A little while back, I talked about the PC-Engine / TurboGrafx, and that I think it’s an underrated system. I have a lot of things that I normally work on, so time is always too short, and I couldn’t play on the PC-Engine as much as I wanted to. Therefore I decided to make a series about this interesting gaming console and write down my experience.
As the system has A LOT of games. I decided to concentrate on the CD based games first, as it’s a smaller number and decided I want to look at each and every one of them I have for a short while and decide if I like them or not. For this I will divide them in three sections: games I liked, acceptable games, and games I didn’t like.
How I will test these games
I ran these games on my ODROID GameStation Turbo image on an XU3, but it should run perfectly fine on any ODROID SBC. I’m running all of these games in .chd format, as this saves quite some space as well as preserving audio quality. The latest versions of mednafen_pce_fast libretro core supports this format and I got quite fond of it and convert most of my games into that format where it’s supported.
I’ll test a couple of games for each part of the series trying to do this in an alphabetic order. I will try and keep playing each game for a time and not only look at the first minute of the game, as some games get better later in the levels. I may skip some games if they exists in both jap. and eng., or even name them double if I forgot that I played it in another language already.
I will try to give a short description of these games and why I like them or not. The games that I find most impressive I will add pictures to it, others may just have a text description. Obviously this is a personal preference and my taste in games may not reflect your own.
Please note, that most of the games on this console are shooters, so if you like shooters, this is your go-to console for sure. If not, I hope there are enough other games to keep you interested anyway. Once again, I only focus on the CD based games at this time. Many of these games also came out as HuCards / TurboChips and some of these games were even better than their CD counterparts. If you like what you hear and see here I encourage you to try out the HuCard / TurboChip games as well, as there are even more great titles to be found for the system.
Games I liked
4 in 1 Super CD
This game collection comes with Bonk as a mascot. On the start screen you will find 3 games:
Gate of Thunder, Bonk’s Adventure and Bonk’s Revenge, which is a “hidden” fourth game is Bomberman for this game on the game select menu you press up, right, down, left and button 2, and you will get to Bomberman. This compilation is just perfect, and not a single game on this list is bad.
Bomberman is the original one, and you can either play it on your own or with up to 5 players in total, there is no doubt about it, this game is awesome. Gate of Thunder is the first, but definitely not the last, shooter on this list. It comes with a very nicely animated into, which is quite long, but can be skipped. PCE CD games often come with long intros or cut-scenes which is actually quite nice, as very few other consoles in that era offered this as a feature.
As with many PC Engine games, the colors are bright compared to the darker color pallet as for example used on the Sega Mega drive. The game comes with nice parallax scrolling and is overall very fun to play. Bonk’s Adventure and Bonk’s Revenge shouldn’t need to be explained. Both are platformers, and Bonk’s is somewhat the mascot for the system. You jump, you hit enemies with your head or jump on them, you can eat items to replenish health, or to get special powers like from meat where he will go into rampage mode and either cause a tiny earthquake that can stun enemies, or you just run through them all. These games are pretty awesome and you should really try them out.
The 4 in 1 Super CD is a real gem for the system 4 incredible games all on once CD. This really shows off how good the console can be and was definitely worth its money. If you want to know what this console is all about, I recommend that you try this compilation!
One warning though: if you use save states, please note that the states are always for the CD, not for the game you play. If you play Gate of Thunder and make a save state and then switch to Bomberman and load the save state, you’re back in Gate of Thunder. The same situation happens if you switch to Bomberman and save your game (using a save state): you will overwrite your save state of Game of Thunder. Please be aware of that and make sure you select different save states for each game or only play one game at a time with save states.
Akumajou Dracula X - Chi no Rondo / Castlevania: Dracula X (Rondo of Blood)
This is one of the best (if not the best) game for the system. This game is amazing. The graphics, sounds, and music is perfect, and so are the controls. Everything is spot on and reacts as it should be. Also this version is a PC Engine exclusive and is only playable as part of the a remake on the PSP.
If you want to see a very nice review of this game check out the YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsVHqoS1Y58. It describes the game best, in my opinion, and you can see what the game looks like in real action.
