When you think back to the 16-bit wars it’s easy to think of it as being Sega vs. Nintendo because by the end, that’s exactly what it was. However, for the first couple of years, Nintendo didn’t even step onto the field of battle. Instead, the early days of the war were a slugfest between the TurboGrafx-16 and the Sega Genesis.
In retrospect, it was easy to predict that Sega would ultimately win that round. They already had the name recognition, produced their own arcade games, and the Genesis hardware had a better claim to being truly 16-bit. But things were not quite that clear-cut at the time.
Despite the 8-bit CPU and due largely to the impressive graphics chip, the TurboGrafx-16 could display an impressive 482 colors (241 background, 241 sprite) out of 512 colors on screen at the same time. It could also deliver a maximum resolution of 565×242 (though most games used 256×239 or 512×224). The TG-16 could also display up to 64 sprites on-screen at the same time. The key hardware components of the TG16 were:
- CPU: HuC6280 (an improved version of the WDC 65C02 CPU running at up to 7.16 MHz)
- VDC: HUC6270 (16-bit graphics processor with 64KB of VRAM)
- RAM: 8KB (CD-ROM add-on contained an additional 64KB or 192KB with the Super System Card)
The Sega Genesis had a mediocre launch line-up consisting of Altered Beast, Ghouls n Ghosts, Alexx Kidd, Golden Axe and The Last Battle. These are by no means terrible games and were graphically impressive but there aren’t a huge number of genres represented and as most of these are arcade conversions, not a lot of depth either.
On the other hand, the TurboGrafx-16 launched with nine titles spanning several genres. Titles included R-Type, Keith Courage, China Warrior, The Legendary Axe, Power Golf, Dungeon Explorer, and the awesome Alien Crush among others. NEC also beat Sega to market with a CD-ROM add-on. The TurboGrafx-CD was introduced in August 1990 while the Sega CD wouldn’t show up for more than a year. In addition, a portable version of the TurboGrafx-16 (th