Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Buying Guide: Turbografx-16

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

There was this brief period of time when the store shelves of Toys R Us had Nintendo games, Sega Genesis games, and Turbografx-16 games.  After the Super Nintendo ushered in a whole mess of games in the holiday season of 1992 (the console premiered in 1991 but it had significant presence the following year) and the Turbografx-16 consoles moved to that dreaded area in the middle of the aisle.  Before you knew it they were stacking up boxed consoles at discounted $99.99 price tags (the console originally was either $199.99 or $149.99, although I forget which) and in 1993 it was down to $49.99 with free games and all at once disappeared.  Due to the fact that NEC’s “in between” console only moved at that exremely low price point, most people that owned the console kept it, which makes for a bit of scarcity on today’s market.  Fortunately I have this buying guide here to assist you and aside from games, there really isn’t a lot to the accessories or hook-up of a TG-16.

You will want to make sure your console has:

  • An AC adaptor that has specifically the following specs: 10.5 Volts at 730 mAh (miliamps).  With such a low amperage you will easily burn your little rare console out putting anything much stronger, not to mention it can affect gameplay and act as a fire hazard.  The plug itself has a tip that is very common, but be sure to get a console that has the official NEC AC Adaptor (shown off in the video) or get a replacement that meets those specs exactly.
  • A TurboPad controller.  Sounds odd but this is often harder to find than the system itself.  I’ve seen the controllers go for as much as $30 at used game stores and even higher online.  Sure, a PC Engine controller will work fine as will a few 3rd party knock-offs and alternative controllers, but it just looks nicer to have the matching gamepad.  If you buy a console without a controller, you had better get a good deal on it.
  • There is an official RF switch for the TG-16 and for some reason it’s the accessory that all consoles seem to have (like the kids of this country held on to that piece because the screw attachment looked important), but it’s the only one of these accessories you can safely buy a console without.  It uses the exact same connection as an NES RF switch, the Genesis 1 RF switch, and several others and because it uses no power, can be interchanged within the consoles no problem.  Just make sure it has a single RCA plug into the console and you’re good to go.  Even if you want an official TG-16 one, it’s only going to run you $5-$10 and it isn’t rare.

Now, like many other consoles you may think it smart to pick up a second controller, which to a certain extent isn’t a bad idea so that you have a replacement, but the Turbografx-16 did not have more than one controller port and for the most part does not have 2-player games.  There are a few exceptions – Bomberman supports up to 5 controllers with the multi-tap accessory – but the Turbografx is mostly for loners because it’s almost solely a single player experience.  You may be interested in some of the following:

  • The TurboStick (also in the video) is basically the Advantage of the TG-16, it is a joystick controller.  It’s quite useful because many games on the this console are arcade ports that benefit from this controller and it’s also quite durable.  Not sure quite what they run, but if you can pick one up for under $20, I say go for it.
  • A PC-Engine adaptor.  This will run you some serious scratch, like $100-$300 serious, but it’s well worth it (and grab anything that costs less than triple digits if it works) because there’s a vast library of games in Japan that we never saw here.  Unlike the PC-Engine, which was region locked only for Japan, the Turbografx-16 can play games of any region but you need the adaptor to adjust the pin connections of the two consoles.  Another subsequent option is just picking up a PC Engine for imports, which most do, and runs you much less ($50-$100).
  • If you’re really into spending tons of money, you can try to hunt down the 6 button controller that only came out in Japan and is solely for the PC Engine version of Street Fighter II, which also was only in Japan.  While the game itself will only cost you about $15-$30 used, the controller is more in the $50-$100 range and the game still doesn’t look as good as the SNES version.  Still, it’s fun to show off (and no, I don’t have the game or the controller).
  • A CD add-on, the Turbografx-16 CD system, is an amazing addition to your console that adds a vast library of JRPGs, FMV titles, and even rare exclusives (including Castlevania: Rondo of Blood) to your collection.  Before you get too excited, the add-on with all the parts you need will usually run you more than $200 and the TurboDuo, a combo system that was only in the US for a short while, will run you upwards of $300-$500.  Not only that, many of the great games are Japan only (again, no region lock) or rare so they will cost you $50-$100+ each, but in most cases this is the only way to play them.  Oh, did I also mention you need several different RAM carts that are required to play many of these games (there were 3 different ones and not all of them are interchangable) that are also a few hundred to collect?  Turbografx-16 CD is not a cheap endeavor, but how else are you going to play Ys IV?  Note: Rondo of Blood was recently re-released on Virtual Console and a port was on Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP, but for a long time it was only on TG16 CD and there’s almost no chance other titles will ever get re-released.

I guess the only other question is how much are you looking to spend for the console?  I recommend anyone who can find a tested, working unit that includes my three main items above for $50 or less should take it and be happy.  Depending on location and market this can be as much as double in some areas, but eBay successfully keeps the price under triple digits.  Games will typically be around $10-$30 depending on popularity and rarity, but there are a few heavy hitters (like Magical Chase, which was rare in the US but quite common in Japan).  Before embarking on the TG-16 adventure, you may also want to consider that many of these titles and even a few CD games were re-released on Virtual Console and PSN for the much better price of $6-$8 apiece.  Watch the video below to see what you need to look for in a console.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

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