This shooter starts with an intro that is made out of still pictures and animated sprites, so it’s not a video, and has very little in matter of cutscenes going on. The in-game graphics are not very impressive either. There isn’t any parallax scrolling going on and enemies are not extremely detailed. Still, the game is rather addicting. It’s also very hard, especially in the first level. Before each mission, you can select your weapon, sub weapon and special weapon, where you start with a fast but weak vulcan cannon or a rocket launcher which does a lot more damage, but it’s harder to hit things and is a lot slower.
In game, you can collect upgrades to increase your main and sub weapon, and over time you’ll get more weapons to choose from. If you update a weapon, the level of the weapon will be taken over to the next mission. The primary weapon can be updated four times, the secondary weapon twice (if I remember correctly). The special weapon is you usual “bomb” where you have an limited amount per level and which vary in usefulness. Although very hard, it is very addicting, as I said, and you should train your save state and load state key combos to get a little extra help. The music is fine, but the sound can be a little bit annoying especially with the laser in the later levels. Imagine a high pitched sound for each shot you give and the laser firing at 10 shots a second (and yes, each shot makes the sound). Anyway, I rather enjoyed playing the game and looking forward to beating it in the near future.
Bakushou Yoshimoto Shinkigeki
Wow, I don’t even know what I’m playing here. This game is all crazy. I have no clue what I’m doing: I jump on people’s heads, have a few path decisions, ride rollercoasters, dance with girls, play rock paper scissor, and keep jumping on people’s heads. The game is just crazy but also very funny. The graphics are nice with huge bobble head characters. It’s so funny, and I love it.
Bonk III - Bonk's Big Adventure
This game is more of the Bonk’s goodness. This version is pretty much the same as the HuCard version but with better music. In some of the previous versions, the graphics and gameplay were actually changed for the CD version and made the games in fact inferior to their HuCard counterparts (except for the music). So this is a nice to have on as a CD. This time you can play with two players if you want, and next to the regular meat that give you different abilities, you now have blue and red candy that either makes you huge or very tiny depending on which one you eat. This allows you to reach areas that were previously unreachable for you. It’s a very fun and addicting game, and you can understand why he’s somewhat of a mascot for the system.
I was actually surprised when I played the game. On the first look it was very childish and the graphics not very spectacular, especially the cheesy intro, which looked and felt like it was made for 5 years old, but it turned out the game was actually not that bad at all. You play a bunch of bears and birds and you want to protect your beach from being turned into a nuclear power plant, and for this you have to play music (obviously, right? Cause that is how you drive away these billion dollar companies?). Anyway your friends get kidnapped, your 70s flower power Volkswagen bus get its tire stolen, so you’re pretty much screwed. There’s only one thing to do: go get your tires back, find your musical instruments and free your friends! This is an action platformer, where you jump, kick, box, or just run enemies over with your skateboard.
The concept is rather simple: the graphics vary from uninteresting plain to nicely detailed and cartoony. There is no parallax scrolling. You have an overview map where you can drive from place to place (after you got your tires back) and different places you can visit. Some of the levels are rather big and you have to find items collect garbage (for recycling as full for your bus) and find and free your friends.
Once you’ve freed one of your friends, you can play him as a new character, and each one has special abilities, like for example skateboarding for faster travel and higher jumps. It’s a rather decent platformer with enough places to explore to keep you busy. The jumping needs some time to get used to, as often you only can move half an inch from one platform to the next, but tab the controller a tiny bit too long and your character moves at least an inch instead.
The most fascinating this that I liked was the music of the game which is actually really good. In fact, you’ll find songs of the Beach Boys as game music with vocals and all, which was really surprising for me.
Chiki Chiki Boys
This action platformer is very fun to play. It also supports two player cooperative play in case you want to venture out with a friend. The graphics are nice and cartoony, and the sound effects are good as well. It has good music, although there is a lot of it is mostly in the background, and you won’t really notice it. The character controls are rather nice, and jumps go easy and the attacks work well. You can have up to 3 special attacks which can be triggered by pressing “select”. These are normally screen filling and do a lot of damage. They also make you invincible for a short while, so it is often helpful when you fight one of the many bosses. You can collect a couple of different items, for example the blue and red pills, which will restore your health either partly or to the full. As the game is completely in Japanese, I have no clue what the story is all about, but I don’t think you need it to play this game. The game is quite fun and I really enjoy playing it.
