TurboGrafx-16 Review

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When the topic of retro gaming comes up in conversation, you hear about the usual consoles like the Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Sega Genesis. Most gamers know about the historical “bit wars” that took place between Nintendo and Sega. The NES (1985) put Sega’s Master System (1986) in the ditch when it came to 8-bit systems, but even today there is still a discussion about who had the better 16 -bit game system. Nintendo had the Super Nintendo (1991), and Sega had the Sega Genesis (1989). Today, however, I will not be talking about any of these systems.I will be talking about a system that tried to win these bit wars, but ended up just fading away…

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The TurboGrafx-16 Base Model

Back in 1986 this little company called Hudson Soft, who had already published Bomberman and later would give us Adventure Island, teamed up with a Japanese computer company called NEC. Together they developed the Turbo Grafx 16. It was originally known as the PC Engine when it was released in late 1987 in Japan, and didn’t hit US soil until mid 1989. The TG-16, as its name states, was a 16-bit home console. Its goal was to beat the competition of the already popular NES and Sega genesis, and it had the potential.  There was one problem though. The TG-16 couldn’t get the third party support it needed from other companies to produce more popular games. This inevitably caused the system to fail and was discontinued in 1994, only after 5 years of US exposure. This, however, didn’t stop this console from putting out some great and underrated titles, as well as some interesting peripherals and ad-ons.

Let us talk about the console itself first. It has a very different type of game cartridge. They are called Hu-cards, and are large card like cartridges that slide in front of the console.

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Hu-cards

The next thing that you will notice is that the TG-16 only has one controller port. That is rather unfortunate for having multiplayer games. They had a way of getting around that, but we will get to that a bit later. Let me get back to the controllers though. The TG-16 controllers look very similar to NES controllers. They do have one thing that the standard Nintendo controllers didn’t, and that is a built in turbo. For those who don’t know what a turbo is allow me to explain. What a turbo does is rather then continuously pressing a button to either shoot or attack, you could just hold down the button and the game would do the command at a much faster rate.

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(from left to right)
Turbo Booster, Turbo Tap, TurboGrafx-CD, Turbo Duo

This home console had several add-ons that were said to “improve” its experience. I mentioned before that the Turbo Grafx only has one controller port. Well for that you could get the turbo tap adaptor that would allow you to plug in up to five controllers.  Can you imagine what it would have been like back then playing a game like Bomberman with five people?

This next add-on I came across was rather peculiar to me. It’s called the Turbo Booster, and what it claims to do is enhance the audio to stereo sound, rather than mono, and the video to composite hook up rather then and RF concerter. I would love to get my hands on one of these to try it out but they are not very easy to come across and the price tag on them is quite high at around $200.

CDs were new to the scene still at the time the TG-16 came around, but they thought it would be a fun thing to experiment with. In 1990 the Turbo Grafx CD hit American stores in 1990 as the first CD based video game system add-on. Even though the American game selection was rather small there was not a region protection on the discs, so Japanese released CD games were playable on the US system. There was actually another version released called the Turbo Duo, which was a system that was a TG-16 and a TG-CD in one

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The first game that I knew that I had to have for this console was this little game called Splattehouse. Splatterhouse was ported from the arcade to the TG-16 in 1990 and was a rather violent game. With the SNES port of the bloody and violent Mortal Kombat not coming out for a couple more years this game was rather risqué in video game history with the blood and the guts. Even though the Turbo port was censored a little from what the arcade version had, it still was quite a topic.

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TurboGrafx “Shump” titles

Other games that should be mentioned are the several shoot ‘em ups or “shmups” titles the TG-16 had to offer. Games like R-Type, Dead Moon, and Galaga 90’s were all very action packed and usually rather intense game play that required lots of skill. Even though the game lay styles were very similar each of these games had different aspects of the game that made it original. I also would like to mention there is a game that was released for the CD expansion called Fighting Street. This game is actually the first street fighter game.

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NEC and Hudson didn’t stop with just trying to compete with the home consoles. They also tried their hand at the portable market as well.

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Turbo Express

The Turbo Express was a handheld system, but did not have its own game library like the Nintendo Gameboy.  It used all of the TG-16 Hu-cards, so you didn’t have to re-buy your games. The one big down side to the Turbo Express was that it was made with rather cheap internals so there were problems with the audio cutting out and dead pixels, even in brand new units.

