TurboGrafx-16 Mini Live Scorecard (Updated May 23, 44 of 52 Games Reviewed)


This is the live scorecard for all 52 unique games in the TurboGrafx-16 Mini from Konami. The TurboGrafx-16 Mini will ship May 22, 2020. Pre-Order now from Amazon. Supplies could be limited for those who fail to pre-order. A review copy was supplied for this feature.

Each game will receive a YES! or a NO! from me. For the TurboGrafx-16 Mini to receive the IGC Seal of Approval, it must go 20 for 52 ($5 per quality game). UDPATE: It got it!

I’m going in alphabetical order based on the each game’s US name.

NOT ALL GAMES ARE IN ENGLISH

Over half the games are from the Japanese PC Engine library regardless of which region TG-16 Mini you purchase. The games for PC Engine, Super CD-ROM², and SuperGrafx are NOT translated into English. Included after every review for games from those Japanese platforms will be a rating of how much Japanese you need to know in order to enjoy the game. Ratings will be: None, Low, Medium, High, and Fluency or some combination of them.

UPDATED MAY 21, 2020, 46 OF 52 GAMES IN

Current Score
Yes: 26
No: 20
Remaining: 6 to play, 8 to review.
Needs to win IGC Seal of Approval: 20 of 54

The TurboGrafx-16 Mini is Chick-Approved!

Air Zonk
Genre: Shmup
1992 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Red Company

Apparently NEC/Hudson decided the real reason their console wasn’t catching on in the United States (in Japan it out-paced the Genesis, there known as the Mega Drive, by a healthy margin) was because having a caveman mascot wasn’t going to appeal to hip 90s kids like Sega’s Sonic did. Yes, that must be the reason. I mean, it’s not like another company was a global phenomena riding the coattails of a fat Italian plumber. Anyway, so they ‘tuded up Bonk, now named ZONK because “Z” is the most “hip” and “with-it” letter in the English language. While E and S and R and all the other letters you get automatically if you’re playing the bonus round in Wheel of Fortune are good little letters, Z is cutting class to smoke cigarettes and shoplift girly magazines from gas stations. The cool kids love Z. Too bad ZZZZZZZZonk is just a very bland quirk shmup instead of, you know, a platformer. This seems like a misguided choice. Also, in Japan the game was littered with poo jokes, all of which are censored in this version. There’s a VERY nice variety of weapons and options (options here are partners that you can merge with), but the bright, cartoony visuals make the bullets hard to see sometimes.
Verdict: NO!

Aldynes
Genre: Shmup

1991 SuperGrafx
Developed by Produce!

Produce! is responsible for contributing to some big gaming IPs. They did Bomberman games for the SNES (all one but in the US & Japan) and Neo Geo, along with a fighting game I very vaguely remember renting for the N64 as a kid: Dual Heroes. Which I had to struggle to remember if I was thinking of it or Dark Rift. I think I got both the same weekend. Either way, Produce! apparently only shut down in 2015 but I can’t find anything they did after 1998. Maybe they should have stuck to Bomberman, because Aldynes is a poor-man’s Gradius knock-off. Among the problems is you can get weapons that shoot two lasers diagonally. That’d be fine if you still also shot straight ahead of you, but you don’t. Eventually you do get a Contra-style spread gun that’s pretty bad-ass, but other problems crop-up, like enemies coming behind you in a way where you can’t possibly get in front of them to shoot. Aldynes is another just very bland shooter. Not bad, but too bland to recommend. Also, this is supposed to use a more advanced graphics chip than normal TG-16 games, but it sure doesn’t look it.
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: Very Low

Alien Crush
Genre: Video Pinball
1989 PC Engine*
Developed by Compile

This one got a lot of hype thrown at me, but being a launch title for the US TG-16 release, my expectations were much lower than everyone else’s. Which is probably why I liked it more. Video pinball has come a long ways since this hit in 1988, and the physics are very, very imprecise. I’m spoiled by Pinball FX3 and Pinball Arcade at this point, and going back to “living ball” physics and segmented flippers where the ball doesn’t behave anything like a real ball would is irksome. But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun. As far as I can tell, there’s only one table, which wasn’t unusual for the time. That table consists of two screens, like Nintendo Pinball before it. But, at least the physics are little better here, the scoring is MUCH more balanced (in fact, the fine-tuned scoring is what put this over-the-top for me), and the bonus rooms are much more fun. A pinball game finally put the TG-16 Mini on the scoreboard. Go figure.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: None
*Despite being listed among the TG-16 releases, the Japanese PC Engine port is included.

Appare! Gateball
Genre: Sports
1988 PC Engine
Developed by Azuma

I have no clue who Asuma is and I’d never heard of Gateball until I started this project. As far as I can tell, this is the only game by Azuma, ever. As far as Gateball, it’s like a Japanese version of croquet, better known as “that lawn game that uses the hammers and colored balls that you always see being sold at garage sales.” The Japanese variation is basically the same idea, only it’s a team game with a 30 minute time limit. Also, there’s an out-of-bounds area, and if you conk someone’s ball, you can send that ball flying out of bounds and get another turn. Scoring by passing through a gate also counts as a point, and the winning team is the one with the most points at the end. Mechanically, it’s sorta like video golf, where you swing by stopping a meter. Now, maybe in Japan, where lawns are more rare than in the United States, this makes sense to make into a video game. But COME ON, why is this in the TG-16 mini when there were so many other options? It’s not that Appare! is horrible. It’s simply dumb and boring, and if you were remotely interested in this, you probably own a real croquet set anyway.
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: Low-Medium

Blazing Lazers
Genre: Shmup
1989 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Compile

Compile had a successful run before going bankrupt in 2003. They gave the world Puyo Puyo, a series which is still popular to this day. And really, given the fact the first two games to score a YES! verdict during this project were theirs suggests to me that they probably pretty talented. Blazing Lazers was a high-enough prospect game that it was almost chosen over Keith Courage in Alpha Zone (not chosen for the TG-16 Mini, oddly enough.. I guess they felt we’d rather play Japanese video croquet) to be the pack-in title for the TurboGrafx-16 in the United States, but was rejected because side-scrolling games were the most popular genre in America at the time. In Japan, the game is known as Gunhed and is based on a 1989 movie that came out on Brian’s 6th birthday (and four days before I was born). It’s just a shmup, but a solid, tarted-up one with tons of weapons, all of which can be upgraded themselves. It’s not really original but it’s good to easily score a point. I had fun.
Verdict: YES!

Bomberman ’93
Genre: Action-Arcade
1993 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Hudson Soft

In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t provided with a secondary controller. The good folks at RetroBit did suggest the six-button Genesis controller and even tried to work with me on it, but it turns out only the wireless one will be compatible (after some adjustments) with the Mini. I have the wired one. So, Bomberman ’93 and Bomberman ’94, games that most people would only want for multiplayer. Yes, you can buy a relatively expensive mulit-tap accessory JUST for these games (I think it’s just for these two), but you’d be insane to do so. Bomberman is known for being somewhat dull as a solo experience, and Bomberman ’93 comes close to reinforcing that perception. It’s not bad. It’s fine, but it short doses. Here, stages are single-screened and limited to one item, and levels continue until you beat all the enemies and uncover the exit. It’s slow, but not the worst thing ever.
Verdict: YES!

