The Games of the Turbo Grafx-16 Mini: Part 1

Miniature versions of classic game consoles with pre-loaded games has become very popular in the past few years.  First we got mini versions of the NES and SNES, and then SEGA came out with one for the Genesis.  And now we have the Turbo Grafx-16 Mini!  It was supposed to come out last year, but got delayed.  Because of the Corona virus, I didn’t think it would ever come out.  But a couple of months ago, I got mine in the mail!  I just now got a chance to play it, so we’ll take a look at all the games on it.  Because there are so many games (almost 60), I’ll have to split this up into several parts over the next few weeks.

The Turbo Grafx-16 was called the PC Engine in Japan, and was a joint venture from NEC and Hudson Soft.  For a while it was even more popular than the Famicom in Japan!  It was brought to the US under the name Turbo Grafx-16, but didn’t see as much success here.  I didn’t have one, and I didn’t know anyone who did.  Back then, kids usually only had one game console.  I think if I were as old as I am now as I was then, I probably would’ve gotten one, though.  It had a surprisingly good amount of decent games for it, I just didn’t know about it at the time.  Hudson Soft. was one of my favorite video game companies for a while when I was a kid, though.  But now, Hudson Soft. is owned by Konami and they kind of squelched the company.  But at least Konami released this mini console.  For a while, Hudson Soft. really supported the Wii, and a lot of their TG-16 games made it to Virtual Console, where I first discovered them.  I’m mad at Konami for pretty much destroying Hudson, but I hear that Nintendo hired off a lot of Hudson’s employees before Konami did that.  Probably because Hudson made most of the Mario Party games!

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at the mini console itself.  Here is a bigger picture of the front of the box.

And here’s the back of the box with all the games!  It’s a lot!  We’ll go over them later.

Here’s the console in my hand.  It’s a bit bigger than the other mini consoles I have, but I don’t know how much smaller it is than the real TG-16 since I never had one.  What’s weird is that you pop off nearly half of the console shell to plug in the cords!  I think you can put the cords in slots and snap back in the shell, but I was too lazy to do that.  You can’t put any cards in the slot, either, it’s just there for show.  Also the console doesn’t come with a plug for the AC adapter, so I just used the one I got for the Genesis Mini.

The game only comes with one controller, which is a bit disappointing.  But it does have turbo switches on it, not sure if the original controllers did or not.  It’s a lot like a NES controller, which I’m not a big fan of.  I didn’t fully embrace the D-pad until the SNES came along.  As soon as I got my NES, one of the first things I got for it was the NES Advantage joystick.  Anyway, here is a bigger picture of the controller.

The game menu is a lot like the other mini console menus, except you can switch between a TG-16 and a PC Engine game list.  Yeah the console has a lot of Japanese games on it, too.  When I do my lists, I’ll try to let you know if a game is Japanese.  Only other thing is that to reset back to the main menu, you have to press the select and ‘run’ buttons, which they don’t tell you about.  I just had to figure that out on my own.  Anyway, let’s take a look at a few of the games on this console.  For the first part, I’ll list the games starring familiar Hudson mascots.  Let’s begin!

PC Genjin

Bonk the big-headed cave-boy was kind of the TG-16 mascot.  In Japan, his first game was called PC Genjin because it was kind of a play on words of PC Engine and BC Kid.  But it’s a fun and simple platformer and you really don’t need to know how to read Japanese to play it. I’m surprised the mini console doesn’t have Keith Courage in the Alpha Zones on it, as that was the first TG-16 launch game.  But then, that game was based on an anime in Japan, so maybe they ran into licensing issues.  I tried to watch that anime once on YouTube, it’s really weird!

Bonk’s Revenge

So the Mini has the Japanese version of the first game, but the US release of the second game.  Strange.  Anyway, it’s just more of the same, but still fun.  I really wish this mini console included Bonk 3 as well.  That game had candies that let you shrink really small or grow really big!  It’s also too bad that Hudson was never able to release the last Bonk game, Bonk: Brink of Extinction.  I played a demo of that one year at E3, and even got a T-shirt!

