet in 1994 and I had a few happy months of playing video games and flirting with Rob's incredibly hot sister Mindy.

In order to save my sanity, I'm mixing the reviews to include the CD and the duo as well as the original. Cheating? Sort of, but hey, you try finding 27 good games for the TG16 in its many forms and get back to me with your list. It took me two and a half months to find 30 ROMs, period. Until then, however, let's take a look at the nine I chose.

http://www.digitpress.com/dpsightz/turbografx/bomberman.gif 9. Starting at the bottom of the best, we have a little game called Bomberman (Interplay). This game, I think, has managed to crawl its way onto every possible gaming system ever created and sell fairly well. Not like gangbusters, exactly, but it seems to make enough that the company can more or less rely on a few hundred thousand sales. For those people (and I can't imagine who you are) that have never played the game, you're a little dude in a maze. You set bombs and, hopefully, your enemies will run themselves into an explosion. Kill everyone, go through a door. Repeat. Fun!
http://www.amalfi.host.sk/videos1.htm 8. Next up we have Flash Hiders (RS, 1991). An interesting little fighting game in the Street Fighter style, the gameplay was subpar at best but it makes the list because you could level up your character and save it. THEN, with the memory card, bring the guy over to your buddy's house and play against his character. Neat, huh? I, of course, haven't done that because I have a ROM and no memory cards or anyone else willing to play TG16 games with me (in fact, had I not found a TXT file of the instruction book, I never would have known that). Way, way, way ahead of its time in terms of that idea, and so it gets bumped way up on the list.
http://www.empirearcadia.com/eapictures/dariust.jpg 7. Super Darius (Taito, 1990), based almost exactly on the arcade game. In fact, the only real difference was the boss characters. One of the nicer aspects of this game was the fact that you could choose different levels at the end of each mission. So, while in each game you only flew 7 missions, there were a total of 27 missions that you could fly. Other than that, it was your basic side-scrolling shooter.
http://www.rpgfan.com/pics/cosmic-fantasy2/cf-02.jpg 6. Cosmic Fantasy (Working Designs/Telenet 1991), a fun little RPG with a good story. Of course, once you start REALLY getting into RPGs there's the sense that we've seen this all before. The gameplay is in the Dragon Warrior style of RPG more than, say, Final Fantasy. Good graphics, great voice-overs, and just a great game all-around.
http://workingdesigns.com/museum/turbo/software/graphics/fantastic_night_dreams_cottong_front.jpg 5. Middle of the road on the charts, and we find ourselves with Cotton (Hudson). Now, Cotton, I think, was marketed for guys and made for girls, which is odd, but it was a fun game nontheless. The story is about a witch trying to help fairies return the world back to normal. A bit silly, but the gameplay and graphics were good. The addictiveness factor is what bumps this boy up to the number 5 slot on the list. I can't stop playing. This shit is as bad as Everquest.
http://www.crusader77.de/assets/images/loom.gif 4. Loom (Lucas Arts, 1990). Go ahead. Ask me about Loom. This game is high up on the list because of my love for the PC version of the game. This is essentially a carbon copy of that with slightly worse graphics. It's an RPG made by the Secret of Monkey Island guys, so you're exploring and casting the right spell at the right time instead of hacking and slashing and killing everyone in random encounters. People should definitely pick up this game. It's recommended by both me AND a pirate (anyone who gets that reference also gets a prize).
http://membres.lycos.fr/necbankproject/tests/ys42.gif 3. Crazy crazy. Are we already at the top 3? Have you even heard of the other games on the list? Props to you if you have, because, I admit, they're a bit obscure. The top three is ever so slightly less obscure. The number three game is Ys 4 (Tonkin/Falcom). I was considering adding Ys 1+2 to the list, but those were just reworks of the already-released-for-other-systems games. Ys 4 is a beautifully-done side-scrolling RPG in the Zelda style. The gameplay itself was fun as hell as was the storyline. However, the graphics in this game were probably the best I have seen for any game of the time and even games that came out years later. Awesome game.
http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~pm9m-tkhs/dic/r/r-type.jpg 2. R-Type (Taito/Electronic Dreams, 1990). "Hey cool! I've heard of that game!" Yes, you have. R-Type is another one of those games that had huge multi-platform success. Quite normal in todays market, but strange at the time. Side-scrolling shooter. It's hard to gauge why it was more popular than others of the time. But hey, I liked it. I also liked the cut scenes available on the CD version of the game. It's one thing that TurboGrafx had in abundance over the other systems. Granted, the CD-ROM on its own was 400 dollars, so you were definitely paying for those graphics and that music. Was it worth it? Most of the public didn't seem to think so, but credit where credit is due here.
http://www.armchairempire.com/images/classics/bonks-adventure/bonks-adventure-1.gif 1. And, finally, we get to the number one slot and we have a little title called Bonk's Adventure (Hudson, 1990). Not the original in-game package, but TurboGrafx wanted a mascot to compete with Mario. They failed in getting THAT popular. However, they made an incredibly fun game. You were a caveman and you used your head as a weapon to kill the baddies. Occasionally, your head would explode and you'd get all red and powerful. A great side-scrolling platformer. Unfortunately, having a third-party developer make your mascot is silly because your mascot will then end up on the Gameboy, which is exactly what happened. Bonk is definitely a must-have if you get the system.

And that, my friends, is that. Hope you enjoyed it. eBay has some systems for sale if you're truly interested, though I think it'd be a bit silly to buy one at this point. However, it's nice to know that the system is finally less expensive to buy than my first car. See you next time! Play!

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