Bomberman ’94
Genre: Action-Arcade
1993 PC Engine
Developed by Hudson Soft

Now THIS is more like it. In fact, this is one of the best games on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. Here, levels are limited to more than just a screen, and end when you shatter all the crystals that open up the exit. You don’t have to slog through breaking ever brick, and in fact, you’re rewarded by clearing as few bricks as possible. Upon clearing stages, they turn into coins and you have fifteen seconds to collect them all. You get more power-ups each stage, including the ability to ride a kangaroo that can hop over the bricks. Everything about this version’s single-player is better. Faster. Better controls. Better graphics. By the way, this is known as Mega Bomberman on the Genesis/Mega Drive, but wasn’t included on the Genesis Mini. This is the first time I feel a game truly worthy of being included in a “best-of” has arrived on this mini so far.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: Very Low

Bomberman: Panic Bomber
Genre: Falling-Block Puzzler
1994 Super CD-ROM²
Developed by Hudson Soft

I’m a huge fan of games like Tetris (in fact, Tetris 99 was my 2019 Game of the Year), Puyo Puyo, Panel De Pon (coming to Switch next week!), Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo, etc. My friends, family, and Twitter followers were almost forced to stage an intervention on my Tetris 99 play. Even as a kid, I was a big fan of generic gas station $10 PS1 games like Puzzle Star Sweep. So, even though I wasn’t experienced with Panic Bomber, which is far more popular in Japan than it ever was stateside, I was stoked for this. And I was let-down. Panic Bomber might be the most boring falling block-puzzler I’ve ever played outside of mobile or crappy flash-based web ones. Here, you’re supposed to line up three of the same colored Bombermen blocks. Along the way, you’ll also be given black bombs, which do nothing, and red bombs, which detonate bombs that explode in an eight-way direction. Black bombs are also the garbage blocks your opponent sends over. Detonating them really doesn’t do anything except remove them from the playfield. As far as I can tell, you only get credit for combos you pull off using the mutli-colored Bombermen heads. Panic Bomber is like a really slow, boring version of Puyo Puyo that handles its garbage blocks differently. Not “interesting differently” but rather “this is the best we could come up with so we could get some of that sweet, sweet Tetris money differently.”
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: Low

Bonk’s Adventure
Listed as PC Genjin
Genre: Platformer
1989 PC Engine
Developed by Red Entertainment/Atlus

Here it is: the killer app of the United States version of the TurboGrafx-16. And, all we get is the Japanese version, because reasons. (Actually, there IS a reason but I can’t talk about it. Rest assured, it’s absolutely silly!) Make no mistake, this was THE reason to own a TurboGrafx-16. Sadly, it wasn’t avaiable at launch. In fact, issues with manufacturing, distribution, and an industry-wide chip shortage led to the TG-16 not launching in the United States until August of 1989.. two weeks after the Sega Genesis launched in the United States. The Genesis was a true 16-bit console, whereas the TurboGrafx-16, like the name suggests, was 8-bit. The “16” came from its graphics processor, which was designed by Hudson Soft with the intent of selling it to Nintendo, who passed on it. While the TurboGrafx-16 could display more moving objects, colors, and slightly larger sprites than the NES (far and away the most popular console in the United States), it was still a major step down from the Genesis, which costs $10 less than NEC’s TG-16. Thus, the TurboGrafx was rendered obsolete and more expensive than the other new kid on the block. The final nail in the coffin was there was no must-have system seller at the TG-16’s launch. What was popular in Japan at the time was not as popular in the United States. Blazing Lazers was a fine piece of a software, but shmups were niche stateside. Of the four launch titles, Keith Courage in Alpha Zone (which was actually based on the anime Mashin Hero Wataru and heavily modified for US release) was chosen over Blazing Lazers, Legendary Axe, Power Golf, and Victory Run to be the pack-in game. The truth is, none of them could have competed with the NES or Genesis.

Bonk was deliberately designed to have a similar opening level to Super Mario 1 but show off more colors in the first static screen than the entire NES library has in it. Screenshot via Obscure Games & Consoles

Bonk absolutely could have, but it didn’t release in Japan until four months after the US launch of the TG-16, and in fact, it didn’t make it to America until sometime in 1990. When it did, NEC based all the marketing of the TurboGrafx-16 around Bonk. It probably saved the console from becoming a footnote in US gaming history and eventually sold around a million units in the US. When the TurboDuo launched, it came with a 4 in 1 CD that included a copy of Bonk’s Adventure and Bonk’s Revenge (up next). And yea, this is certainly one of the better games on the console. By the standards of today, it has very bland level design. You mostly just walk right and jump a little, while the occasional swimming section is Mario 1-esq “tight squeeze” sections. The head-butting mechanics are genuinely satisfying, even if I wish they had a little more “oomph” to them and felt more impactful. Bonk 1 feels like a really good proof-of-concept more than a fleshed-out game, but it’s still pretty okay.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Required: Very Low

Bonk’s Revenge
Genre: Platformer
1991 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Red Entertainment/Mutech

Bonk’s Revenge takes the mascot that was to be the killer app for the TG-16 and fully realizes its potential. In fact, Bonk’s Revenge is so fun that I’m kind of surprised the character faded into obscurity. Maybe he’ll make a comeback in Smash Bros. Here, the levels are much-more varied and layered. The first level sees you vertically climb up a series of waterfalls, followed by traversing volcanos and riding rocks around. If the TG-16 had caught on to the degree that the SNES/Genesis did, the Mario v Sonic v Bonk debate would have been very interesting when Revenge was thrown in the mix (it released roughly the same time Super Mario World did in the United States). From what I can gather, by time the Super NES hit shelves, the TG-16 had priced itself completely out of the market and Bonk never stood a chance. Such a shame. One of the best games in the collection, easily.
Verdict: YES!

Cadash
Genre: Arcade Platformer-Adventure
1991 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Taito

My longtime readers know that I push a very high premium on action games that involve swinging weapons (or fists) feeling impactful. Cadash is one of those games where it feels like you hold a stick in front of you until enemies blink out of existence. That’s assuming you select the Warrior. I also tried using the Ninja, who throws ninja stars at enemies, and they’re even worse, slower, and less responsive. Cadash is pretty abysmal by any standard, past or present. The jumping physics feel like you’re being crushed by the weight of gravity. The level layout can lead to situations where you’re trapped underwater (which causes damage) and the time you “blink” is so low and the recoil from damage so violent that the only way you can escape is to turn your back to the platforms to climb out of the water and let the recoil from damage bounce you out of the water. I tried the arcade port on MAME and it’s not better. This is just a horrible all-around game.
Verdict: NO!

