Alright, we’ve established on multiple occasions that the PC Engine and its American counterpart the TurboGrafx-16 (including its multiple add-ons and redesigns like the Turbo Duo, the CoreGrafx, etc.) were the greatest consoles ever released. Right?

Right?

Good. Glad you’re on board.

“But John,” you ask, “If these consoles were so good [which they were], why didn’t they ever receive a successor?” Well, my simple-minded friends, that would be a good question…if it wasn’t so absurdly stupid. You see, the PC Engine family of consoles did indeed receive a successor; at least in Japan. The heir to the NEC/Hudson console dynasty came in the form of the PC-FX, a machine that looked like a mini PC tower and consisted of a small library of games that were heavily inspired by anime and, in a few cases, hentai. In fact, this latter trait is one that is unfortunately most often associated with the console. Inevitably, when one brings up the PC-FX, it is immediately met with a response that goes something like, “The PC-FX? Isn’t that the console that had all those dating sims and nudie games?”

Okay, so there were a few of those. Maybe more than a few. Maybe if you had a stack of PC-FX games sitting in front of you and you randomly grabbed one, chances are the objective of that game would be to get a girl to take off her clothes and blow you. But here’s a tip: if you’re talking to a PC-FX aficionado, don’t lead with that subject. They tend to get a bit indignant.

Now that we’ve discussed the white elephant in the room, let’s get down to business. The PC-FX is an incredibly unique system with games unlike nearly any other console I’ve owned. The design of the unit is super-cool and I love having it around simply for it’s “neat-o!” factor.

But that’s just me and my opinion. Here are some facts:

1) The PC-FX was a 32-bit system released in late 1994, only in Japan.
2) It used only CD-ROMs, ditching the Hu-Cards from the PC Engine.
3) It had a six-button controller that looked like the PC Engine controller mated with that of the Saturn.
4) Instead of buying it as a full console, you could by a PC-FX card for your PC. Cool, eh?
5) The console was designed to be the ultimate 2D platform, resulting in it being severely underpowered when compared to the PlayStation and Saturn.
6) Just over sixty titles were released for the PC-FX

Those are the basic facts about the console itself. We should probably get down to talking about the games. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that most of the games require either some significant knowledge of the Japanese language, or a pretty in-depth walkthough/FAQ. This is really too bad, as there are some pretty incredible games in the PC-FX’s library, especially if you’re a fan of anime. The bulk of the library consists of RPGs, strategy games, and adventure titles, and there is also a series of six digital magazines called “Anime Freak FX”, which feature game demos, anime previews and news, and interviews with popular anime personalities. Sadly, little of this is of any use to the non-Japanese speaking American gamer. So with that in mind, I’d like to run down a list of the handful of games that are actually quite playable – and enjoyable – despite the fact that you may not speak or read a lick of Japanese.

Tyoushin Heiki Zeroigar (Super God Trooper Zeroigar)

One of the best titles for PC-FX is also, sadly, the sole shmup for the console. While the PC Engine and PC Engine Duo saw dozens of fantastic shooters, the PC-FX saw only Zeroigar. Even more disappointing is that Zeroigar is only average-at-best for its genre. Like most of PC-FX titles, Zeroigar has a thick anime theme, and in fact the anime cut scenes are more impressive than the game itself.

Now, that’s not to say Zeroigar is a bad game. In fact, it is quite enjoyable. In addition to the standard story mode, there is a second mode that allows you to chose your character as you bust through the galaxy. There is also a nifty “caravan” mode, where the objective is to blast your way through a level in two minutes, racking up as many points as you can along the way.

However, in Zeroigar, the emphasis seems to be on story. As a result, the power-ups aren’t very interesting, and only in the secondary modes do the enemies and bullet patterns become creative. Sadly, the game doesn’t come close to comparing to classic PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 titles like Lords of Thunder or Blazing Lazers.

Chip Chan Kick

Did you like Parasol Stars on the PC Engine? Are you a Bubble Bobble fan in general? If so, Chip Chan Kick is probably going to be the PC-FX’s best game for you. Starring two young girls (of course) named “Chip” and “Chap”, Chip Chan Kick plays a lot like the aforementioned games, though with – again – a massive emphasis on anime.

I had heard about this title for years, being told it was in fact an even better game than Parasol Stars. As that’s one of my favorite games of all time, I had high hopes. However, while Chip Chan Kick is indeed a fun game with great music and bright and beautiful graphics, I still prefer Parasol Stars. That game allowed you to grab onto downed enemies and items, while it seems Chip Chan Kick simply allows you to kick them, making the game much more difficult. That said, it’s a great deal of fun and one of the best games on the platform. Again: no Japanese required.

