Lios's Blog

Posted on May 9th 2009 at 04:09:31 AM by (Lios)
Posted under TurboGrafx16, PcEngine, SuperGrafx, Duo, Core, SuperCdrom, collecting

{Insert super awesome relevant picture here}

With all of the recent exposure Nec and Hudson Soft's Turbo Grafx (Pc Engine in Japan) has gotten via the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, many people have decided that getting a Turbo Grafx and some games for themselves is worth the investment. While never really a commercial success outside of Japan, it still managed to get a small, but overall good and varied library in the US, and a huge one in Japan. With a lifespan of 13 years there is plenty to look forward too. (Actually is was technically more like 8 as the last game, released in 1999 in Japan, was the first game made for it since about 1994/1995. 1993 was the last year for Turbo Grafx games).

Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, prices on Ebay are crazy. The prices for most Turbo Grafx games and hardware have gotten out of hand as of late. For whatever reason, just about everything but the Turbo Grafx has not been rising in value. I'd wager that many resellers are taking advantage of this newfound interest in the console and ask exorbitant prices in the in the hopes of unknowing new collectors assuming that their values are sane and bite. To make matters worse, most of the auctions are buy it now only, leaving only really common, and often loose and/or poor condition games for auction ending up at prices that won't leave a hole in your pocket.

Prices on certain games and hardware are going to be high and deservedly so, it is estimated some excellent games had a print run as low as 5000 copies and even lower for certain games in Japan. There also exists plenty of desirable hardware that does not turn up often.

So where does that leave someone new to the "scene"? How would anyone know what is a reasonable price for anything, especially with few modern sources for info aside from ebay, and more importantly, how can one go about getting games without being price gouged?  Not all of us live in Japan where a lot of this stuff can be had for fractions of what we pay in the rest of the world and not everyone knows how 17+ pieces of hardware differ and what is the best value for the money.

Well fret no more, for I am here to help! Let your confusion be dispelled, and many myths be demystified, as I explain some of the fine details of collecting for the Turbo Grafx 16. In the interest of attempting to keep this short I am going to split it into two parts. (Going to be very hard, as there is a lot that needs to be explained). Today I will talk about the hardware.

Choosing the hardware that suits your needs (and budget)...

"Which tg-16/pce system is the best?" With at least 17 different consoles, revisions, upgrades, and what not, it's easy to understand why this is such a common question. Unfortunately, there really isn't any definitive answer. It varies widely on why a collector wants to collect for tg16/pce, and their budget. Answering some questions can help immensely in making a decision that suits your needs.

Are you more of a collector or gamer?

Even when not ridiculously priced, tg16/pce hardware can get quite expensive. If you simply want to play the games, and generally don't need for a system to be boxed/complete, a loose plain old Turbo Grafx 16 can be had with controller, system with cover, dc adapter, and sometimes a rf switch and game for $25-$40 depending on condition. Compare this to an American Turbo, which can run anywhere from $125-$200 on average for a similar setup or the Pc Engine LT and Pioneer LaserActive PAC-N10 module which can easily run upwards from $300 and $500 respectively. Certain pieces are truly for the collector such as the PAC-N10 module, and the Pc Engine Shuttle, which can only play Japanese HuCard games despite having a near identical expansion slot for the cd add-ons.

If you choose to go the tg16 route, you can get a tg-cd, dock, and system to enable play of cd-rom games, composite video and the ability to save in select games later down the road. However due to reliability issues (they develop gear issues and laser problems, and replacements are near impossible to come by) and the additional price this is not the recommended approach for gamers.

Can you deal with rf video?

If not then you will probably be buying a Turbo Booster, Turbo Booster+, Tg-Cd dock, or Turbo Duo. The first two give you composite video and composite video+the ability to save in games. A Tg-Cd dock gives the same functionality as a Turbo Booster+, but offers the advantage of playing cd games when equipped with a Tg-Cd and a proper system card. If you don't mind importing, which is highly recommended anyways, every import system aside from the original white Pc Engine has composite video and stereo sound output. Additionally every piece of tg16/pce hardware can be RGB modded for the best video output you will ever get from any piece of pce/tg16 hardware.

Is portable gaming desirable to you?

If so the the Turbo Express/Pc Engine GT would be right up your alley. If you are patient a fully working one can be acquired for $60-$90. The GT is actually more expensive from my observations, and a LT is really for collectors, so a TE is the way to go. Keep in mind that when these units were made, LCDs were still very early in development and dead pixels are very common. Like the Duo both the TE and GT are prone to sound issues, and also video issues. If you can solder, it's an easy fix.