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
Listed as Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rond
Genre: Action-Platformer
1993 Super CD-ROM²
Developed by Konami
HIDDEN FEATURE: Highlight Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rond on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini game select menu, hold down”Select” and press start or button 1 to load “Stage X”, a 20-second long Castlevania satire.

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood isn’t debuting stateside with the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, but still, its inclusion in this collection is a very welcome one. Probably THE all-time icon of Japanese-only imports, Rondo was the reason many Castlevania mega-fans of the 90s imported PC CD ROMs (or modded their American consoles) just to play it. Is it worth it? Oh yeah. I keep myself capped at one-hour per-game during these blitzes, and I’m honoring that here, but as soon as I finish this entry I’ll be going back to finish the game tonight. It’s probably best to think of Rondo as the last “great” old-school Castlevania before the series became the “Vania” part of “Metroidvania.” There was a Super NES remake (Dracula X) but it’s considered a hatchet job by most fans. Rondo isn’t exactly complex or nuanced. It’s just a very tarted-up NES-style linear Castlevania. But, it’s damn fun. My one complaint is it might have the most underwhelming, borderline embarrassing sound effects ever. Rockin’ soundtrack to make-up for it though. Also, while the action is intuitive and playable, you need Japanese to follow the story. Gameplay’s king, so if you NEED to know the always crappy Castlevania story, go to the Wikipedia page.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: Low

Chew Man Fu
Genre: Action-Arcade
1990 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Now Production

Yet another pleasant surprise sleeper for the TG-16 Mini. The name sounds like it belongs to a horrible karate game, but actually Chew Man Fu is a clever top-down action game where you have to place four colored balls on their corresponding pedestals. You can push the balls forwards, backwards, and around corners both ways. You can also kick them to defeat enemies or to break walls down. The wall-breaking mechanic is sometimes needed to reveal the location of the pedestals. It’s sort of like a more puzzlely, actiony version of Pac-Man in the sense that all the tension comes from a variety of enemies that give chase to you. There’s a learning curve to angling the balls around corners, and the kicked balls can actually send you flying backwards into the path of enemies. But, Chew Man Fu is original, fun, and unlike any game I’ve played before. A sleeper for sure.
Verdict: YES!

China Warrior
Listed as The Kung-Fu
Genre: Auto-Scroll Action
1987 PC Engine
Developed by Hudson Soft

Take the black box NES game Kung Fu, turn it into an auto-scroller, and then make the character sprites take up nearly the size of the screen and you’ll have China Warrior. Easily one of the worst games in the TurboGrafx-16 mini, it’s a slow and very clunky sort of reflex-brawler. Waves of enemies walk towards you and you either punch, kick, duck and punch (no duck-kicking here) or jump. I’d never played Kung-Fu until this morning, but knowing I’d be playing China Warrior, I fired up an emulator to give it a try and it was.. okayish. Super repetitive and lacking in variety besides the bosses, but at least it felt fast-paced and it was satifying to kick enemies in the face. China Warrior’s large-sprites do nothing for me as the violence all feels very feathery and unimpactful. There’s also issues with projectiles that can come at you in angles that you can’t reasonably be expected to dodge (there’s a slight lag in movement) or defend against. It feels like the game only exists to show off how large character sprites could be on the PC Engine versus the NES. And, hey, look at the huge characters! Great! Is it fun? No. So who gives a shit that it has screen-sized characters?
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: Very Low

Cho Aniki
Genre: Shmup
1992 Super CD-ROM²
Developed by Masaya Games

It took me less than ten seconds of gameplay.. maybe as little as five seconds.. for me to lose all my lives and game over the first time playing Cho Aniki (literally translated to “older brother” or “big brother”). This fever-dream-like shooter puts you in the middle of action right at the start where enemies are coming at you in an angle that you have to immediately move or die WHILE THE SCREEN IS FADING IN! That type of cheap “gotcha” gameplay is inexcusable. Once you do start to dodge, you’ll find yourself in a surreal shmup that has very loose movement and one-hit kills that require restarts instead of respawns. It also has some absurdly spongy bosses. While fighting the first boss, I found a “safe spot” where I could camp without risk of its bullets hitting me, while also having a clean shot at its weak spot. I had to hold the fire button down for over 30 seconds pumping bullets into it before it died. One of the worst shmups I’ve ever played. I’m sure people will fawn over it because it’s “weird” and “surreal” but it’s not fun at all and that’s all that should matter.
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: Very Low

Dragon Spirit
Genre: Shmup
1988 PC Engine
Developed by Namco

A no-frills port of the 1987 dragon-themed arcade shmup. I’ve never been a fan of Dragon Spirit no matter what platform it’s on, and this is no exception. Dragon Spirit does that “shoot things on the same plane as you with one type of bullet while attacking things on the ground with another type” thing. Sometimes that works, but the blending of those enemies, the placement of them, and the lag of switching between weapons is too clunky in Dragon Spirit. It always has been. I wish the “attack the ground” weapon had range. It doesn’t, and so you practically have to hug the enemies you’re bombing. But ultimately, I’ve just always found Dragon Spirit to be too slow, cheap, and boring to have fun with. Never understood how this has fans.
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: NoneVery Low

Dungeon Explorer*
Genre: Action-RPG
1989 TurboGrafx-16 & PC Engine
Developed by Atlus
*Both the US and Japanese versions are included in the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. Only the US version was played for this feature.

Take Gauntlet style action, with huge waves of enemies and destructible monster generators that spawn them and mix in some too-serious-for-its-own-good RPG elements and you get Dungeon Explorer. Ideally, you’re supposed to play this with five players. At this point I’ll note that 99% of USB controllers won’t work with the TG-16 Mini. My friends at RetroBit actually tested many of their controllers and only the six-button WIRELESS Genesis controller worked. So, you’ll need to invest in at least $100 worth of extra controllers PLUS a $30 “multi-tap” adapter to fit all five controllers. Normally, I say that wouldn’t help the game in question, but in the case of Dungeon Explorer, I’m guessing even a second player would have come in quite handy. As a solo experience, the game is plodding, the enemies too spongy and too numerous to deal with. They shoot projectiles without enough (or sometimes ANY) warning, which drain health too quickly. There’s a staggering amount of characters (especially for the era) to choose from with a wide range of unique attributes, but again, you need to pay to play. I was only provided one controller, and as a single-player experience, Dungeon Explorer was an unfair chore.
Verdict: NO!

Fantasy Zone
Genre: Arcade Shooter
1988 PC Engine
Developed by Sega
HIDDEN FEATURE: Highlight Fantasy Zone on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini’s menu, hold down “Select” and press run or button 1 to load the “near arcade perfect” version of Fantasy Zone instead of the normal PC Engine version.

