Released in Japan in 1987, the PC Engine was never officially sold in the UK. Despite this, the very high quality of the games meant that a large number of ‘grey’ imports were converted to work on PAL televisions and found their way into British homes.

Over the years, NEC released the machine in a number of flavours. The first issue came in a miniscule white case and read games from card as opposed to the cartridges that the NES and Master System used. For technical reasons, these early machines did not lend themselves well to PAL conversion and British gamers had to put up with very limited colour palettes.

One year on, NEC released the PC Engine Core Grafx, which came in a different colour case. Minor changes to the internal hardware meant that PAL conversion was far more successful, so for the first time UK gamers who were not fortunate enough to have SCART capable TVs could truly appreciate the quality of Engine software.

The GT/Turbo Express was a handheld version of the Engine – a machine which created mixed feelings within the gaming community. Yes, it did run all the PC Engines games – in fact it often ran them faster than the home machines, but it also, like Atari’s Lynx, had a reputation for eating batteries and was bulky compared with Nintendo’s Game Boy

Several CD-ROM drives were also released, including the Duo which was a combined PC Engine and CD-ROM.

Towards the end of 1989, NEC unleashed the Super Grafx, a more powerful – but still 8-bit – version of the Engine. Despite the media’s view that time was up for 8-bit machines, the initial production run of 50,000 sold out in a matter of days.

The Games

Despite relying on lowly 8bit technology, the PC Engine was an amazingly capable machine with a host of very accurate and graphically impressive arcade conversions. Top of the pile is R-Type, still regarded by many as the best home version of the classic shoot ‘em up.


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Major events

Japanese release

Japanese release of PC Engine Core Grafx

September 1989
Turbo Grafx launched in the US

8 December 1989
PC Engine Super Grafx launched in Japan, price 40,000 yen


Mac OS X

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PC Engine/Turbo Grafx

Custom 8-bit CPU, running at 7.16MHz
8K on-board RAM
512 colours, 64K Video RAM
64 on-screen sprites
Screen resolution 256×216
6 channel stereo sound

PC Engine Super Grafx

Fully compatible with the original PC Engine
Custom 8-bit CPU, running at 7.16MHz
32K on-board RAM
4096 colours, 128K Video RAM
128 on-screen sprites
Screen resolution 320×224
6 channel stereo sound