Air Zonk

This is kind of a spinoff to the Bonk series.  You play as Zonk, a robotic version of Bonk from the future.  You can tell this game was made in the 90s as Zonk sports cool sunglasses, a lightning bolt on his head, and a cocky sneer.  Yeah, thanks Sonic for making every mascot in the 90s have to have an attitude.  And instead of a 2-D platformer, it’s a 2-D side scrolling shooter with silly weapons and enemies.  You can also get crazy helpers like a dump truck or a gumball machine, and combine with them for even more crazy attacks!  Graphics are colorful and the music is rockin’ and gameplay is really fast, and it’s one of the few TG-16 games that rivals the SNES, in my opinion.  I remember seeing this game at a demo station in a game store back in the day and being really impressed with it, and I also had this game on the Wii Virtual Console.  Too bad this mini console doesn’t have the Zonk sequel.

New Adventure Island

Master Higgins is another one of Hudson’s mascots.  Did you know he’s actually based on a real person?  Also there was a Master Higgins anime at one point, but it mostly focused on the invincibility fairy named Honey.  The Adventure Island games are 2-D platformers with a mostly tropical setting.  I was really impressed with the graphics when New Adventure Island first came out, but after playing it now, I’m not that impressed with it.  It’s really hard and I don’t like games where it’s one hit and you die.  Also I liked Adventure Island 2 and 3 on the NES better.  I also liked Super Adventure Island on the SNES more than this, because Yuzo Koshiro did the music for it and it’s really good!

Bomberman 93

Another one of Hudson’s big mascot characters was Bomberman.  Just as EA has yearly Madden games and Ubisoft has yearly Just Dance games, I guess for a while Hudson had yearly Bomberman games.  What’s strange is that I never really got into Bomberman.  You think I would, since it’s a single screen maze game where you run around avoiding things, and I like those.  But yeah, just never drew me in.  And I even had Super Bomberman for the SNES, but that was mainly because it came with the Multitap and I wanted it so I could play three player Secret of Mana.

Bomberman 94

I don’t know which Bomberman games came to the US and which ones didn’t on the TG-16, but this one is the Japanese version.  I think this is the first game where you could ride those kangaroo things, at least they’re on the box anyway.  This one’s also much harder, as enemies will chase you down right away!

Bomberman Panic Bomber

I’ve always wanted to play this Bomberman themed Tetris style puzzler, but I THINK the only US release it got was on the Virtual Boy, and you know I won’t play that!  But I can’t seem to figure out the rules to this one.  You match up Bomberman heads like Columns (up, down, or diagonal), but bombs only destroy other bombs.  But I must be missing something because I couldn’t get past the first opponent on Easy.  It’s all in Japanese so hopefully I’ll be able to figure out the “How to Play” section when I try it next.

Super Star Soldier

Hudson’s Star Soldier series doesn’t have a mascot character, but it is their signature 2-D vertically shooter game series, so we’ll end with the ones on the Mini.  Hudson even used Star Soldier in competitions they had in Japan.  Nothing too remarkable about this one, but it is pretty good for what it is.

Soldier Blade

This was a TG-16 Star Soldier sequel.  Just more of the same, but still pretty decent.  They had one other Star Soldier game on the TG-16, but it’s not on the Mini.  It was called Final Soldier and I had it on the Wii Virtual Console.  I also imported a PSP Star Soldier game really cheap a long time ago.

Star Parodier

This was definitely in response to Konami’s Parodius series, which was gaining steam at the time in Japan.  Too bad we didn’t get any of these games in the US.  Star Parodier has silly, colorful stages, but it’s not near as wacky as Parodius.  You can play as a cutesy Star Soldier spaceship, Bomberman, or a living PC Engine with eyes and arms and legs.  I had this on the Wii Virtual Console, too.

And I think we’ll end there for now.  During the rest of August, I’ll post four more blogs with the rest of the games on the TG-16 Mini.  Later!  –Cary

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