Posted By: wraggster
Year: January 1990 Manufacturer: NEC Original Cost: $649
By 1986 Japan’s home console market was burgeoning thanks to Nintendo’s Famicom and its evergreen success. PC manufacturing giant NEC Home Electronics, well aware of the continual drop in chip manufacturing costs, commissioned one of its R&D teams to design a console that could incorporate PC technologies into a video game system.Tomio Gotoh, one of NEC’s top semiconductor engineers, was placed in charge of the project. Gotoh, having been responsible for some of the very first DOS machines, was a highly experienced electronic engineer, but he had no understanding of the console market.As a result, Gotoh approached Hudson, a prolific third-party software developer that had been considering the hardware market, having seen at first hand the profits Nintendo was able to skim from third-party developers. The pair struck a deal to develop the hardware in partnership, and the PC Engine was finally conceived.Unlike the companies’ rivals, NEC and Hudson spent a huge amount of time and money developing the casing for the system, hoping to design a console that looked more like a stylish Walkman than a toy. The casing’s dimensions were finally settled on at a slender 135 x 130 x 35 mm, the smallest home console yet released. But it was the system’s internal power that really impressed. A 7.16MHz processor was paired with 64Kb of VRAM and four coprocessors to allow 64 sprites to be displayed on screen at a time. With potential for 256 on-screen colours pulled from a palette of 512, the system’s raw specs dwarfed those of the Famicom and Mark III. In Japan, at least, the machine’s excellent ports of Sega’s arcade titles, OutRun, Afterburner 2 and Thunder Blade, scuppered the Mega Drive’s chances in the region even before it was released.In 1988 the PC Engine was the best-selling piece of hardware in Japan, and the machine continued to be the second best-selling machine until the release of the Super Famciom. In the US the PC Engine, renamed TurboGrafx-16, fared worse, undermined by smart rival advertising by Sega that dubbed NEC’s machine an 8-bit machine and by the poor quality of its pack-in game, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones.