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

On 08/03/2020 at 09:17 AM by Cary Woodham

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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.  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. 

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



Super Step Contributing Writer

08/03/2020 at 09:25 AM

I've always wanted to try the Bonk games. 

Cary Woodham

08/03/2020 at 09:48 PM

I really like 'em!  Not too hard, but not too easy either.  The later ones get pretty weird, though.  Especially Super Bonk on the SNES.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/03/2020 at 09:59 AM

60 games is a lot!

I remember the Bonk games being advertised. Like you, I didn't have a Turbo Grafx and I didn't know anyone who did. It looked cool... but I love my Genesis. 

These games mostly look pretty lackluster. That's probably why the console failed. 

Cary Woodham

08/03/2020 at 09:49 PM

I don't think all the TG-16 games were lackluster.  They had some hidden gems that I'll go over in the coming weeks.  I just think Nintendo had such a strong grip on things back then, that it was hard to compete with that and the upcoming Genesis.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/04/2020 at 02:30 PM

I'm curious to hear about the other games! Smile

Cary Woodham

08/05/2020 at 08:22 AM

Yeah I'll have the next blog up probably this Saturday.  Five blogs altogether stretched out through August.


08/03/2020 at 12:36 PM

Ha! I decided to play some TG16 last weekend out of the blue and the first blog I read here is about TG16. Growing up my friend had one and I tried Bonk but was never into it. I did like the portable TG16 because it played the actual games in a handheld that was as big as a brick.

I like the concept of the mini consoles because it gives folks like myself the chance to own the console with a nice library without having to hunt down the originals.

Wasn't there a Neo Geo mini as well?

Cary Woodham

08/03/2020 at 09:50 PM

There was a mini NEO GEO arcade machine, but not a mini console.  I think SNK tried to do one but dropped it.  I think.


08/03/2020 at 01:54 PM

When I was a kid I remember seeing a TG-16 display at the mall. It had Bonk set up on it and I played it a bit. I didn't know anybody who owned one. One of my favorite publishers back then, Working Designs, got its start localizing TG CD games. I've played a few TG16 games on Virtual Console, including Ys 1 & 2. The PC Engine games that grabbed my attention the most were the Tengai Makyo (Far East of Eden) games that were never localized.

Cary Woodham

08/03/2020 at 09:53 PM

A Blockbuster Music near my house back in the 90's had demo stations for all the consoles at the time, so that's where I played a lot of SEGA CD and TG-16 games I wouldn't otherwise have been able to.  The demo station where I saw Air Zonk was at a cool electronics store back then called Incredible Universe.

I was wondering if the Far East of Eden games would be on the PC Engine side of the Mini.  I know they were a popular Hudson franchise and got pretty wacky.  But they would be all in Japanese so I guess it wouldn't matter.


08/04/2020 at 06:51 AM

They aren't. Aside from the fact that they're text heavy, they were also on CD-ROM. I guess the amount of storage they needed isn't a big deal; the PS Classic had Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil. 

It's not on the TG16 Mini either, but the original Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes was on the TGCD as well, and it did get an English version.  It was the last LoH game to be localized until the Gagharv Trilogy was localized in the mid 00s for PSP.

Cary Woodham

08/04/2020 at 08:32 AM

Yeah there are some CD games on the TG-16 Mini as well.

The only other thing I know about Far East of Eden is that one of the main characters is playable in Saturn Bomberman, along with Bonk, Master Higgins, and Milon from Milon's Secret Castle.

Did you know Legacy of the Wizard has ties to the Dragon Slayer series, too?


08/04/2020 at 06:38 PM

Yeah, I knew abour LotW being part of the series. It's funny how Xanadu and Legend of Heroes spawned their own series... and the Trails subseries of Legend of Heroes is now its own meta-series... and the individual Trails arcs (Sky, Cold Steel) are their own series.

With Far East of Eden, I'm mostly a sucker for anything that's anime-styled and a RPG. I'd have been all over the Genesis Mini if they'd put Lunar and Lunar 2 on that thing.


Cary Woodham

08/05/2020 at 08:23 AM

Yeah Dragon Slayer has so many spinoffs!

The Lunar games were more of a SEGA CD thing, weren't they?


08/05/2020 at 05:25 PM

They were on Sega CD, and it was unfortunate that the Genesis Mini didn't include Sega CD games in addition to cartridge Genesis games as the TG16 Mini did. There were quite a few gems on the Sega CD like the Lunar games, Sonic CD, and Popful Mail, which was made by Nihon Falcom. Lunar's licensing is a mess, from a post I read not long ago by the guy at Working Designs who did the localizations, which is why the PS1 versions were never re-released as PSOne Classics.

Cary Woodham

08/05/2020 at 11:37 PM

I had a friend in high school who was a big SEGA fan and I played the SEGA CD a few times at his house.  Years later I know I played Popful Mail.  But it was after I graduated college and I don't remember how I played it.  I know I was at a friend's house, but that's all I can remember.


08/03/2020 at 09:34 PM

I downloaded Nectaris: Military Madness on Wii a while back. I forget the connection to Advance Wars but it plays exactly like Advance Wars. Dungeon Explorer was another one I downloaded. 

Cary Woodham

08/03/2020 at 09:54 PM

I'll be talking about Military Madness and Dungeon Explorer in upcoming blogs.


08/03/2020 at 09:55 PM

Oh cool!

Cary Woodham

08/03/2020 at 09:57 PM

I'll probably post the next one this Saturday.  I've already got the next two blogs written.

The Last Ninja

08/10/2020 at 12:27 PM

I will definitely be picking this up probably some time in the Fall. Some of these games are so obscure for the West, which I think is great that we can finally play them. Also great that they included so many Japan-only games (although they aren't translated into English, right?) 

Cary Woodham

08/11/2020 at 07:56 AM

I wonder if the TG-16 Mini will be hard to find?

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