Choujikuu Yousai Macross 2036
This is the first real shooter that I reviewed for this article (which is quite surprising considering how many games I played just to get here). It’s a side-scrolling action shooter in the Macross universe. Unfortunately, you can not morph your aircraft at will, but instead you’re being morphed depending on the scene you’re in. It’s a very fast-paced action shooter, but not unfair in doing so. You can upgrade your main weapon by collection power ups, and you can really see your attack getting bigger and stronger.
Killing enemies and destroying objects will earn you points or experience, which can be used at a beginning of a level to buy special weapon to aid you. There are a lot of weapons to choose from and they cost more and more points. At least in easy mode, you’ll keep all your power ups when you die and also get a new life every 100,000 points. There are also hidden objects that flash when you shoot them. When you shoot them often enough, they become visible and can also provide extra lives when collected. There are a lot of cutscenes, not only in between missions but sometimes also while on a mission, so that’s actually quite nice. Although everything is once again in Japanese, only I still rather enjoyed this game.
Choujikuu Yousai Macross - Eien no Love Song
This one I had a hard time deciding if the lack of understanding is stopping me from enjoying the game or not, since the game and all its cut scenes are in Japanese, which makes it rather hard to understand. Still, I quickly figured out the most important commands and was able to play the game without missing too much of it I guess. This game is a tactical strategy game similar to history line 1914-1918 or Battle Island games, or as a more recent example, Advanced Wars on the GBA.
True to the Macross universe, you’re guiding your pilots through the levels, and can morph them between an airplane for faster travel but lower damage and armor, a mecha that has a lot of armor and does deal more damage, and something in between. If you like tactical strategy games, this game is very nice. It has nice cut-scenes between missions, a nice soundtrack, and good fighting animations.
Cosmic Fantasy II
Do you know this situation where you just want to test something for a little while and suddenly it’s a couple of hours later? That’s what happened when I first played this game. Cosmic Fantasy II is an RPG game in the style of Fantasy Star or Dragon Quest. The overall graphics are not that impressive, but it makes up for it with really nice cutscenes which are (like the rest of the game) fully in English, so I actually understand what’s going on, and I like it. You travel on a world map with random encounters and can visit towns and dungeons. Leveling up can make you a lot stronger, especially at the start. It improves your strength and health and later magic points as well. Since RPGs are not very common on the PC Engine / TurboGrafx this is a nice addition to your library. If you can look past the plain graphics, it’s actually a really nice game and I very much enjoyed playing it.
Cotton - Fantastic Night Dreams
Cotton should be rather well known shooter game series where you play as a little witch with a fairy familiar. I just hope I don’t need to explain this game to anyone. This one is very close to the arcade version. The graphics are great, and the music is, thanks to the CD remix, even better than the arcade version. The game is quite hard, but very fun to play, and the little cutscenes between levels are rather funny. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Advanced Variable Geo
This is one of the few fighters on the game. This game is similar to Street Fighter but with girls only. It’s not a bad game, and the sounds and music are fine, but the console doesn’t have very much RAM and the sprites for fighting are rather limited because of this, which makes the moves look very immature and sluggish. The game has nice colors, as most PCE games have, but no parallax scrolling or special effects that would make the game stand out. The only thing in my opinion that redeems the game a little is the support for more than just 2 buttons (as it’s usually the norm with PCE games). This is one of the few games where you can use the X and Y button on your gamepad as well, which is logical for fighters, but still rather rare for PCE games. I don’t like the game that much.
Ai Chou Aniki
Well this game is “different”. It looks like you play a gay bodybuilder, but to be honest, I can’t really say, since the game definitely doesn’t take itself serious. The graphics are good with different level of parallax scrolling (but not in all levels). You “fly around” as a male bodybuilder, with nothing on except for your underpants and you shoot “bubbles” on… well, let’s call them “enemies”. Sometimes you even shoot “sparkles” or when your bold head is fully shiny, you can make a huge attack beam that attacks everything in its path. Your second button makes yourself spinning in a pirouette which makes you untouchable, and you can move over the screen. It’s an easy way to avoid being attacked.
