Friday, August 29, 2014

Five TurboGrafx-16 memories in honor of the system's 25th anniversary

I may not have the best memory in the world, but I'll probably never forget how I felt in the months, weeks and days leading up to the North American release of NEC's TurboGrafx-16, a games console that straddled the line between the 8-bit (think the Nintendo Entertainment System) and 16-bit (Sega's Genesis and the SNES) generations.

Specifically, I don't think I've ever been more excited about a system's launch than I was around Aug. 29, 1989, which is when the TurboGrafx-16 first hit store shelves on this side of the pond.

A lot of that "Turbo fervor" had been fanned, of course, by the magazine articles I'd read--over and over and over again--about this console's two-year-old Japanese counterpart, the PC Engine, and its extensive catalog of odd- and brilliant-looking games, including the handful that are mentioned below.

Sadly, and stupidly, after enjoying it for a good number of years, I sold my TurboGrafx-16 collection--which at one point included the base system, the pricey CD attachment, a TurboDuo and 30 or so games--via an ad in our city's main daily newspaper around the time of the Sega Saturn's Japanese release. (In fact, I used the money I made from this sale to buy an import Saturn--which I later sold to pay for a Dreamcast.)

Rather than dwell on that rather negative memory, though, I'd prefer to focus on a few positive ones, such as the following, on this, the 25th anniversary of the release of NEC's quirky and woefully under-appreciated (in this region, at least) console:

1. I'm one of about three people who enjoyed The Addams Family game--Don't get me wrong, even as a teen I knew this US-made (back when such a thing was considered the opposite of a good thing) action title was a turd, but I liked it all the same. I have a feeling some of that was due to my interest in the 1991 film this release was based on, but I also think it had something to do with this ICOM-developed game allowing users to explore the iconic Addams mansion and its grounds. That isn't going to be enough to make most folks fall in love with this often-iffy tie-in, of course, but it was more than enough for me at the time.

2. I bought my very first Japanese game (Detana!! TwinBee), along with my first converter cart, for this aesthetically challenged system--I can't remember the name of the retailer, sadly, but I know I had to place the order over the phone, and I had to borrow my parents' credit card to pay for it. Also, my mom had to help me modify the converter cart, as at first it didn't fit into the HuCard slot of my TurboGrafx-16 system. As for my memories of the game itself? Actually, it kind of bored me. Detana!! TwinBee isn't a bad shoot 'em up, of course, and it's grown on me in the ensuing years, but it's also nowhere near as thrilling as similar games like Parodius Da! or Coryoon.

3. I've always regretted not playing It Came From the Desert, J.B. Harold Murder Club and Magical Dinosaur Tour--Actually, I finally added the Japanese version of Murder Club to my collection late last year, but of course I've yet to play it. Still, at least it's a possibility at the moment. Anyway, you're probably wondering why I wish I'd played two TG-CD titles that have been heavily derided over the years? I'm not sure, to be honest. I think it's likely to be related to nostalgia, as all three of these games were released at a time when games featuring digitized video and the like were viewed as the future of the medium. It's clear now that view was a false one (to put it mildly), of course, but at the time some of these games were surprisingly appealing. Or at least they were to me.

4. The main reason I picked up the TurboGrafx-CD peripheral was for Monster Lair--Admittedly, by the time I finally wandered, awestruck and slack-jawed, into the local Toys "R" Us (man, those were the days) to pick up this mammoth add-on, Ys Book I & II had entered my consciousness as well, but that doesn't change the fact that Monster Lair is the game that pushed me to hand over $400 for it. Was it worth the price of admission? Well, no, not when you put it that way, but I never regretted either purchase, I'll tell you that much. Also, I still have a special place in my heart for this odd shmup-platformer hybrid and play it fairly regularly, so I'd say the original purchase more than served its purpose.

5. I didn't much care for Parasol Stars the first time I owned it--I'm guessing this may be the most shocking of all the TurboGrafx-16 memories I share in this post. After all, Parasol Stars now is one of my all-time favorite games (despite the fact that I think it pales in comparison to its predecessors, Rainbow Islands and Bubble Bobble). If memory serves, my parents bought this for me as a birthday or Christmas gift--without me asking for it, I should add. (Maybe they knew me better than I knew myself at that point?) I remember gamely giving it a go on a few occasions, but I also remember finding it a bit too precious and also not all that engaging. Thankfully, I've since come to my senses.

Do any of you have any TurboGrafx-16 memories you'd like to share? If so, please feel free to do so n the comments section below.


Zaphod65 said...

I didn't own one, but my buddy Dave did. We played an ungodly amount of Splatterhouse one weekend. Revisiting the game later cast a shadow over my nostalgia when I realized just how little there was to that game. lol said...

Oh, that's too bad, Terry! That revisiting Splatterhouse kind of killed your nostalgic feelings for it, I mean. I agree, of course, that it's far from the deepest of games, but I've always liked it anyway. Not that I own a copy of the PCE port at the moment, but I will at some point soon!

Bodo said...

I've never owned a PC Engine but a friend of mine did. He has bought the Core Grafx one and about 15 games. I don't know why but he seems not really interested so he lent it to my me including a RGB compatible screen as I didn't had one as well for about 2-3 months :-) I've already had a japanese Megadrive but I really loved the PC Engine for being so cute/small and for these little HU cards and of course for the games with included R-Type, Bonk, Galaga 88 and several others which I could not remember. said...

Ah, that's a great story, Bodo. Thanks for sharing it! And, yes, the small form factor of the PCE systems is really great, IMO, as are the HuCards. Also, Bonk, Galaga and R-Type definitely are great games to play on a PCE, Core Grafx, etc.