Starting Again

Posted August 30, 2013

The ad, likely created on my electric Brother typewriter, said something like: NES, SNES, Genesis, and TurboGrafx-16 video game consoles for sale. I suggested they be bought as package deals with the dozens of games I didn’t want to try selling one-by-one. Many dozens! I had my mom post the ad at work and soon all but the TurboGrafx-16 were gone. I don’t think her coworkers knew what a TG-16 was. I probably wouldn’t have either at the time if it weren’t for Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and other magazines filling in the juicy details. Released in North American in 1989, the TG-16 barely held shelf space in the central Illinois stores I shopped in. And now, 24 years later, it’s the system I most regret selling. Of course, I regret selling them all, especially the games; I can still see the boxes taped to my bedroom door and walls.

The TG-16 was pretty flawed: the pack-in game Keith Courage in Alpha Zones stunk (at least until you transported to the underworld), one controller port, RF output (both remedied only by pricey add-ons), small work RAM, an 8-bit CPU in an emerging fully-16-bit market, hardware-limited single-layer background scrolling, mismanaged marketing and the lost potential of great games that never made it out of Japan (or arrived censored). Still, the games looked and sounded beautiful and stood apart from the competing Sega Genesis (with its classy frosted plastic box sleeves) and was two years ahead of the SNES. The Legendary Axe, Blazing Lazers, R-Type, Bonk’s Adventure, Akumajou Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, and later, CD-ROM releases like Ys, Gates of Thunder and the SuperGrafx Ghouls ‘n Ghosts.

It’s nostalgia for this system, and its fourth generation peers, that’s led me down this path again. While emulation is fun and addictive (even on a Mac), soon you’re thinking about everything from homemade MAME cabinets to professionally built ones, running frontends from this, to modest open source projects, to the insane HyperSpin (when Forbes gets a heads up you know frontends have arrived). But at some point you simply turn to eBay and start buying the stuff all over again. And tracking down those games (boxes extra). And finally considering that Neo Geo you’ve always wanted. Then begins the PCB quest.