You cannot aim, it’s always selecting the enemy/object closest to you, if you want it or not, but I guess that’s part of the game mechanics, as it often means you’re not shooting the boss you probably want to shoot. Still, the game is “fun” in a weird and creepy way, but still fun. The music is quite good, but the sound effects get boring really quick. If you are into weird gay bodybuilder shoot em ups, you should try this game.
This is a fighting game for the PC Engine, and although completely in Japanese, it is rather easy to understand. It plays similar to games like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage but with an all female cast, means you only have female characters to choose from. The characters are quite big, with a decent amount of sprites for the animations, but this is probably the reason why I’ve never seen more than three enemies at a time on the screen. Gameplay wise it’s very repetitive; you’re beating up the same enemies over and over again, only changing in color (also normally women), and at the end of a stage you encounter a boss fight. It’s actually a mid boss, and then you get to the end boss after some more beating of henchmen. In between stages you can save, do bonus games, buy clothes for your characters and that kind of thing. It’s nice to look at, although not very spectacular, but still nice for passing time. In my opinion, it’s one of the better beat ‘em ups for the console.
Asuka 120% Maxima Burning Fest
This is another fighting game in the likes of Street Fighter, but once again with all girls, in fact school girls, and in a school. The music is very good, although the sound could be better. The graphics are nice for the PC Engine although not impressive. The characters have enough sprites during fights to make it feel fluent, but not enough to look fluent. It’s not bad, and although the game only uses 2 buttons, special attacks are rather easy to pull off. The game also exists for the PS1 and Sega Saturn where it looks and plays much better, especially on the Sega Saturn.
This is a kind of action adventure game and probably rather rare to find on consoles. It plays in a medieval setting, where the king was murdered and you, his son, got imprisoned, and you have to find/fight your way out of the dungeon. This game reminds me a lot of “Lure of the Temptress” if anyone heard of this game.
This one triumphs through its voice acting, as important scenes are played in CD Quality sound samples. Graphics are not bad, but also not spectacular. Character sprites are big with good level of animation. The music and sound effects are excellent, yet the gameplay is rather hard. In the first couple of minutes, I died numerous times, and it’s hard to tell if I’m just doing something wrong, or if I just suck at fighting. Generally this game is very interesting, and I probably look closer into it when I have more time.
Black Hole Assault
The game is a mecha fighting game in a Street Fighter style. The fights are not very good, and I could only figure out a few combos, and most of the time you don’t have the time to wait for your combo meter to charge up. The fights are rather quick and sometimes can last less than 10 seconds. In fact, I beat the game in less than half an hour, and don’t think it has much of a replay value. There’s even a tournament mode or exhibition mode, which doesn’t add to the replay value in my opinion.
The best part of the game is the intro and cutscenes, which are subtitled in Japanese, but voiced in English. They are all animated sprites, which look quite good, but when I first saw the game I expected something completely different (more like a shooter). It’s not too bad, but it was over quickly.
The game is a mix of mecha action platformer and RPG game. In fact, the mixture is quite nice. Even the part where you walk around in you power suit and kill enemies is good, especially in the later stages. You kill enemies and they drop “health” kits or weapons, of which you can use up to five of them with your power suit. This makes the game rather interesting. You can shop for items to increase your mecha stats and things like that.
What I like about this game is the art style of the cutscenes and the character portraits (which you have a lot of), the music, sound, the fact that there is a lot of voice acting, and graphics overall are rather nice. What I don’t like about this game is that as much as I like the cut-scenes there is no way to skip them. If you’ve restarted a game or started from an earlier point in the game again, you can’t skip the scenes you’ve already seen.
What I hate about this game is that it’s completely in Japanese, and I don’t understand a single thing that is being said or written. I bet I would have loved this game if it would have been in English or German, but it does not exist in any other language.
