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NEC's PC-FX History
by Michael Thomasson

While NEC's Turbografx-16 was a minor player in the United States, its Japanese counterpart, the PC Engine, was a force to be reckoned with overseas. It gave Nintendo real competition and outsold even the mighty Sega. So, when NEC announced that they were releasing a sequel to the PC-Engine (TG-16) there were high expectations for the PC-FX console.

NEC initially started developing a new console to ultimately replace the PC Engine console in 1990. Originally codenamed the “Iron Man FX” and also referred to as “Project Tetsujin” the prototype board was 25MHz RISC processor with a custom developed chipset and was quite impressive for the time. Since the demand and market for PC Engine games was still very strong, NEC chose to delay the console release as to not anger PC Engine developers and publishers.

By the time December 23, 1994 rolled around, the “Iron Man FX” had been redesigned, renamed and released as the PC-FX. The console industry had evolved as well, and the transition from primarily 2D game design to 3D game design was well underway. The PC-FX's architecture was a 2D powerhouse coming of age in the new world of three-dimensional polygon graphics. While the system's architecture did allow for 3D rendering, it was hopelessly outgunned by the competition. Upon release, the 32-bit console appeared overwhelmed by other more powerful 32-bit players such as the 3DO, Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation and even Bandai's Playdia. Coupled with the five-hundred dollar price tag, NEC's PC-FX had picked a tough fight to win!

While the PC-FX was lackluster concerning 3D graphic processing, the two-dimensional specs were far superior to anything else on the market. For example, the PC-FX could decompress thirty full screen jpeg images every second. In essence, the PC-FX could play crisp full-motion video without any additional hardware at a time when other consoles required supplementary equipment just to display grainy mpeg compressed video files. In fact, other consoles could not even come close to shuffling the amount of pixels in real-time on-screen as the PC-FX, nor did they have the 16 million color palette.

NEC's console was also capable of playing audio CDs, CD+Gs and even Kodak Photo CDs. It could also be connected to NEC brand computers which allowed the computer to use the PC-FX as an external SCSI CD-rom drive.


Several accessories were made available for the PC-FX. As well as additional controllers, NEC's machine allowed for memory expansion and was also one of the first consoles to offer a mouse peripheral. The mouse allowed games such as Power Dolls and Farland Story much easier to control than with the standard controller and ultimately more enjoyable to play. Perhaps the most impressive of accessories was the NEC PC-FXGA/98IF which allowed for homebrew software, including games, to be written and shared amongst other PC-FX owners.

Physically, the PC-FX looks very different from the typical gaming system. At a time when computer gaming was hot and CD-rom technology was still young, NEC chose to make a bold statement by designing the PC-FX to look like a miniature tower computer. It even contained three expansion ports for upgrades and peripherals.

While the PC Engine had strong support with the development community, the PC-FX had very little support. To encourage more development, NEC allowed just about any content onto the console, and as a result its library is very heavy with hentai and dating simulation software. Despite the platform being so liberal with its policies, only about two-dozen software developers signed up to make games. Even more dismal is the fact that only a handful of publishers actually released games for the console. Other than NEC themselves, only Hudson Soft, Cocktail Soft, Naxat Soft and Sonnet published software for the PC-FX.

Since the console never gained acceptance within its own country of Japan, it never ventured to other markets. A total of sixty-two games were released along with four demo discs. First Kiss Story was the system's final release before being discontinued in the spring of 1998. In the four years that the PC-FX was being actively sold, it moved less than four percent of the number of units of its predecessor, the PC Engine. In total, less than 100,000 PC-FX units were manufactured and sold making it one of the more embarrassing performances of a gaming platform in the history of video games. However, its low volume and availability combined with its distinctive software library makes the console very unique and collectable.


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