Fantasy Zone is Sega’s take on Defender. It’s probably the result of someone playing Defender about five minutes after having taken LSD. It’s a surreal, colorful version but with a similar principle. Here, instead of “defending” humanoids, you’re tasked with taking out specific enemies that look sort of like mutant Pac-Mans. There’s a crude map on the bottom of the screen that tells you where you’re at on the stage and which screens have the things you have to kill. Every enemy drops coins that you can spend in shops to upgrade your weapon, maneuverability, etc. Fantasy Zone does get carried away with having an overwhelming amount of enemies at times, but it’s still a fun, fast-paced take on Defender. Perfectly decent time-waster.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: None

Galaga ’88
Genre: Arcade Gallery Shooter
1988 PC Engine
Developed by Namco

I rolled my eyes when I saw yet another fucking Galaga game was included in the TG-16 Mini lineup. My Dad recently bought the $199.99 Arcade 1Up countertop Galaxian/Galaga arcade thingy (he only paid $69.99 on clearance at Target literally right before the Covid19 thing happened) and it could very well be the biggest waste of money that didn’t involve gambling or rum he’s ever done. Not that those are bad games, but they’re EVERYWHERE! Did we really need yet another Galaga re-release? Sigh, well, yeah, I guess we did. I won’t call Galaga ’88 amazing or anything, but it’s a fun variation of this very tired arcade/classic game collection staple. It has a lot more variety, scales better, and tires less quickly. It’s genuinely good for more than just short bursts of gameplay, which is pretty much the only thing the original Galaga is still good for (that and rendering the original build of Space Invaders completely irrelevant from a gameplay value perspective). So hey, good job including this, Konami. And hey, Namco, how come you aren’t doing more with this? How come that $200 ($70, still too much) paperweight my Dad brought home like a dope doesn’t have THIS (or especially its arcade counterpart) on it?
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: None

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Listed as Daimakaimura
Genre: Punisher-Platformer
1990 SuperGrafx
Developed by Capcom/NEC Avenue

Once I finish playing through the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, I’ll be retro-blitzing through the SNES Classic and the Genesis Mini as well, and then pit these classic gaming solutions against each-other in IGC Retro Bowl IV: 1991 School-Yard Battle Royale. The interesting thing about that is there’s exactly one game, and one game only, that will be common among all three mini consoles: Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Maybe deservingly so, in terms of name recognition. It’s one of the biggest franchises that’s specifically associated with that era. It doesn’t really get representation outside retro game collections today. But, the franchise is famous for the wrong reasons. The games are so prohibitively difficult.. actually, full-on unfair to be honest.. that they’re practically a rite-of-passage. I don’t get the love for them, and I’ll never get it. Unpredictable attack patterns, unavoidable enemies, even heel-toeing through stages abusing save states, and I still couldn’t make progress. I cheated and did check the Genesis and SNES Mini versions and can report that the TG-16 version’s gameplay feels on-par with them. No better or worse. Visually, it’s a step down from both the others, but all three are maddening, unfair slogs that don’t deserve to be remembered at all. EVEN AFTER USING A CHEAT CODE (hold Button I and press RUN on the title screen to get the option’s menu) to change the difficulty, it felt like it didn’t make any difference at all. For masochists only. UPDATE: Actually, the Genesis version and the TG-16 version’s graphics IS a debate. Watch this video for side-by-side comparisons. Meanwhile, the SNES version is lounging back saying “that’s adorable.”
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: Very Low

Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire
Genre: Shmup
1995 Super CD-ROM²
Developed by CAProduction

Yep, another fucking shooter. This one came very late in the PC Engine’s life cycle, and attempts to add Star Fox or Donkey Kong Country “ahead of its time” type of graphics. Sadly, this results in some overly-bland enemy design. Sapphire is actually one of the rarest and most desirable games among collectors (one of whom told me that fake replicas are an occupational hazard), though I have to believe that mostly owes to the late release more than anything else. Really, Sapphire is just alright. It didn’t start that way. I was very frustrated in the opening level, where enemies blink into existence at the bottom of the screen and you don’t have a reasonable amount of time to avoid them, if they can be avoided at all. I had to switch characters (the green one was basically worthless) and change the difficulty to easy, then heel-toe through the first minute or two of the game using save states. Having said that, once you get past that section, Sapphire becomes a much more fair and pretty okay shmup experience. The PC Engine/TG-16 was apparently THE shmup system. It’s a bit overwhelming just how many are in the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, but you can’t say most of them aren’t pretty good.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: Very Low

Gradius
Genre: Shmup
1991 PC Engine
Developed by Konami
HIDDEN FEATURE: Highlight Gradius on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini’s menu, hold down “Select” and press run or button 1 to load the “near arcade perfect” version of Gradius instead of the normal PC Engine version.

I’m pretty much Gradius’ed out by this point. I’ve played the NES version as part of the NES Classic and Switch Online NES library. I played the arcade version as part of Konami’s putrid Anniversary Arcade set. But, credit where it’s due: I found this version to bring the best qualities of both versions: the cleaner graphics and more distinctive visuals of the arcade original with the balanced difficulty of the NES port. Gradius’ formula has come a long ways (and, in fact, there’s two better versions in this collection alone) but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me happy to see the definitive home console edition of it show up in the TG-16 mini. The biggest issue is that the TurboGrafx-16 Mini doesn’t artificially beef-up the hardware, or for those purists out there that hate it when emulators do that, give everyone the option to do so or not. Consequently, there’s so much slow-down in PC Engine Gradius that you might go whole sections without the game ever running at full speed. If you have all four options, a shield, and fully-upgraded firepower.. you know, like you’re supposed to want.. the engine will start to crawl with every shot you fire. Sadly, the definitive Gradius still isn’t the perfect Gradius. Still fun, though.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: None-Very Low

Gradius II
Genre: Shmup
1992 Super CD-ROM²
Developed by Konami

Wowzers! While Gradius II suffers the same slowdown issues the original does on the TG-16 Mini, this is a truly inspired sequel. Intense but balanced. Challenging but fair. The scale feels larger. The enemies more epic. I mean, about a minute into the first level you start flying past mini-suns that spawn fire dragons! There’s a variety of EPIC bosses (as opposed to Gradius repeating the same ship over and over), different load-outs you can use at the start of the game to use your upgrade points on, and a wider range of level design. Gradius II has to be one of the most underrated sequels ever made. Even knowing it was included in this set, it was completely off my radar. In fact, it’s one of the best games on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. My only complain is the slowdown might be even worse here. At one point in the second stage the game went nearly two minutes at half speed. This is why we need to demand full Infinity Gauntlet of Emulation (Rewind, Save States, multiple graphics filters, removal of slowdown, etc) features be included in every classic game collection. Give players the option to remove the slowdown and see these games finally realize their fullest potential. Demanding the games play exactly as they do is silly when developers didn’t want this slowdown in the first place.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: NoneVery Low

J.J. & Jeff
Genre: Platform-Parody
1990 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Hudson Soft

In Japan, J.J. & Jeff is based on a variety show starring two Japanese comedians (one of whom sadly passed away earlier this year). I’m not sure why this was chosen to be adapted to the United States except for the fact that platformers were the most popular genre in the Americas and the TurboGrafx-16 was woefully short on them. There’s tons of visual gags that make absolutely no sense from a storytelling or comedy perspective unless you followed the Kato-chan Ken-chan Gokigen TV show. The gags are actually their reoccurring sketches from that program. Without that context, it’s really just a bad Adventure Island style platformer. The nail in the coffin is J.J. & Jeff features the worst attack option I’ve ever seen in a platformer. It’s a kick that has a range of maybe one or two pixels. You need to use this kick to uncover hidden items and especially buttons that reveal hidden platforms NEEDED to advance. Finding these buttons is frustrating because the collision box for the things you’re supposed to kick is too small. There’s also too many unavoidable enemies, though the game is generous with life refills. The best thing I can say about J.J. & Jeff is most of my TG-16-loving fans thought for sure I’d name it the worst game in the collection. While it is bad, it’s not even close to the worst. At least it fails in an interesting way.
Verdict: NO!