Bomberman ‘94 Special Version
This is a pre-release, since the final version came out on HuCard (Turbo Chip) instead of CD, so this version shows what the CD version would have probably looked like. The graphics and sounds are fantastic, and it’s really fun to play, yet it’s completely in Japanese and offers no single player mode, but you can play it with a total of 5 people. It’s sad that this game is not complete, since the sound (and especially the music) is much better on the CD version than on the HuCard version.
Bomberman Panic Bomber
Despite the name, it does not have much in common with Bomberman, and is more of a puzzle game in the style of Puyo Puyo and alike. You collect 3 or more Bomberman heads of the same color in a vertical or horizontal row and they pop. Additionally, there are bombs in the mix, and occasionally a red bomb drops that, if strategically placed, can blow up all the normal bombs. The graphics and sounds are all good, but I’m just not really a fan of these games.
In this game, you play as gangster brothers that break into building to make a heist and steal some valuables. You are equipped with a pea shooter that can stun enemies, and you can jump. You need to avoid or disable the guards, grab the valuables and then head to the exit. Every now and then, there is a bonus stage where you have collect money backs without being “spotted”, quite literally, as there are spotlights that you need to avoid. It’s a fun little action puzzle game that you can even play with a friend (or your brother). The graphics, sound, and music are ok, but not groundbreaking. It’s nice for casual gamers.
There isn’t much to say about this game. Have you ever heard of “Pang”? It’s a game where you shoot bubbles/balls that split into two smaller bubbles/balls until the really tiny ones finally disappear. That’s this game: it’s just a port of Pang under a different name, but with the same graphics and everything. It’s not bad and not awesomely good, just good old Pang with CD music.
This some kind of strip poker (well not only poker) with anime girls, but you won’t see much besides girls in underwear. Aside from that, there are some decent card games you can play (if you know them). It’s nothing special, but is ok to pass some time.
I was surprised to find a racing game on the system, and even more surprised that it was a game in the style of Micro Machines or Dust Racer 2. It looks nice enough for the system and is really fast, but it seems that I am very bad at it and bump into things over and over again. It’s just not my type of game, but really not that bad if you have good reflexes.
This is from the same guys that brought us Ai Chou Aniki, but this time it’s more of a regular shooter, and they share some of the same assets. The game is fundamentally different though. It’s not quite as funny as the other one was, and the shooter aspect is much more serious now, with weapon ups and special attacks (bombs). You can even select your movement speed by pressing the “select” button. There are a lot of bosses throughout the levels, and some “harder” enemies that take more hits than your other enemies. These often drop orange and blue striped pills which act as a power up when you have collected enough of them. You can also have two “familiars” with you, like spheres in other games that are next to you and help you with your shooting. It’s not bad, but also not very special.
Color Wars is a puzzle game very similar to Reversi, but with more depth and 4 players at a time. You can place beads of your color on a playing field of 4 by 4 by 4 means, 4 beads next to other and above each other, can be placed. You can either place a bead on a empty field, or on a bead of an enemy player, but not on your own beads. Beads of a different color between your beads will turn to your color (also in all directions), and the player which has the most beads on the fields at the end wins. It’s a simple but interesting concept, and although there is not much “action” going on, it can be rather nice to play it for a while. The nice relaxing music helps you to plan your next move. Overall the game is nice, but it might not be for everyone.
Games I disliked
The Addams Family
This game is weird, but not in a good way. As an intro, you get a still standing picture and some voice recording where you’re told you should find the family treasure vault and get anything you want from there, but they try to hinder you on the way. This game is a action platformer, means you jump and shoot, but to be honest, both of these things don’t work in the game’s favor. Except for “tiny” enemies, most of the enemies need 10 hits or more to be killed, which gets annoying very quickly, as there are also always smaller enemies like bats around you that keep you busy by flying around you in such a way so that you can’t hit them while they keep hurting you.
The jumping part is also not very good, as the mechanics are rather “slippery”. When you land on the ground, you often glide a few more steps, which makes precise jumps rather hard, and you will probably lose a life or two before you even get past the first screen. It’s also hard to figure out, such as what is just background graphics and what is going to hurt you, as there’s no obvious distinction between these things. You come in a room where three monsters walk and fly around screaming at you, and you try to avoid and shoot them, only to find out that you can’t hit them. They also don’t harm you, but then you go to another room and there’s a lamp on a table, and just by walking over to that lamp, you get damaged and suddenly a monster comes out of the lamp, which is kind of annoying.
