Console of the Month (Jan 2017) – TurboGrafx-16

The TurboGrafx-16 is often the forgotten system in the 4th generation console wars of the late 80’s/early 90’s. Released at the tail end of the summer of 1989, the same time as the Sega Genesis, the TurboGrafx-16 was a joint venture between NEC Home Electronics and Hudson Soft (the creator of the PC Engine, TG-16’s name in Japan) and intended initially as a direct competitor to the NES and eventually the Genesis and SNES. The use of the number 16 in the console’s name is in reference to it’s 16 bit graphics chip in combination with it’s 8 bit CPU. As a result, it is considered part of the 4th generation of consoles aka the 16-bit generation even though that designation is shaky. The games themselves come in credit card-like format called a Hu-card (guessing the “Hu” is in reference to Hudson) that were more analogous to the cards used for the Sega Master System. Due to the type of media used, there was no battery option so you either had games that needed to be completed in one sitting or games that required long passwords to continue progress. The TG-16 saw a number of add-ons and peripherals during it’s short life span such as a CD-ROM (which finally allowed for game saves), a portable version of the console called the Turbo Express and a TG-16/CD combo called the Turbo Duo. That’s a lot of expensive options for a 3rd place console.

My first experience with the TurboGrafx-16 was only through magazine advertisements & television commercials. I was aware of it’s existence but I was also aware, even at a young age, that the TG-16 had an uphill battle to fight against Nintendo and Sega. From my vantage point, the system wasn’t marketed in the same manner as the other two consoles. I rarely saw TurboGrafx-16 commercials as opposed to Sega’s ubiquitous marketing campaigns which were successful in eroding Nintendo’s death grip on console wars. The TG-16 has a lot to offer gamers in the way of shooters and platformers so not knowing anyone that owned one at the time was my loss.

I finally played a TurboGrafx-16 for the first time when I bought a console off Ebay in the early 2000’s. My bundle came with the console, an AC adapter, RF switch, controller, box and what was the original pack-in title, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones. Keith Courage is a pretty standard platformer that really didn’t stand out the way Super Mario Bros did for Nintendo or to a lesser extent, Altered Beast did for Sega. It starts with you in the form of a slow moving warrior named Keith Courage (who looks like a kid in the actual game) and transforms Keith into a faster, mechanized beast during the second halves of each level. The action amps up during these sections of the game while the music gets faster and more intense. It makes the game a bit more enjoyable but you’re still forced to play as Keith at the beginning of each level, which is a drag. I was happy to add more games to my collection shortly after buying it many years ago but I wish I would have bought more before the prices for the TG-16 games went through the roof.

Currently in my collection:

  • Original console w/ AC adapter, RF switch, box
  • 2 controllers
  • Keith Courage in Alpha Zones – game, manual C


Man, does that kid look happy to play the TurboGrafx-16 or what?


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