Jaseiken Necromancer
Genre: JRPG
1988 PC Engine
Developed by Hudson Soft

The first game in the TG-16 Mini where ability to read Japanese will 100% be required, Jaseiken Necromancer feels like it aspires to be the PC Engine’s version of Phantasy Star even though it was created specifically to lure in Dragon Quest fans. At the time it came out, RPGs were absolutely scorching hot in Japan. Dragon Quest I and II had shattered sales records for the Famicom. Hudson Soft was releasing this, the first “blockbuster” RPG for the PC Engine, about three weeks before the highly-anticipated Dragon Quest III hit Japan. A game that was so anticipated that people within the Japanese government begged for the February 10th DQIII release date to be moved to the closest weekend so kids wouldn’t cut school for it. Meanwhile, Hudson Soft absolutely blitzed gaming magazines and the airwaves with “hey, we have an epic RPG too” campaigns. The biggest selling point was that it was a horror-based game (check out the ad) and battles had some animation where enemies would spurt blood when they died. Yea? Anyway, the game is a boring slog with battles that have players AND enemies missing too many attacks. If you can read Japanese, you’d be disappointed to know it’s still the sword & sorcery “the king is dead, who will save us?” type of fantasy fare. Jaseiken Necromancer is slow, plodding, and only included because it did well in Japan. This should have been cut from the US version to make room for something more accessable to everyone.
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: Fluency

Legend of Valkyrie
Genre: Arcade-Action-RPG
1990 PC Engine
Developed by Namco

If Legend of Zelda were a level-based, linear arcade game, it’d be close to Legend of Valkyrie. While those who can’t read Japanese will need to use an FAQ to know what the dialog, items, and quiz questions/answers are (you can use this one here), the gameplay is action-oriented and a lot of fun. There’s also jumping sections, which makes this feel more along the lines of StarTropics than Zelda. I did have an issue with at one point mistaking a pit for grass that could be walked on. There was no visual indication that I was high up, so when I walked off a dirt path onto what looked like a green patch of grass, I plummeted and lost half-a-heart. I’ve never seen a game that does a worse job of indicating depth as Valkyrie does. It’s remarkably bad at it. The other main issue is that the concept is misguided from the get-go. Valkyrie no Densetsu is an arcade game, and this genre doesn’t belong in arcades. So there’s weirdness like how the game handles scrolling. From screenshots, you’d think it’s an open-world game like Zelda. It’s not. Once you’ve scrolled, you can’t go backwards. If an enemy drops a coin and it goes off-screen, it’s gone. Valkyrie is a very linear, no backtracking experience. It’s unique for sure and the combat and platforming are fun, but a lot of people will wish it was more like a home console action-RPG.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: MediumHigh

Life Force
Listed as Salamander
Genre: Shmup
1991 PC Engine
Developed by Konami
HIDDEN FEATURE: Highlight Salamander on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini’s menu, hold down “Select” and press run or button 1 to load the “near arcade perfect” version of Salamander instead of the normal PC Engine version.

Life Force I think is a bit historically over-rated. It’s got a lot of inelegant design elements about it. No matter which version you’re playing, the first level has a section where you have to shoot a path through a wall to advance. If so much as a single pixel of that wall survives and touches your ship, you die. But the wall actually regenerates at an alarmingly fast rate. It’s frustrating and very, very annoying. Life Force is the definitive “step forward, step backwards” arcade shmup. Switching between vertical and horizontal levels? Step forward. Bland level design, unimaginative basic enemies. Step backwards. Memorable bosses. Step forward. Sections designed to straight-up steal quarters in arcades not being improved in the home port. Step backward. Life Force is fun, but it frustrates me because it should be better than it is.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: None-Very Low

Lords of Thunder
Genre: Dating Sim/Geopolitical Thriller/Arkanoid with Live Doves as the paddles Roguelike.
Really? No, it’s another shmup
1993 Turbo CD
Developed by Red Entertainment

The TurboGrafx-16 Mini is over-saturated by space-style shooters, so you’d think I’d be getting sick of them by now. In fact, I had to pause another #IGCRetroBlitz for Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha and Bravo collections for Nintendo Switch specifically so I wouldn’t burn out on them for this review. It hasn’t happened yet, and Lords of Thunder is yet another quality one for this console. Unlike some others where they start blandly but I’m happy by time I move on to the next game, this one started exciting and finished with me disappointed. Don’t get me wrong: Lords of Thunder is fun and inspired. But I think it does a lot wrong. There’s four characters to choose from, each with their own unique attacks. Every level starts with you getting to spend money on upgrades, extra continues, bombs, or health refills, and you can play the levels in any order, Mega Man-style. But, the levels are very long to the point that they wear out their welcome. Enemy bullets sometimes don’t stand out enough, and sometimes enemy attacks (especially from bosses) sure seem like they’re made to be unavoidable no matter what. I also feel that the actual pew-pew-pewing feels kind of weak, like the sound of bullets making impact isn’t satisfying at all, so the whole thing has this weird softness vibe about it. Which is ironic because the difficulty is quite up there. Is it still fun? Oh yes. It’s really good. But I think it probably needed to trim a couple minute worth of play out of every level.
Verdict: YES!

Military Madness
Genre: Simulation
1990 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Hudson Soft

In 1988, Famicom Wars was a surprise hit for Nintendo, and like many games on the TG-16, Military Madness feels like it comes less from a place of inspiration and more like something Hudson Soft needed to develop so their system could have “their version” of a hit Famicom/NES game. It’s pretty much the same concept, only you replace squares with hexagons for movement. It does come off as much more advanced than Famicom Wars.. an Advance War if you will.. and is genuinely fun. Winning is simpler: capturing bases is as easy as landing on them. The moment a solider touches the enemy base, the match is over. But, Military Madness factors A LOT into how battles play out. Experience points, terrain, whether you have more units touching the unit engaging the enemy. You can even circle around an enemy unit to drop its attack and defense by half (assuming you have enough units to do so.. I *still* haven’t done it). Military Madness seems like it’ll be the biggest time-investment in the TG-16 thus far, but of all the games I’ve played, it’s the one I’m mostly likely to go back to. Keeping in mind I’ve actually now beaten Rondo and Bonk’s Revenge.
Verdict: YES!