The graphics are ok, but not very good. The sound and music is not very interesting, and instead of cutscenes, you have voice scenes, where everything just stops, and you hear an audio recording of some kind. I cannot recommend this game.
Baby Jo – The Superhero (Going home)
Although I wanted to try each and every game for an extended period of time to see if they get better or not, I really couldn’t stand this game. It was so bad that I don’t even know how to describe it. The graphics are good I guess, nice and colorful, the sound and music is ok, but the gameplay is horrible!
This platformer is extremely bad in my opinion. You don’t really “jump”, and it feels more like you “float” when you hit the jump key. You jump really slow, like gravity does not exist, and you can change direction anyway you want and even “float” back after you jumped to the front. If you get hit by an enemy you keep losing health as long as you are “hit” by the enemy. Imagine you making a jump (float) to the right and a bee is behind you. You jump as fast as the bee flies, so you basically are inside the bee on the entire jump and keep losing health which kinda is like instant death, although it might take 5-10 seconds (did I mention you jump really slow?). Let me put it like this… stay away from this game!
Battle Field '94 in Tokyo Dome
This is Japanese wrestling game in WWF style of games. I don’t like these games very much, so I can’t say much about this game. The graphics are ok, but nothing special. Characters and animations are acceptable, but once again, I don’t much care for these games.
Bazaru Degozaru no Game Degozaru
This is a puzzle game where you guide an ape through a level trying to catch the banana while avoiding obstacles, enemies or hazards. For this, you have different commands that you can use, jump, walk, or roll, and can arrange them in a box for later use. I don’t really like this game, since the graphics are very simple and not very nice to look at. The game is in Japanese only which makes it hard to understand at times.
I wanted to like this game, but after some time with a lot of frustration with this title I decided I can’t recommend it, although I played it longer than most of the other games I didn’t like. I actually played 3 of the 5 stages of the game.
You play a Mecha and walk through stages, killing minor enemies or objects, and after you have killed enough of a certain type, the boss of the stage will come and attack you. The graphics, animations and sounds are all fine. There is a little bit of parallax scrolling going on in the background, the intro and cutscenes have large animated sprites, so in all those categories, the game is nice.
Where the game lacks is in its gameplay. Your character can only shoot straight to the right the first two levels. Starting at the third level, you can turn around and also shoot to the left, but that’s about it. There is no diagonal or shooting down while jumping, or even shooting up for that matter. You can jump and duck, and if you jump twice, you activate rocket boosters that allow you to fly up and down a little, but won’t hold a height, so you will constantly go up and down, while heating up your rockets until they stop due to overheating (or you land and let them cool down).
Most of the time there are enemies flying around you, and since you can’t shoot up, you have to jump or try to hover to hit them, which normally means you hit them once or twice and then you either to high or low again and can’t hit them, but the enemies require 10 to 20 hits to kill and they respawn quickly. My guess these enemies are just there to take down your health (shield balance) and to annoy you and keep you from killing the “real enemy”. They also can just crash into you for no reason except to reduce your health, even if you kill them, and when they fall towards you you get hit anyway. Touch them and you lose health. The enemy on the other hand, can fly, jump higher and farther than you can, can actually shoot diagonal, and bosses can take up to 200 hits, while one hit from them can reduce your health up to 4 points (out of a maximum of 10). So it gets frustrating very quickly, and I’m talking way too long about it.
In this puzzle game, you have to help a guy get to his girlfriend, who was kidnapped. For this, you have to “build the land” in front of him, meaning that you need to build bridges, and move or use objects so that he can keep going. The character is constantly walking, and the screen is constantly scrolling unless you pause it, and the only thing you can do is to pick up an item and drop it somewhere else. The graphics are rather plain, the music is very repetitive, and without pausing, the gameplay is too fast to figure everything out in time. I did not like this game.
Cyber City OEDO 808
There isn’t much I can say about this game, except for it seems to be a visual novel kind of game, but since it’s completely in Japanese I can’t figure out what to do and I’m not getting anywhere in the game.