While Nintendo and Sega were waging a war on each other for market superiority with the SNES and Genesis systems a third party (NEC) slowly weaseled it’s way into the mix with the Turbo Grafx 16.
'The higher energy video game system' - Take a look.
Without major backing the system faded into obscurity almost as quickly as it appeared on the scene. But, for those that were lucky enough to purchase this console, they experienced a wide variety of games (though many were blatant knockoff’s of Sega and Nintendo titles), a graphics engine that often rivalled it's competitors, and accessories unparalleled to the other two - all added to its sheer awesomeness. NEC, I salute thee for a valiant effort - you were a worthy contender.
Here are 10 reasons why the Turbo Grafx 16 kicked some serious ass and was deserving of much more respect than it received:
1. 'The Legendary Ax'
Essentially Conan with an Ax lost in a jungle setting. Simple jump and slash action backed by solid graphics, a fun musical backdrop and smooth controls made this an instant classic as you guided the hero through various levels against an assortment of enemies. This is a defining game from a time when simplicity ruled.
2. 'Blazing Lasers'
A spaceship shooter with fast-paced action, an incredible weapon stacking system that allowed you to multiply your firepower in epic fashion, killer graphics, and a soundtrack on speed make this an instant classic of that era. Had this been released on Sega or Nintendo you would still be hearing about this game today as one of the greatest games ever released in the late 80's and early 90's.
3. 'Bonk's Adventure'
NEC’s answer to Mario and Sonic…A Caveman that takes the 'jump and bump things with your head' adventures to a whole other level. Basic side-scrolling action as you guided Bonk around literally ‘bonking” enemies with your head was just as fun as any sonic or Mario title you’ve played. Nothing uniquely special, but the graphics were KILLER. This was a beautiful game that really showcased the power of the Turbo Grafx. Truly a lost gem that makes snagging a TGFX16 on Ebay totally worth it.
4. 'Keith Courage in Alpha Zones'
At first glance the game appears to be a basic side-scrolling RPG style quest as you roam through villages, talk to locals, and buy power-ups, with little action. Enter the Alpha Zone and what we have here is a high-speed action adventure as you transform into a robo version of yourself, jumping, slashing, and battling with a unique list of villains concocted from a solid acid trip. The game does lag a bit while traveling in regular form, but once you transform the game is hit with an instant shot of adrenaline making it totally worth it.
5. 'The Turbo Express Portable'
Gameboy ruled the world but lurking in the shadows was a handheld unit far superior in every sense of the word. The 'Turbo Express Portable' was a full-color handheld unit that let you play every title on the Turbo Grafx. And I don’t just mean they shared a title list, but your little game cartridges that you stuffed into the console fit directly into the portable unit. It had a hefty price tab, close to that of the actual console, but the ability to take your entire gaming library on the road made it a worthy investment.
6. 'Turbo Express TV-Tuner'
How can one make a portable system that already plays your game library more awesome? Create an accessory that acts as a TV antenna AND allows you to watch basic television from the palm of your hands. Before cable took off, most times you were glued to a short list of channels, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13. All were remotely accessible as long as your battery life held up. Parents sent me to bed early... No problem... Covert gaming and TV browsing was never easier!!
Here we have what is easily recognizable as a 'Link to the Past' clone. They didn’t just copy the basic format, they pretty much copied everything possible from the weapons, map display, items list, and dungeon styling. A clone for sure, but it was still pretty badass. Beautiful graphics and game play made this a worthy challenger to the 'Zelda' series. Tight controls and action, with a unique spin on enemies kept it funky enough to forget you were playing a knockoff 'Zelda' game until you really stopped to analyze afterward.
8. 'Ninja Spirit'
NEC had no problem copying games. Despite this flagrant foul, they did one thing right…and that was make a clone that pretty much out shined the originals from a graphical standpoint, with equally sufficient controls and game play. Ninja Spirit is a fusion of Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi with the ability to create shadow copies of yourself that mimic your every move and attack, to help you square off with an endless supply of enemies and challenges. It was challenging with a chaotic score that helped compliment the furious action.
When you can’t duplicate another popular gaming title, what’s the next best thing? How about taking a dump on the copyrights of monster movie favorite, Jason Vorheese. Equipped with trademark hockey mask and an assortment of weapons favored by our slasher film murderer, tight controls, challenging levels, blood and gore make this an instant classic. This is hack and slash at its finest as you make your way through a demon/monster infested house trying to save your woman’s soul. Kidding aside, there is a level where you enter a womb-like area in which you are attacked by demon fetuses. If that doesn’t make you want to play this title, I don’t know what will.
10. 'Bloody Wolf'
Part 'Ikari Warriors', part 'Contra', part 'Rush N Attack', and 1000 parts awesome. You are a soldier, with guns and grenades killing any and everything in your path in hopes of saving the president. It’s simple, it’s direct, but it’s a worthy shoot ‘em up style game that sits as a solid member in the Turbo Grafx lineup of classic titles.