A good old-fashioned website! It’s hope to information on the construction of a wide variety of console platforms! Docs on the NES, the Sega Master System, the PC Engine (a.k.a. Turbografx 16), the Mega Drive (a.k.a. Genesis), Gameboy, SNES, Saturn, Playstation, Virtual Boy (yes), Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, GBA, Gamecube, Xbox, DS, PSP, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii and Wii U.
These days, if you’re playing a game with multiple versions, there’s usually one specific version you want. For pre-Crash games, if there’s an arcade version, most of the time, it’s the one you want. After the Crash it becomes less definite. Super Mario Bros. at home is a much more playable game that the arcade version. Vs. Super Mario Bros., which is hungry for those quarters. For games like Smash T.V. though you still usually want to play the arcade version.
The arcade and PC Engine CD version of Gradius II though are a much closer call. In a couple of places this home version is actually slightly better, or slightly harder, than the arcade original. It also contains an extra level that’s missing from the arcade.
Inglebard Gaming on Youtube has played through both games entirely and shows them to you side by side, so you can decide for yourself!
Gradius II Arcade vs PC Engine Super CD (Youtube)
What is the SuperGrafx? Why don’t we remember it as well as its predecessor, the PC Engine/TurboGrafx 16, with which it was backwards compatible?
Sharopolis on Youtube digs into the system and its capabilities (17 minutes):
As you can tell by the video’s cover image: Amazing Power, No games. The SuperGrafx only had five games released for it throughout its lifetime, pretty harsh for a system that cost around $300 by today’s money. That cost, relative to that of the PC Engine CD, which was also expensive but could play CD games with vastly greater storage, was probably what doomed it. For those really seeking an arcade experience in Japan there was the Sharp x68000, famous at the time as the true enthusiast’s system with a good number of nearly exact arcade ports. It also cost around $6,000 in today’s money, and still $3,000 in then-money.
The system used the same chip as the PC Engine before it, a 6502 variant running at 7 mHz, meaning it was only a 8-bit system. But was that really so bad? The major 16-bit competition for it was the Motorola 68000, another venerable chip at the time that was used in the original Apple Mac, the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST. Yet the 68000 also had some more overhead. Many instructions on the 6502 completed in from two to four cycles, whereas the minimum cycle count of a 68000 instruction was four, with some taking up to 20. This, of course, is offset by the 68000’s greater number of registers and ability to work with two bytes at once for many instructions.
Its graphics were essentially two of the PC Engine’s graphics chip, with some circuitry to interface their outputs together. This description brings uncomfortable reminders of people deriding the Wii’s graphics as “two Gamecubes taped together,” but it’s a much closer description of the SuperGrafx’s graphics. But in practice this meant twice the sprites, dual-plane backgrounds, and double the potential colors on-screen at once, while the MegaDrive/Genesis infamously was still stuck with 64.
The SuperGrafx’s failure in the market was one of those inflection points of the growth of video gaming. If it had succeeded then NEC might still be a player in gaming today, and maybe Hudson Soft would still be an independent entity, instead of just another property for Konami to mine for nostalgiabucks.
We love Nicole Express! She regularly covers the most interesting, and often obscure to U.S. audiences, gaming topics. This time out, she relates the many ways that the PC Engine saved game data. Just about every possible way the system could do saving, it did, from simple passwords to on-cart battery-backed RAM to expansion port peripherals with batteries or capacitors, even to a device that plugged into the controller port. Great information as always from Nicole Branagan!
Gaming Alexandria is a treasure, and lately it’s been uploading scans of 80s/90s Japanese game magazine PC Engine Fan to the Internet Archive! Even if you can’t read a word of it, the artwork and screenshots alone make it a joy for the eyes. If you remember and love the look of the early days of Nintendo Power, when its layout and illustration were done by Tokuma Shoten publishing, you should appreciate these.
The PC Engine, a.k.a. Turbo-Grafx 16 (a much worse name really), sits at a sweet spot between old-school pixel art and 16-bit splendor. It was arguably a less capable system than Sega’s Mega Drive/Genesis, but it could show more colors, and its games looked a lot more vibrant in print. To a kid in the U.S. at the time, it exuded a strong sense of anime coolness, and I can’t help but feel a bit of that old excitement.
I have to stop myself from filling this post with page after page. Here’s a few choice examples:
Gunhead, a.k.a. Blazing Lazers (August 1989):
Double Dungeons (July 1989):
Beast King’s Chronicle, a.k.a. Altered Beast (July 1989)
The third and last of the chronological platform cataloguing efforts is the longest-lived and most complete, Dr. Sparkle’s wonderful Chrontendo, going through the entire library of the Famicom and NES, along with sister projects Chronsega (Mark III/Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis) and Chronturbo (PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16).
Each of the projects I’ve presented have had a different style. Atari Archive does one game at a time, devoting from 8 to 20 minutes to it. Video Works tends to cover two or three times per video. Well, the various Chrons go for the omnibus approach: each entry shows from a dozen to 20 or more games. It also emphasizes gameplay footage, and also sometimes some side bits amidst the many games.
Chrontendo has been going since a while before 2010, and so there is a whole lot of material to catch up on. It also has the slowest rate of updating, with sometimes whole years between episodes. But each episode is its own little wonder, containing a solid mass of retro gaming information, including many games you probably won’t ever hear about anywhere else.