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  • Download (TurboGrafx-16)

    Nothing exists in a vacuum, and the cyberpunk-themed PC Engine shoot-em’-ups of the Download series are indeed children of its time. The games were released just a few years after the 1988 Akira movie and the impact of that film along with William Gibson’s Neuromancer novel from 1984 have left clear traces on these games. Unlike the ships and aircrafts of most other shooters, this series has you piloting a red motorcycle that also acts as a network terminal to jack in your brain to the cyberspace — two of the most iconic parts of the aforementioned works. The games also set themselves apart from its peers by its dense story and high amount of cutscenes, which was unusual for the genre at the time.


    There’s no doubt that the TurboGrafx-16 was by far the most underrated console of the 16-bit era. For various reasons, only a small percentage of the game released for that system made it to North America. The system had a much longer life and many, many more games in Japan. Download is one of those.

    The TurboGrafx-16, or PC Engine as it was known in Japan, was known for its side-scrolling shooters as much as any genre. Download is a cyberpunk themed shooter with elements reminiscent of other popular cyberpunk works of the time like the earlier Neuromancer and Akira. While the plot doesn’t matter a whole lot, this one reminds me a little of the plot of Ready Player One. Essentially you are fighting criminal organizations in the cyber world via your flying motorcycle which also acts as a terminal.

    Game play is excellent and so are the graphics. Levels consist of “real world” locations along with more abstract cyberspace locations. As is common with these shooters, there are plenty of weapons and enemies. Since this is a Japan only release, cut scenes are in Japanese so it may not be entirely obvious what is going on in terms of the story all of the time. This isn’t really that big of a deal though and the game itself isn’t difficult to play because of the language barrier.

    The good news is that it isn’t too hard to play a PC Engine game on a TurboGrafx-16. All that is required is a relatively simple adapter. Unfortunately, the price for Japanese import games is often quite high and this one is no exception. The PC Engine must be one of the most expensive systems to collect for. However, like most retro systems, this one is easily emulated so if you are content with that then all those games that were never released in North America are at your fingertips today.

  • TurboGrafx-16 – “Three New Games”

    ‘TurboGrafx-16 – “Three New Games”‘

    • Ballistix
    • Night Creatures
    • Gunboat

    [TG-16] [USA] [MAGAZINE, MULTI-PAGE] [1992]

    • GamePro, May 1992 (#34)

      • Scanned by Phillyman, via RetroMags

    In 1992, around the time that the Turbo Duo was released, TTI took over marketing of the TurboGrafx systems and software. Unfortunately, they did little to improve sales. Back in 1989 when the TurboGrafx-16 was first released in the U.S., it was thought that it would be a huge hit. The NES was looking dated and there was no other strong competition at the time.

    Unfortunately for NEC, Sega released their next gen system around the same time. The TurboGrafx-16 already had a lot of things working against it. The biggest problem was poor third party support due in part to Nintendo’s monopolistic licensing policy (essentially, to have your game licensed for use on the NES then it had to be exclusive to that system). Because the NES was so popular, few companies wanted to give up publishing their game on that system. To make matters worse, NEC and later TTI didn’t make terribly good choices on many of the games they brought over from Japan. In many cases, it was just too much work to localize them (or at least they felt that was the case). The end result was that while there were some very good games for the TurboGrafx-16, there were just too few for that system to complete with the likes of the NES and the Genesis. The Genesis wasn’t as vulnerable to Nintendo’s licensing policies because Sega had so many of their own games to fall back on and established relationships with more 3rd party developers.

    At any rate, this ad from the May 1992 issue of GamePro was from shortly after TTI took over marketing and there were a flurry of new releases. The three games in this ad are all pretty decent but not really spectacular. Certainly no triple A titles here.

    Ballistix was developed by Psygnosis but isn’t really one of their better games. It’s a relatively simplistic action/futuristic sports game in which you have to get a ball to a goal by firing other balls at it. Not a terrible game and actually pretty fun but not much depth. Night Creatures is a side-scrolling action game very reminiscent of Altered Beast. Again, this is just another mediocre action game and it didn’t have as much name recognition as Altered Beast. Then there is Gunboat, probably the most unique of the three. It’s more of a simulation which is pretty rare for video game systems and the TurboGrafx-16 in particular. Still, while it was decent it wasn’t terribly special and certainly not a game that is going to sell more systems. Titles like these just couldn’t compete with the best games coming out on the Genesis and even the NES.

    This is all very unfortunate because the TurboGrafx-16/Turbo Duo was immensely popular in Japan, far more so than the NES or the Genesis and it had a very long life there. There were hundreds of games and some truly incredible games released there, particularly if you liked shooters or RPGs. Unfortunately, the vast majority were never translated and brought to the U.S. Things may have been different for the TurboGrafx-16 if NEC and later TTI had been willing to invest a little more to bring more titles over to the U.S.