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The SuperGrafx(left) The PC-FX(right)

After being defeated by the competition in America, NEC released a couple more systems in Japan only. In 1989 NEC released the Supergrafx, which was an upgraded version of the previous system. There were only seven games released for the Supergrafx. Although it was backwards compatible with all the TG-16 games, it was an ultimate failure. Now with that failure you would think that would be it for NEC, but in 1994 they released the PC-FX. This was a 32-bit CD based system that only sold around 100,000 units in the 4 years it was produced. It just couldn’t compete with the other home consoles like the Playstation and Nintendo 64

It seems that NEC was sometimes too ahead of its time. They just couldn’t get a break and pull ahead of the console races. I just recently received my TG-16, and I love it so far. I would highly recommend this console if you are an old school collector. It is one of the higher priced retro systems at around $100 in a complete and good working condition. Most games are around the same prices as current games today depending on quality and if it comes in its original case with manual.

COMING SOON!!

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Just giving a quick heads up on the next up coming reviews. We’ll be having a couple more art book reviews from TITAN BOOKS and my first system review about my newly acquired Turbo Grafx 16 console which I am really excited about writing.

The Art of Titanfall

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With the release of the long awaited Titanfall later this month I thought I would talk about the art book published by Titan Books. Before I begin to talk about the actual design works, I would like to talk about the introduction by the lead designer, Steve Fukuda. Steve talks about how the game came to be Titanfall. He tells how when their design team began they only had a table and chairs, no computers. Steve mentions that they didn’t know what type of game they were going to make at first. They just knew that they wanted to make one that was going to be different and enjoyable for the player. Everyone had a different idea of what the new game should be, and when their computers finally did arrive they still hadn’t decided on a solid idea.

There is a reason I wanted to talk about this introduction rather than just jumping right into the art content. I was really excited to hear that Steve and his team are doing something completely original and fresh. Coming from a gaming generation with many sequels, re-releases, and HD collections, it is a nice breath of fresh air to see something new and original.

The first section of the book shows the art of the different playable titan mechs and pilots. The titans all look very different from each other and the side captions briefly discus each machine’s uses and play style. The art is crisp and very detailed.  And after the titans we see the art of the pilots of these huge machines. The pilots are very realistic looking. They hardly look like they came out of a video game.

Now the book moves into the art of other vehicles and weaponry. There are sketches and renderings of tanks, spaceships, and a full assortment of futuristic weapons along with several types of fighting environments that the game will take place.

Anyone that is interested in this upcoming game, computer design, or futuristic robots and artwork I would highly recommend this art book.

 

 

 

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D

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I had recently picked up a 3DS for the release of Poke’mon X and Y, so I thought I would see what else the system had to offer. I decided to check out Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D. This is a different port of the classic Metal Gear 3 that we all know and love for the PS2. I was a huge fan of this game in the series, as well as the whole series all together. Since this is just another version of the same game, I really will not be talking about the game itself, but more what the 3DS has done to it to make it a unique experience.

So my first impression of this game, when I started it up, was that it looked surprisingly good! Honestly it may, in some cases, look better than the PS2 version, as well as Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker on the PSP.

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I was really intrigued at this point wondering what else this game was going to throw at me. There are only a couple of differences that I came across in the 3DS version. One thing is that instead of the frog easter eggs seen in the console version, there are now little Yoshis. The other thing that I noticed is that the cinematic opening is no longer interactive like on the PS2.

Now let’s talk about the 3D effect.  For those of you who don’t know, on the 3DS there is a switch that changes the intensity of 3D. Trying to play the game with the full 3D effect can be a little much for your eyes. Luckily you can still experience it well enough and not have it give you a headache. I have to say that watching the cut scenes of the game in full 3D is quite amazing.

anyone who has ever tried playing a portable version of a game knows that one of the biggest issues is that the controls are so different and/or limited. While I was playing through the first scenes of the game it was hard for me to grasp how this was going to be played smoothly, but it does become easier once you spend some time with it. The controls are mapped very differently compared to the console version of this. Here we have the controls of the PS2 controller

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The controls look pretty standard when it comes to movement, but a little more complex when trying to fire your weapon. Having to go into first person view, then pulling out your weapon to fire can be quite complicated and hard to do under the pressures of the game.  Moving with your weapon while aimed is not possible. Having the crouch button mapped to the (X) button is very convenient, being you are using it most of the game. You can use it as a dive attack while moving. A great thing about the dive is that along with taking out enemies with it, you can dive into grass and hold down the (X) button and you will end in prone position. R2 and L2 make it easy to toggle your weapons and items on and off or holding them (R2/L2) will bring up a menu to choose from a list of options.  Now let us look at the alternative

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You don’t have two joysticks on the 3DS, so controlling the camera is a little awkward at first using the four buttons instead. There is an accessory that can be bought that gives the 3DS a second joystick, which run about $30 and only works for certain games.

