Designed by software company Hudson Soft (Famed for the Bomberman series), financial backing was needed to put the console into production. At the same time NEC was looking for a way into the console market.
Games for the PC Engine came on credit card sized HuCards, similar to the cards that could be used on the original Master System.
Outselling the Famicom in Japan, the PC Engine went on to be a worthy competitor to the 16 bit Mega Drive and Super Famicom, despite being an 8 bit system. The custom chips meant it was still a powerful machine and the graphics were remarkable for the time. PC-Engine games have a distinct style, featuring large, colourful sprites, which still hold up well today.
A CD add-on was released two years before the Mega CD, making the PC Engine the first console capable of playing CD games. The PC Engine CD-ROM˛ received its own upgrades in the Super System Card which increased RAM to 256 KB and later the Arcade Card Pro. This increased the RAM to 2 MB, and provided the best home versions of games like Ryuko No Ken (Art Of Fighting) and Garou Densetsu (Fatal Fury) outside of their native Neo Geo.
Contributors: Ste (text & info)
Taneli Lukka from Finland comments:
The original PCE is perhaps one of the most beautiful consoles of all time and also the smallest original home console ever, only about twice the size of the standard controller. Today it is the most wanted standard PCE console for collectors and can be pretty hard to find in good condition because the white plastic easily yellows in sunlight and gets generally dirty.
A problem when using the machine outside Japan is that it only has RF output which gives a poor quality picture and most TV's outside Japan can't understand the NTSC RF signal. NEC did release a peripheral called the AV-Booster which plugs into the back of the console and gives standard RCA composite and stereo sound output. The Interface Unit required by CD-Rom2 drive also has RCA connectors built in.
All of NEC's home consoles were designed to be used with RF or composite output only. S-Video and RGB signal were never originally included altough the machines video chip outputs RGB without problems. Many collectors machines have been RGB modified. The problem with the RGB mod is that many game designers counted on the a bit fuzzy RF and composite outputs to mix colors for them: by putting two diffirent colors side by side they could create a third color or some other effect. The result is that when when using a RGB modded console some games look grainy and the colors or some effects seem a bit off. I have noticed this myself with my RGB modded PCE and prefer the composite output with a number of games.
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BUILT IN SOFTWARE / GAMES
8-way d-pad, 2 buttons + Run + Select
8 bit HuC6280A
7.16 MHz (Switchable by software to 1.79 MHz)
16 bit HuC6260 Video Color Encoder, 16 bit HuC6270A Video Display Controller
usually 256x240, 512x240 max.
512 palette, 482 on screen (241 background & 241 sprite)
6 PSG channels
SIZE / WEIGHT
HuCard slot, gamepad port
NUMBER OF GAMES
PC Engine CD-ROM˛, Super System Card, Arcade Card Pro...