Kishin Doji Zenki: Vajura Fight

Based on the manga/anime, Zenki is a side-scrolling beat-em-up that plays a lot like the 16-bit games in the genre. If you’ve seen the anime, the game is almost as though they took an episode and plugged in some fighting segments. The controls are spotty and can be frustrating, but there are some incredible animation effects going on that make Zenki well worth seeking out. Be warned, though: the game fetches insane prices on eBay. More on that later…

Battle Heat and Tengai Makyo Karakuri Kakutoden

I’m lumping these two games together because they are so similar in style. Both Battle Heat and Tengai Makyo Karakuri Kakutoden bill themselves as fighting games, but I guarantee they play nothing like any fighter you’ve ever played. Rather than having two controllable figures on the screen, a la Street Fighter, the player takes control of an animated fight sequence. Button combos result in different scenes playing out, meaning rather than hitting a button and seeing your character fight, you’ll input a button combination and watch the scene unfold. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of what’s going on it’s actually surprisingly entertaining; almost as though you’re controlling the fight scene in a gorgeous anime.

Tengai Makyo Karakuri Kakutoden is based on the popular Tengai Makyo (Far East of Eden) RPG series, so if you’ve ever been interested in those games, this might be a good way to get a taste.

Pia Carrot He Youkoso!! (Welcome to Pia Carrot)

Until recently, this game wasn’t playable without knowing a buttload of Japanese. Fortunately, some dedicated folks have just completed a full translation of the game, making it playable with a simple patch.

Okay, so this is one of those nudie games masquerading as a “dating sim”. The premise of the game is actually pretty interesting and despite its simplicity, Pia Carrot is pretty entertaining…as long as you’re down with the occasional graphic sex scene. Yeah…that shit’s a bit weird. Nevertheless, guiding your character through his summer job, building up his stats, and interacting with the other characters is fairly entertaining. And hell, you can probably bust through the story in just over an hour. Fortunately, the game has multiple endings depending on the choices you make, which makes it perfect for multiple play-through. Plus…you wanna see all of the chicks naked at some point, don’t you, perv?

Other…

Unfortunately, those are the only games that you can really get through easily without any knowledge of Japanese. However, there are a few others that are worth checking out, though you’ll need either an FAQ or just a bit of patience.

Team Innocent: The Point of No Return

This is the first PC-FX game I ever played, and I managed to make it quite far using this FAQ. It’s sort of an anime/survival horror/sci-fi game starring (yet again) a trio of hot anime chicks. The controls are a bit clumsy, but still a decent time and relatively cheap to buy.

Super Power League FX

Part of the popular Power League series, this game is actually pretty decent. However, like most baseball games, there are scores of menus to sift through, which can be a bit tricky if you can’t read the language.

Last Imperial Prince

This is actually quite a cool game, spanning two discs. The game reminds me a lot of the NES classic Faxanadu, which is one of my favorites. Last Imperial Prince is an Action-RPG with lots of swordplay, though the mechanics do get a bit repetitive after a while.

***

That about covers our basic PC-FX primer. However, you’re probably wondering, “How do I get my hands on one of these things and these oddly interesting games?” Well, the answer is tricky. Getting your hands on a console is quite easy, as they’re readily available for between $100 and $200 on eBay. And, if you don’t feel like picking up a console, the Magine-Engine FX is a nice emulator.

The games are a bit more difficult to find, at least for decent prices. Games like Team Innocent and Battle Heat are ridiculously abundant and you should have no trouble finding them for under $20-$30. However, the real gems like Zeroigar, Chip Chan Kick, and Zenki are far more expensive, going from anywhere between $100 to $300.

I will say this, however: once you have a PC-FX, if you’d like to dip your toe in before spending scads of loot on games that you may not enjoy, sampling them is very easy. Google, as usual, is your friend.

The most valuable resource on the internet for PC-FX information continues to be PCEngineFX.com. Particularly, the section called PC-FX World. Here you’ll find reviews, screenshots, cover scans, and more. In addition, the PCEngineFX Forums are filled with friendly folks happy to answer your PC-FX questions.

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3 Responses to PC-FX: A Brief Primer for the American Gamer

  1. Zinswin says:

    I’ve never heard of one of these and will never own one of these, but damn, I kinda want to now. John, you have written a Satanically wonderful article.

  2. carrotpanic says:

    Great article, John!

  3. DaSpazo says:

    I need to get my Duo fixed. Thank you for the article John it is nice to hear that others try to stumble their way through a heavy japanese game to. Ever try CyberKnight for the PC-E I gave up and sold it way before ever seeing a FAQ for it.

    Hopefully they have more to play then Battle Heat on the PC-FX at MGC this year. (I’m not complaining)

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