US Turbo Duo Box['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles NEC's console: The Turbo Duo]

A Hell of a Life

I admit that while writing this column, I have been woefully negligent of one system for far too long. This console was released in October of 1992 in the US and died in December of 1995, enjoying hardly more than three years of life. If you could even call it a life. NEC and Hudson’s Turbo Duo was the dream of many young, broke gamers but the possession of few.

The Sega CD was released the same month and was technically inferior to the Turbo Duo. But the established market of Genesis owners and the deep pockets of Sega helped to crush the Duo. Of course, considering how poorly the Sega CD did anyways, "crushing" may not be the best description.

Bonk, NOT Johnny TurboThe PC-Genjin

It is a little unfair to start with the Duo though. The original console was the TurboGrafx-16, which was released about three years earlier in 1989 for the US. In 1987, the PC Engine was released in Japan, one year prior to even the Sega Genesis. The console also saw an extremely small release in 1990 in Europe as the Turbografx. If you’re lost, the PCE and TG16 are the same thing in a different plastic housing.

To help sell their system, Hudson Soft and NEC needed a mascot. Sega was promoting their system with Sonic and his "attitude," so the TG16 tried to cash in on their ornery little cave man, Bonk. (In Japan, Bonk was known as PC Genjin, which was not only a pun. "Genjin" functionally translates into "primitive man.") It worked well, and early sales of the system were strong in the US.

It didn’t last long though. The early sales were quickly killed by the Genesis, and the TG16 was taking a back seat to even the original Nintendo Entertainment System by 1991. Shortly after that, the TurboGrafx CD add-on was released and doing abysmally, with only five games released during its six-month life span.

Japanese PCE Duo. Looks just like mine, but its not. I don't have mine here right now. Perhaps later. Seriously, it looks just like mine does
But the Soul Still Burns

By late '92, NEC is ready to release the total package of TG16 plus TGCD, with a few additional bits, as the Turbo Duo. Sales started off decent, and brought back some interest to the dying platform. For $299, you received six CD bundled games and one random Turbo Chip (also known as the HuCARD, which is a thin card on which games are stored). The system could take full advantage of every game previously released for NEC consoles as well as Super CD games, which otherwise required a special card to be played with a TGCD.

But by next year's holiday season, the system was scarce, and by '94, it was almost impossible to find one. The system was dead in 1995. Dead in America, that is. The US only saw about 75 CD games; Japan got over 270. Of the 300 plus HuCards that were released in Japan, the US hardly received 100. The PC Engine saw new games all the way into 1999, even though the US branch had completely shut down four years earlier.

This system intimidated and eluded me for years. On all corners of the internet, amazing things were whispered about this rare and haunting console from my youth. It wasn't until after I had finally acquired one of the most coveted games for the PCE CD that I finally ended up breaking down and purchasing the Japanese CD behemoth. That was a few years ago, and there's still so, so much to catch up on.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer’s Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]