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The L button is used to go into first person mode and the R button is your attack and fire button. It is also used for the dive attack. In this version you can actually move while aiming with a weapon, which I have to say, is my favorite thing that is different about this version. The D-pad is used for several actions like crouching, equipping weapons, and climbing ladders and ledges. Having the crouch button under the joystick that moves your character is, well, a pain in the ass. You cannot easily crouch while moving, as well as going into prone after a dive attack. Out of everything I have to say that is really the only thing that I had to get used to in this game.

As with all DS/3DS games they utilize the lower screen.  You can access all of the options that you had in the start menu on the console version. The camouflage selection, cure option, and backpack access are all now easily chosen from the bottom screen.  It also shows what weapons and items are equipped, and a very convenient mini map. The game also has a balance system when walking across bridges and tree limbs. This uses the 3DS’s sensors to actually have you feel like you are actually trying to balance.

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Overall, I really enjoy playing this on the 3DS. The controls were a little hard to get used to if you are more experienced with a console controller. There are great innovations in this game, like the 3D, the great graphics for a handheld, and the small changes like the easter egg yoshis. I honestly never thought I would be playing a game like snake eater on a handheld device that ran so smoothly. With all the easter eggs found in the ps2 version, I still will be replaying this version to see if there Is anything that I missed. The graphics are great looking, and the 3D works very well. This game adds to the love I already had with this series. I highly recommend this, and I give Nintendo big props for making this a great portable Metal Gear Solid game.

Top Five Favorite Fighting Games-#2 Persona 4 Arena

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All of the previous games on this list have been older titles. This one however, is a rather new fighting game from 2012. I remember seeing a game that I picked up about a year ago called Blazblue. It was a fast paced anime style fighting game that was made by a company called Arc System Works. These guys brought us the Guilty Gear fighting series as well. Once I began to get into this game I immediately told my friends how awesome it was. It seemed to be that every time they would come over we were playing it, and trying to get better at it. This game is actually not the one to make the number two spot on this list.

About six months after my friends and I had fallen in love with Blazblue, one of my other friends had mentioned a new game that Arc System Works had worked on. It was called Persona 4 Arena.  Based off the Japanese RPG of the same name, Persona 4 Arena combines the characters from Persona 3 and 4, as well as adding some new characters. This game took what I loved about Blazblue and made it bigger and better.  First off, this game was much easier to pick up and learn the techniques of the game play. Persona has an auto-combo feature, which allows the player to pull off a combo that ends with a super move just by pressing the same button several times.  My first thought when I heard about this was that it would make the game almost too easy. While it does make it easier for beginning players, Persona still offers many other ways to create your own unique tactics and combos, so I find myself, at times, not even using the auto-combo.

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There are two types of attacks, regular attacks and persona attacks. Each character has a persona, which is a sort of alter ego of your character that can be sent in to perform different attacks. Persona attacks are stronger than your character’s basic attacks, but can be slower.  Another risk of using persona attacks is that your opponent can attack your persona and disabled temporarily if it is hit four times. You will not be able to use any attacks that involve your persona while it is disabled. There are also throws that can break through the opponents block.

Something new that I have seen in this game is called the “all out attack”. The way this attack works is when you hit the enemy they are briefly stunned. You can run in after and land several hits and then launch the person up or away from you. The way that the game works is very simple but effective. Obviously the objective is to defeat your opponent. There are many things you can do to help you to achieve that goal. You can actually paralyze and poison your opponent with certain characters. Using these tactics can dramatically change the outcome of the match.

Each character has a set of special moves, as many fighting games do. Adding these attacks into your combos and persona attacks makes the game very complex and hard to master, but using them on their own can be effective as well. Another big thing about this game is the super moves. Each character has super moves that do a great deal of damage. These attacks are different from the special attacks. They require part of a super meter that is visible through the in game HUD. Your super meter is filled by hitting your opponent and getting hit. There is another kind of attack that can only be used under certain conditions in the match. To do this move, you must have won one match, have 100 points in your super meter, and input the correct button combination. This move is an instant K.O. once it hits, but the moves can be easily dodged or blocked.