Moto Roader
Genre: Racing
1989 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Masaya Games

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to make the cars go in this one. We’ve been trying, going back and forth between this and other games, making double, triple, and quadruple sure the turbo switch isn’t turned on for the gas button (it’s not). We’ve changed which upgrades we use, we read the instruction manual (the official TG-16 mini site provides all the original manuals in PDF form) over and over again. NOTHING. The playfield is so small and it always follows the car in the lead instead of sticking with just your car, so if another car pulls ahead, you’re “warped” to rejoin the pack. But then you have to slowly start accelerating again, at which point the lead car reaches the edge of the screen and you’re teleported back to start the process over again. Just, wow. Fucking wow. We had to put a cheat code in (hold SELECT and press button II on the course-select screen) to get enough money to buy most of the best upgrades, and EVEN THEN even the slightest mistake will have the lead car warping you so that you can’t even start moving. Moto Roader could very well be the worst racing game I’ve ever played in my entire life and easily become the bottom of the barrel for the TG-16 Mini. If I took away points for appallingly bad games, Moto would be the only game so far that would get such a penalty. Horrible.
Verdict: NO!
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this feature, I said Moto Roader was favored by NEC execs to be the US pack-in title for the TurboGrafx-16. In fact, they favored Victory Run, while Hudson Soft wanted Blazing Lazers before their marketing partners convinced them to include Keith Courage in Alpha Zone. I apologize for this error.

Neutopia*
Genre: Action-Adventure
1990 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Hudson Soft
*Both the US and Japanese versions are included in the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. Only the US version was played for this feature.

Neutopia II*
Genre: Action Adventure
1992 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Hudson Soft
*Both the US and Japanese versions are included in the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. Only the US version was played for this feature.

I’m going to kill two generic off-brand Zelda knock-off’s with one stone here. Neutopia II runs off the same engine as the first with only minor graphical changes, a different world map and different dungeons, but otherwise these games are functionally the same. Neutopia feels like yet another one of those mandated “we need our own version of (popular NES/Famicom game) for the PC Engine/Turbo Grafx-16” titles. In this case, “we need our own Zelda!” The wild thing is, both games feel a lot more like Link to the Past, despite that Neutopia actually beat Link to the Past to the market. I have have to say that Hudson Soft has done a lot better with their “we need ours” development than Sega accomplished with the Genesis. There’s a few games that want to be Zelda on Genesis and I can’t stand them. Neutopia is very close to feeling the way you’d want a game that apes Zelda to feel. I hate to use the term “clone” because it’s abused horribly and always has negative associations, but most gamers would call these “clones.” My jaw actually dropped at how completely devoid of shame this was when it came to “borrowing” elements from the original Zelda. The sword mechanic feels almost identical (except without the laser firing from it when at full health). There’s bombs you use to break open walls. As far as I can tell, Neutopia introduced the “oh lookie here! This wall has a crack! What ever shall you do with this crack in the wall hint hint” puzzle solving, which is a puzzle in the same way you have a fly and a fly swatter and you have to solve the puzzle of how to kill the fly. There’s dungeons that each have a special item and a map and a boss to get one of eight magical items to save a princess.

Then again, I’d never even heard of this shit until the TG-16 Mini lineup was announced, so maybe Nintendo was like “these guys are a total non-entity.” Perhaps the single most amazing thing about Neutopia is it didn’t land Hudson Soft in court.

I mean, Jesus Christ. This is almost plagiarism. You just don’t expect that. The truly insane thing is that Nintendo and Hudson Soft ever did business again after these came out. But, even more remarkable: these are pretty fun. Not perfect anything. The combat feels pretty close to the NES Zelda’s, only a bit more clunky. Or, actually, more clunky than the original Zelda’s. Just a little bit, but enough that fighting baddies will frustrate. Your own collision box seems a lot more generous for the enemies than theirs is for you. The same exact “push rocks to reveal staircases” mechanics are littered all over the world map and dungeons, but this time you have a magic compass that points you towards the next level you’re supposed to go to. I played the first Dungeon for both games and found them a little bland, with the bosses slightly too spongy. But, if you’re absolutely starving for a 2D Zelda and have never played these, I could honestly see the TG-16 mini’s investment paying off just for these. Also, I ranked Neutopia II slightly ahead of the first solely on the basis of combat being a teeny-tiny bit less clunky and adding diagonal attacks. I did some research, and eight directions to attack is almost twice as much as four.
Verdict: YES! (Neutopia)
Verdict: YES! (Neutopia II)

New Adventure Island
Genre: Platformer
1992 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Now Production

I’ve never been a fan of the original Wonder Boy, whether you call it Wonder Boy, Adventure Island, or Wonder Boy Returns Remix, the latter of which I’ve reviewed. I’m sure this was a much better game once upon a time. But gaming has come far and it’s hard to justify recommending such a bland, repetitive platformer. I’ll admit, this is the best version I’ve played of the original Wonder Boy/Adventure Island. You can owe that mostly to save states being easily accessible and exploitable. But, for the most part, all the problems are here in full-force. Controls are slightly unresponsive, but just unresponsive enough to cause you to fall into pits when you meant to jump. The level design is boring. There’s not enough variety once you’ve beaten the first two stages to keep things even a tiny bit interesting. If you enjoy these games, hey great, I bet you’ll like this version a lot. But I’ve never enjoyed it, and this is no exception.
Verdict: NO!

Ninja Gaiden
Listed as Ninja Ryukenden
Genre: Action-Platformer
1992 PC Engine
Developed by.. Hudson Soft? Tecmo? It’s published by Hudson Soft for sure.

I’ve never understood the love for Ninja Gaiden, but here’s a case where being on a superior platform doesn’t make a port superior. Ninja Gaiden on PC Engine is absolutely insanely unfair. You don’t “blink” enough when taking damage, and with infinitely respawning enemies, you can get caught in some insane juggles without having enough time to recover and pull off an attack animation. In one spot, there was a dog running back and forth between a wall and a one-block high platform, and a boxer on top of the platform. Upon taking damage, I ended up being juggled between the two of them to the tune of around 80% of my health. Ridiculous. It doesn’t help that you have a little rinky-dinky sword that has absolutely no range on it. This really is just the NES version, and I don’t want to say it’s a “graphical upgrade.” I don’t think it is. It’s more like a glorified palette swap. I actually think the NES version looks better. It certainly plays better. I think they shoved this in the TG-16 mini for name value, but really, they should have been able to find something better and unique to the TG-16 for this spot.
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: None. On the title screen, hold BUTTON I and BUTTON II and press select to scroll from Japanese text to English (or Chinese also if you wish).

