Updated: Oct 8, 2021
While most '80s and '90s kids grew up gaming with Nintendo and Sega, a select few were lucky enough to have TurboGrafx-16 consoles hooked up to their woodgrain CRTs. Largely shunned by the media and woefully supported in America, NEC's TurboGrafx received a paltry ninety-four games. Alas, Mario and Sonic were unstoppable, and the humble Turbo never saw the foothold of the NES or Genesis. I distinctly remember seeing a TurboGrafx-16 on display at Pittsburgh, PA's Family Toy Warehouse in 1989. Rumors would circulate around my block about "a kid someone knew" who had one. It was that kind of system.
Contrast this to Japan, where NEC's baby was for a time the best-selling console in the country. Known to Japanese gamers as the PC Engine, the system would ultimately host 676 titles. The PC Engine is about the size of a CD jewel case, half the dimensions of the TurboGrafx-16: NEC's American division made the TurboGrafx-16 crazy huge after market research hinted consumers didn't think a small system could be powerful. The TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine actually run on an 8-bit CPU design; TurboGrafx's "16" misleadingly refers to the graphics processor.
The PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 play games on a credit-card sized format called HuCARD, and the systems support a CD-ROM upgrade. In fact, the PC Engine and TurboGrafx were the first consoles to utilize compact disc technology. The systems are best known for their rich library of shooters.
That was just a crash course. The PC Engine family isn't a platform for the casual gamer: With at least seventeen different variations of the system, there are both hardware and software compatibility issues to be navigated. A plug-and-play TurboGrafx Mini with pre-installed games was released in May 2020, but for PC Engine purists, the real hardware and software is indispensable. Some titles for these systems are tricky to find in the wild, decades since chilling at Kay-Bee Toys.
Enter PCEWORKS. PC Engine fanatics based in Germany, PCEWORKS crafts reissues of select PC Engine and TurboGrafx CD-ROM titles. These are games that would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars, and in some cases, over a grand! PCEWORKS takes the sting out of games being unobtainable, and in many cases sweetens the deal with exclusive collectibles such as new artwork and custom accessories. By adding the PCEWORKS logo to discs, manuals and packaging, the company respects the value of the original releases. (If it wasn't for this watermark, you'd never know the difference.) PCEWORKS has translated previously-Japanese exclusives into English. They also release genre-themed boxsets.
A while back, I contacted PCEWORKS about getting a promo copy of Final Match Tennis Ladies to feature on Retro Injection. They sent me what they dubbed "a small parcel." My curiosity was piqued for weeks, as the nondescript box made its trek over the Atlantic.
I was thrilled at the haul. Not only did they send the requested Final Match Tennis Ladies, but several extra games!
They even hooked me up with Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, often considered the best game in the franchise, and one of the most impressive PC Engine titles. Although I've never dug Castlevania before, I'm playing this game to death! (Sorry.)
PCEWORKS graced Retro Injection with a ton of extra goodies, including decals, a postcard and coasters.*
PCEWORKS is also the creator of the Mega Engine, a CD-based system that runs PC Engine CD-ROM titles, as well as Sega CD games. Yes, they even reissue Sega CD stuff. These guys don't stop!
It was my privilege to collab with PCEWORKS. If you're interested in exploring the world of rare PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 games, head over to their website!