Do you mind importing to save money?

If not, for gaming, hands down a Pc Engine Duo-R is the way to go. While not as aesthetically pleasing as an American or Japanese Duo (but hey what system is?), it is far more reliable and can play all of the same games. Black Duos are notorious for developing sound (via bad caps) and laser issues. Save yourself some heartache and the inevitable cost of future repairs, and avoid the black duos. A Duo-R can be had anywhere from $125-$250 depending on condition and what comes with it.

Region and RGB mods are common and popular for this model. If you live in the Japan or in most of Europe they come with everything you need for RGB Scart video. While not as useful if you live in the US, it's not impossible to take advantage of the RGB mod.

With a Duo-R you can play all but the Arcade Cd-Rom2 games and the 5 Super Grafx only games (which only the Super Grafx can play) out of the box with no additional purchases. Arcade Cd-Rom2 games can be played with the help of an Arcade Card Duo or an Arcade Card Pro. Arcade Duos are cheaper (by about $20) than the Pros for the fact that all Pro cards work on any Pc Engine system (though they work in the shuttle and the portable Turbo Express/Pc Engine GT, you can't take advantage of it for obvious reasons). Arcade Duos work only on select systems.

Also worth mentioning, there is a Duo-RX model. It is identical to the Duo-R in every way, except the color of the silkscreened logo and the controller that came packaged with it originally (Nec Avenue 6). Unfortunately it cost a lot more for no practical difference in the console itself. There are many other models of the consoles, but this is not meant to be an exhaustive in depth list of all the different hardware's pros and cons. If you want more info please refer to:

A word on region mods

Region mods are a must if you only plan on owning one just one tg-16/pce console to play all of your games. Pc Engine versions of Turbo Grafx games are in almost every case, a LOT cheaper than the US counterparts. In some cases, $200-$300 cheaper, especially with late Us Super Cd-rom2 game releases. While a region mod does not affect cd games, as they were not region locked, HuCard games can have large discrepancies in price too. While region converters exist, they are very expensive nowadays (easily over $100) and they only work on American consoles without modification. They will work on Japanese consoles, but an internal modification is still needed. Kinda ironic, huh?

HuCard, Turbo Chip, Super Cd-rom2?! Oh my!

As you have probably noticed, there are a lot of different formats for pce/tg-16 games. The full list is as follows:

Turbo Chip or HuCard in Japan; SuperGrafx games were also simply called HuCards, despite the fact that 5 games only work on SuperGrafx hardware, and 2 others have enhanced graphics when played on a SuperGrafx.
CD-ROM^2 officially pronounced "CD Rom Rom"
Super CD-ROM^2
Arcade CD-ROM^2

If you don't have much money to plunk down initially, any hardware that only plays HuCards alone is a good choice. Getting one that can be upgraded is a good idea, or later down the road you can sell your first system to help fund a combined system.

If you don't want to buy an Arcade card, it's really no big deal. There weren't that many "must have" games that utilized the arcade card. Some hybrid games could be played with or without an arcade card.

A Turbo Grafx or Core Grafx I or II (same hardware barring the logo color) are excellent starter systems for those on a budget.

While a Super Grafx with a CD add on and an appropriate system card (an adapter is needed to connect a plain old pce-cd) is the only system that will play every Pc Engine game, you have to really ask yourself if it is really worth the extra $$$ for 5 games and enhanced play in 2. Only 2 of the games are any good really.

Arcade Card games can be played on US systems that have been region modded or with a region converter and the appropriate arcade card and hardware

If you have any other questions is a nice small community populated with people passionate about the tg-16/pce. Some of my best deals were made with members on that site. The members are nice and friendly, and are more than willing to answer all of your tg-16/pce related questions.

Finally don't rely on ebay for buying or gauging the value of  tg16/pce stuff. I know tg16 stuff doesn't exactly pop up much in the wild, but it does pop up on communities such as pcenginefx, digitpress, atariage, neo-geo, gametz, and our very own rfgeneration more than you would think.

I know it's a lot to take in and digest. Many of you are probably not even reading anymore by this point. Either that or you are sleeping or dreaming of not reading this article while you sleep Nonetheless, I hope that even if it was only skimmed, interested collectors have a better understanding, and a firmer grip on Pc-Engine hardware and prices, if only by just a little bit.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I will talk more about the software, offer game suggestions, and give tips to determining when someone is price gouging.

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