Ninja Spirit
Genre: Action-Platformer
1990 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Irem

We’ve reached the required 20 YES! votes, and we’ve done it with style because Ninja Spirit is a ton of fun. The first ever game to get a 10 out of 10 from any of the Review Crew in the legendary magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, Ninja Spirit is sort of like a cross between Legend of Kage and the NES black box Kung Fu. The sheer volume of enemies that come at you from all directions is exhausting, but you have a variety of weapons to fight back. A very satisfying sword attack, a truly awe-inspiring ninja star attack, and a couple piss-ant weapons that really aren’t that fun to use. But, then something awesome happened and I ended up with two doppelgangers that trailed me, were impervious to damage, and could slice and dice the waves of enemies along with me. Combine that with some truly breathtaking platforming sections (hopping from tree to tree in the second level looked so fun my family actually asked me to let them have a turn) and you have THE suprise hit of the TG-16 mini so far. I do have a couple complaints. #1: the level design alternates from inspired to absolute boredom with flat, straight stages that feel like they were totally phoned-in. And also, I shredded the first two bosses with double-clones and ninja stars in literally under one-second each. But make no mistake: Ninja Spirit is probably the best “forgotten game” in the collection.
Verdict: YES!

Parasol Stars: The Story of Bubble Bobble III
Genre: Arcade-Action
1991 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Taito

I’ve always been totally indifferent to the Bubble Bobble series. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it. It’s just there for me. I don’t find its gameplay particularly interesting or boring. In terms of quote unquote “iconic” game IPs, it’s one of those ones that I don’t get how it remains relatively revered today while stuff like Double Dragon has mostly faded into the background. Granted, it probably owes a lot to the fact that there’s not any “bad” games in the series. They’re all just sort of fine. Parasol Stars is fine. It’s just.. fine. Instead of blowing bubbles to stun enemies that you then pop to defeat in a single-screened arcade-action game, you stun enemies on your umbrella and then throw them at other enemies or walls to defeat them in a single-screened arcade-action game. It’s seriously just Bubble Bobble with reskinned enemies and a different method of attack. Rainbow Islands was a lot more interesting because the levels stretched vertically and there was a goal beyond simply “kill all the baddies.” This reverts back to the same formula, with the same emphasis on co-op. For a mini-console that only comes with one controller and was made in a way where 99% of 3rd party USB controllers won’t work with it. Interesting game to include. It’s redundant and it seems like it’ll get old fast, and that first boss was boring and spongy as all fuck, but overall the game is.. fine. Yep, it’s a Bubble Bobble game.
Verdict: YES!

Power Golf
Genre: Shmup using golf clubs, golf balls, golf courses, and golfing play mechanics instead of bullets, space ships, and shumping.
1989 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Hudson Soft

Everyone had to launch with a golf game, so the TurboGrafx-16 has Power Golf. And it sucks. It uses the same triple-click method that Nintendo perfected with their black box Golf (I’m reviewing the Arcade Archives version soon), only this one is far too sensitive. Even the slightest bit off the meter results in dramatic hooks and slices. The very first hole doesn’t fuck around, with a water hazard to the right, a bunker to the left, and a narrow fairway. I’ll give you seven guesses how many attempts I needed to hit the fairway instead of the water hazard or sand trap. I love golf. I was raised literally right next to a country club, took up the sport at age ten when my Dad had a mild heart attack and was told “how about using that country club you literally live next to that you paid over $100,000 to become a member of so you can get a little bit of exercise?” At my peak, I was a sixteen handicap. That’s not bad. I was better than my Dad, who apparently was incapable of learning anything from the instructor. A highlight of my life was me taking a swing on the driving range, followed by Dad taking one that even Charles Barkley would have been embarrassed by, and the instructor nodding his head calmly, then looking at me and saying “so, you’re adopted, right?” Sorry if none of that has anything to do with Power Golf. What can I say? It fucking sucks.
Verdict: NO!

Psychosis
Genre: Shmup
1990 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Naxat Soft

Psychosis wants to be R-Type so bad it can taste it. But, despite a high-concept story (it’s all in your head and you’re fighting the devil for the soul of a man), this is just a miserably boring shooter that does every R-Type does, only worse. The guns feel weaker. The enemies have similar designs and attack patterns but feel weaker and less threatening. Plus your ship and the bad guys feel sort of feathery and light, thus the game lacks that oomph and gravity that I put so much stock in. There’s some neat ideas. Early in the stage one, enemies attack a caterpillar, and if you save it, it’ll come back to help you later in the stage. It’s sort of like how if you save Falco from being shot down in Star Fox 64, it opens up a branching path, only not as cool or important. Really, Psychosis succeeds in feeling like R-Type. A blander, boring, dollar store knock-off of R-Type, but it still counts.
Verdict: NO!

R-Type
Genre: Shump-Type
1989-Type TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Hudson Soft-type

A lot of people told me that, while Bonk gets credit as the “killer app” that put the TurboGrafx-16 on the map, and Legendary Axe was the game that got all the media accolades when it first came out, the launch-window game that was the real killer-app that bought NEC time for Bonk to have the impact it did was R-Type. Indeed, this is the first of the launch games that feels big, arcadey, next-gen (at least over NES), and fun. It’s a simple shmup that just feels bigger than it really is. The sci-fi setting, menacing robotic and alien enemy design, and inspired shield mechanic still hold-up relatively well today. I love that you can kick the shield across the screen for added damage and firing coverage. I wish the guns offered more variety and I wish the level design got more experimental. Plus, I killed the absolutely grotesque (and iconic) first boss with just two charge shots, which felt a little underwhelming. But, yea, I agree with fans: this is the hidden killer app that I’m happy gets to strut its stuff with the best the TG-16 has to offer. My TYPE of game. Hah. See what I did there?
Verdict: YES!

Seirei Senshi Spriggan
Genre: Shmup
1991 Super CD-ROM²
Developed by Compile

I’m running out of adjectives for all these shoot-em-ups in the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. There’s only so many variations of saying what I like in a shmup and how each game in question handles it. Seirei Senshi Spriggan (Elemental Warriors) is yet another solid pew pewer. It gives you what you want: a nice variety of guns, a wide range of enemies, and huge bosses. I actually took the first boss down using only two bombs. That’s sort of becoming a theme with these later shmups: first bosses being taken down too quickly. Finding that goldilocks zone of not too difficulty, not too spongy, but just right I’m sure is hard, but I’d prefer things be too easy to being too hard because at least everyone gets to see the game in its entirety that way. If games are art, isn’t everyone getting to see it preferable to not getting to see it? Anyway, the same issues that plague a lot of these TG-16 shooters are also present. Slowdown, not enough level variety, and bullet visibility. That’s been consistent throughout this set, owing mostly to the limited horsepower. Let’s face it: it’s still just an 8-bit system at the end of the day, albeit the most supercharged 8-bit system out there. But, Elemental Warriors is still fun. Running out of ways to say that.
Verdict: YES!
Japanese Needed: Low

Snatcher
Genre: Graphic Novel
1992 Super CD-ROM²
Developed by Konami

For the overwhelming majority of fans, Snatcher’s inclusion in the TurboGrafx-16 Mini is the ultimate tease. Its only English-language release is a rare and expensive Sega CD game (I checked, and US copies go for between $700 to $2,500 on Ebay), and so when my readers saw this was on the itinerary for this retro blitz, they were initially very excited. That optimism was, ahem, snatched away from them. Snatcher is in Japanese only regardless of which region your TurboGrafx-16 Mini comes from. I reject the argument that “any version is better than no version” because if the language barrier is there and real, it’s still a barrier between the player and the game. It’s like a thick plane of glass between you and the game. You can see it, you can almost touch it, but you can’t have it. Not the way you want to. It’s actually crueler than leaving it off entirely.

