After resurrecting some of the most popular classic consoles of the ‘80s and ‘90s including the NES, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis, the team at Analogue is turning its attention to reviving a lesser known family of systems in the annals of retro gaming. If consoles like the TurboGrafx-16 still remain close to your heart, then the new Analogue Duo might be of interest.
If you’re unfamiliar with the TurboGrafx-16, the TurboGrafx-CD, or even the SuperGrafx, it’s not that surprising. In the ‘80s NEC was a brand known mostly in Japan for its personal computers, but after the success of Nintendo’s first console the company decided it wanted a piece of the home console market as well. It partnered with a video game publisher called Hudson Soft who brought an expertise in gaming to the partnership and together the two companies created the TurboGrafx-16, also known as the PC Engine in Japan, to capitalise on what NEC was already known for.
Although technically powered by a modified 8-bit CPU, the TurboGrafx-16 is considered the first 16-bit console and when released in 1987 in Japan it was quite successful, giving the NES, and eventually the SNES, some real competition. In North America, the story was a bit different. The TurboGrafx-16 arrived just as Nintendo was heavily promoting the forthcoming arrival of the Super Nintendo and while it was available almost everywhere the competition was, few of us remember anyone actually owning one.
Konami, who ended up buying Hudson Soft, released a miniature all-in-one version of the TurboGrafx-16 packed with over 20 games (the number varies based on the regional versions) earlier this year, but those are fine if all you’re interested in is some bite-size nostalgia. For those who truly miss the TurboGrafx-16, and still have stacks of HuCards (NEC’s cartridge format) and CD-ROMs buried in a drawer somewhere, Analogue is bringing the console back from the dead with a clone that not only works well with modern TVs, but probably outperforms the original.
As with Analogue’s past creations, the new Analogue Duo is powered by an Altera Cyclone V FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) which is a customisable chip programmed to function exactly like the processors and graphic chips in the original TurboGrafx-16. Most mini consoles rely on software emulation, but Analogue’s approach ensures that every single game ever released for a given console plays perfectly on the replicated hardware — and sometimes even better. In addition to the original TurboGrafx-16, the Analogue Duo can play games from the SuperGrafx (an enhanced version of the TG-16), and the TurboGrafx-CD as its design is loosely based on the NEC TurboDuo (introduced in North America in 1992) which merged the TurboGrafx-16 and the TurboGrafx-CD into one unit with slots for both cartridges and CDs.
One of the best features of the new Analogue Duo is that in addition to an original TurboGrafx-16 port and USB for connecting wired controllers, the new console features both Bluetooth and wireless 2.4GHz connectivity built right in so up to four controllers can easily be connected without the need for wrangling dongles or having to first connect a wireless receiver to one of the console’s ports. Analogue expects the Duo to arrive sometime in 2021 and it will launch with a $US200 ($283) price tag, although that doesn’t include the matching wireless controller from 8BitDo.
One of the more interesting pieces of gaming hardware NEC released was the TurboExpress Handheld Entertainment System. Unlike the original Game Boy, or even the Game Boy Advance, the TurboExpress played the exact same games as the TurboGrafx-16 did by natively loading the console’s HuCard cartridges via a slot in the back of the portable. As handheld consoles go, the TurboExpress was well ahead of its time with a colour screen and 16-bit graphics, and an experience that Analogue plans to recreate with its own portable gaming machine: The Analogue Pocket.
It is also slated to arrive sometime in 2021 and will have a cartridge adaptor available allowing it to natively load and play games from TurboGrafx-16 HuCards, just like the original TurboExpress did. That includes games compatible with the enhanced SuperGrafx console too, but not the TurboGrafx-CD given the Pocket’s lack of a disc drive. It will be priced at just $US30 ($42) which means that if you’ve already pre-ordered the Analogue Pocket the cartridge adaptor could be a much cheaper alternative to the Analogue Duo for enjoying classics like Bonk’s Adventure, R-Type, and Splatterhouse again.