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There is a lot to see in this game. It is visually pleasing with smooth animations and memorable characters. It is very easy to pick up for beginners, but it takes a lot of time to master everything the game has to offer. I cannot recommend this game enough. This is the first game on the list that is more recent. I have played older games made by Arc System, like the Guilty Gear series, and I enjoy them. To me this is my favorite one. I will probably be writing up a review on just fighting games made by Arc System. This game is available for Xbox 360 and PS3.  Come on back next time for the fighting game that made the number one position in my top five favorites

Top Five Favorite Fighting Games-#3 WCW/NWO Revenge

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Back in the late 90s my dad and I were big wrestling fans. I can recall on several occasions watching pay per views and being excited every time.  I had played wresting games before like WCW Nitro for the Playstation, and it was a pretty fun game. Nitro was nothing however, compared to my number three favorite fighting game, WCW/Now Revenge for the N64. My dad and I would play this game for hours on end. It had so much you could do and so many of the characters we loved from the wrestling federation. I still have my same copy from almost 15 years ago, and yes, I still play it with my dad every once in a while.

Revenge was released in late 1998 and developed by AKI Corporation. It was also a N64 exclusive game, meaning it was only released on the N64. This game was the sequel to WCW World tour (1977). Everything was dramatically improved in this new game like the fighting system and the graphics. Revenge also was awarded fighting game of the year in 1998. There are over 60 playable wrestlers! Like, seriously that’s a lot of characters, and so many awesome choices like classics like Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. Now onto the game play.

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You could pretty much do whatever you wanted to in this game. You could get weapons, dive out of the ring at other opponents, and perform each wrestler’s signature special moves. This game has an extensive grapple system. You have two kinds of grapple, weak and a strong. Then after you grab the opponent you would make another input and then the move would execute. Other then the grapple, you just have your basic hit attacks, like punching and kicking. You can also use the ropes of the ring to clothesline your opponent, and throw them into it.

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There were also many game types you could choose too. You had a championship mode, which is like arcade mode in other fighting games. You fight through several opponents to make your way to the top. In the championship mode there are sub categories to play through like heavyweight, lightweight, and tag team. There is also an exhibition mode. This is where you can play just one on one, tag teams, two on one, and battle royals.

Overall, I just cannot seem to say a bad thing about this game. I absolutely love it. It was such a revolutionary game when it came out, and I still think it holds up today as a great wrestling/fighting game. I cannot recommend it more to anyone who is or used to be a fan of wrestling. Now we are down to the last two. Come back next time for my second favorite fighting game.

Top Five Favorite Fighting Games-#4 Super Smash Bros.

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Come on now, you didn’t think that I could make a list of fighting games without talking about Super Smash Bros. did you? I think everyone that has owned a Nintendo system has played at least one version of this series. Today, I’m going to go back to where this game started, The N64. I grew up with one,so there is pure nostalgic value for me right there. How do I begin to talk about this game without saying what tons of people have already said? Well, I am just going to give you my experience that I had with the game.

Obviously I was still quite young when this game came out. There were many other fighting games out there (like Tekken and Soul Calibur) that had complicated combos and rather strategic ways of playing the game. As a child it was a lot easier for me to pick up Super Smash Bros. than the latter. You only had two attack buttons, regular and special attacks. No combos, no crazy button combination, just simplicity. Let me tell you about the first impressions I had when this game was coming out. Allow me to put his into perspective for you.

It was the late 90s, and you are a huge Nintendo fan around the age of 8. You see that a game is going to be coming out that has all of your favorite Nintendo characters in it. How could you not be excited for this? Who didn’t want to beat the living hell out of other characters with their favorites like Mario, Samus, and Pikachu? You have a big roster of 12 characters with their own unique move set.  This was easily enough to keep any 8 year old happy. I know that I was. There are tons of different levels that you could play on, and all of them are designed after the games that the characters are from. How cool is that?

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Now then, a lot of you may be thinking to yourself why it is that I put the original Super Smash Bros on this list rather than the newer ones. Well there are two big reasons. As I stated in my Soul Calibur II review, I pick these games for my list mostly because of the nostalgic feeling I get while playing them, not because of better graphics and more characters. The other reason is that without this game, we would not have the later ones obviously. Overall, this was one of my cherished games on the N64 and I will never forget the times I had with it. Make sure to come back to see my third favorite fighting game. The next one may not be exactly what you would think of when you think of a fighting game, but it’s a good one nonetheless