Here’s a question: if you take pictures of the game and then use a translator to read them, does that technically make it a POINT and CLICK game?

There are ways around it, and they do work. I thought my Japanese was pretty okay, but man, was I wrong. In a graphic adventure, 30% to 40% of the words, even 60%, really isn’t going to cut it. Then a reader told me they pointed their smartphone at the television and used a translation program such as Google Translate. I tried this, and if you can do a real-time program that shows the new words on screen (and sometimes that requires a steady-hand), it works. While it won’t be 100% accurate, it’ll be just as effective at reading Japanese as you would get from studying the language for while (or better, in my case). Another reader pointed out that taking pictures and translating them got more accurate results, though now we’re getting cumbersome with the solutions. Really, none of these options are exactly ideal and will take what should be a couple-second process and make it take much longer. If you do manage to play the game, it’s a dynamic story with interesting characters. If you can’t read Japanese, you’ll probably not enjoy the life-hack solutions. This story might have a happy ending, as I’ve got it on good authority the outcry is being heard by those in a position to do something about it. Don’t be surprised if Snatcher.. the Sega CD English version.. gets a solo release on consoles and PC in the not to distant future.
Verdict: NO!
Japanese Needed: Fluency

Soldier Blade
Genre: Shmup
1992 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Hudson Soft

So, this is interesting. I took a two day break from finishing this project when I got writer’s block at this game. Then, when I went back to finish it, for the life of me I couldn’t remember any details of Soldier Blade. I couldn’t remember which one it was. It all came back to me once I started replaying it, but then I turned this off and it all deleted again. The fourth game of the Star Soldier series is pretty unmemorable. Don’t mistake that for being bad or anything. In fact, given the sheer girth of shoot-em-ups in this set, I find it pretty comforting that I can just pick a random one and have a pretty good chance of playing a relatively good game. Once again, you have a wide variety of weapons, but there’s a twist: the weapons can be unleashed as a bomb-type weapon. It destroys the upgrade, but unleashes a giant fuck-you explosion on all enemies. A neat idea and it works. The same issues that have plagued every quality shmup in the TurboGrafx-16 are here too. Bullet visibility can be problematic, levels can be less than clever, etc. But, fun is fun. Solider Blade is fun.
Verdict: YES!

Space Harrier
Genre: Arcade Rail-Shooter
1989 TurboGrafx-16
Developed by Interchannel

I didn’t like it. It played poorly, looked ugly, felt sloppily executed and I literally can’t think of anything nice to say about it. So, here’s a recipe for brownies: go to the store and buy a box of instant brownie mix. Make sure you have the stuff that isn’t included in the box. Usually things like eggs, butter, milk, that kind of stuff. The box will tell you. The box knows everything. Make sure to preheat your oven. Follow the directions on the box. Stirring the ingredients together is typically involved. Make sure when it says to use two eggs that you just don’t put whole eggs in the mix, nor do you use parts of the shells. Just the gooey chicken DNA inside. I can’t tell you how many times I made THAT mistake. Then pour all that into a baking pan.. hopefully you got one of those from the store too. If not, you have to make another trip. Sorry. Hopefully it’s close by and I didn’t just cost you more gas. Anyway, you pour that in, put it in the oven for however long the box tells you, and make sure you actually have something to alert you when that time is up, becuase you will forget otherwise. While you wait, if you’re the impatient type, you can lick the spoon and bowl that you mixed the ingredients with. If you want. And, hey, that only comes with about a 2% chance of getting salmonella poisoning, statistically speaking. In whatever amount of minutes.. I don’t know how many, I think brownies are gross and I never eat them.. you’ll get to enjoy your hard work.
Verdict: NO!

Spatterhouse
Genre: Side-Scrolling Beat-em-Up? I guess?
1990 Turbografx-16
Developed by Namco

I’m sure once upon a time, Splatterhouse was a jaw-dropping, grotesque game that was able to ride effortless shock value to notoriety. Today, in 2020? Shit, I’ve seen Super Sentai episodes with more gore. Apparently this is the nerfed American version. They’ve changed the mask from white to red and toned down some of the scenery. Apparently a lot of kids directly associated this game with Friday the 13th because the character looks like Jason Voorhees. It’s got about as much depth as he does. As far as I can tell, you walk right, punch stuff, then walk right more and punch stuff. Honestly, the violence in Double Dragon is a lot more impactful and cringe-inducing than this. The punches here lack that bone-cracking oomph to them that I absolutely need for my brawler-style games. And really, yea, there’s some interesting visuals here, but they’re limited to backgrounds. Among the “notorious for graphic violence” classic game franchises (think your Mortal Kombats), Splatterhouse is a franchise that doesn’t get a lot of chatter these days, and I can see why. Not only is this very tame by today’s standards but it’s not even a little fun. I stuck by this longer than any other game in the TG-16 that outright bored me and I literally can’t believe this game has a reputation for being anything but an overrated slog. It might not be the worst game in the TG-16 Mini, but it’s for sure the most boring. It even mananges to make an interesting theme and premise boring, and that’s the only remarkable thing it does.
Verdict: NO!

RANKINGS

  1. Bonk’s Revenge
  2. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
  3. Star Parodier
  4. Ninja Spirit
  5. Gradius II
  6. Bomberman ’94 (#3 if you can do co-op)
  7. Blazing Lazers
  8. Military Madness
  9. Neutopia II
  10. Neutopia
  11. R-Type
  12. Lords of Thunder
  13. Chew Man Fu
  14. Bonk’s Adventure
  15. Life Force
  16. Gradius
  17. Parasol Stars: The Story of Bubble Bobble III (#12 if you can do co-op)
  18. Soldier Blade
  19. Legend of Valkyrie
  20. Seirei Senshi Spriggan
  21. Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire
  22. Galaga ’88
  23. Bomberman ’93
  24. Alien Crush
  25. Fantasy Zone
  26. Spriggan Mark 2 **TERMINATOR LINE**
  27. Air Zonk
  28. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
  29. New Adventure Island
  30. J.J. & Jeff
  31. Dungeon Explorer
  32. Appare! Gateball
  33. Dragon Spirit
  34. Psychosis
  35. Ninja Gaiden
  36. Aldynes
  37. Cadash
  38. Bomberman: Panic Bomber
  39. China Warrior
  40. Space Harrier
  41. Cho Aniki
  42. Splatterhouse
  43. Power Golf
  44. Moto Roader

Not Rated: Snatcher, Jaseiken Necromancer

STILL TO COME

Spriggan Mark 2 (Play Session complete, review pending)
Star Parodier (Play Session complete, review pending)
Super Darius
Super Momotarō Dentetsu II
Super Star Soldier
The Genji and the Heike Clans
Victory Run
Ys Book 1 & 2

HIDDEN BONUS GAMES
Force Gear
TwinBee

%d bloggers like this: