Monday, March 15, 2010

Long Live the PC Engine

I really love the design of the PC Engine.  It's remarkably elegant and futurist, and shockingly compact.  This games console was designed in 1987, at a time when all home systems were large and bulky, as though size was a measure of its power.  But, as any kid who ever took apart his Atari 2600 VCS will tell you, it's mostly just air.

To my eyes, the PC Engine looks even better in the 21st Century.  Perhaps I'm reminded of the Sega Dreamcast, which is very, very similar.  I wouldn't at all be surprised if Sega was inspired in their designs.  They wanted to get away from the bulky, bloated Saturn, and demonstrate their new, fresher, more svelte side.  The compact style is a perfect homage to NEC/Hudson's game machine.

Back in the day, I never had much interest in the Turbografx-16.  Just look at it.  Yuck!  That Americanized design was a travesty: lumbering, bulky, and to my surprise, very light.  The Turbo felt fragile in my hands, unlike the heavier and more stylized Genesis.  It was no contest who would prevail.

And, yet, if the PC Engine were on the shelves in 1989, instead of the Turbo...well, things might have turned out differently.  I think Sega's arcade pedigree and talented pool of game designers (nobody but Sega could have created Sonic the Hedgehog) would have become the deciding factor, but that's a very big "maybe."  If Hudson could have delivered all those amazing Japanese games, the hits that were forbidden because of Nintendo's draconian contracts over developers, the 16-bit battle would have been very different.

Oh, well, that's all in the past now.  The combatants are dead and buried, and the memories are rapidly fading.  Thank God there's a heaven for video games: emulation and the Virtual Console.  And Thank God for Ebay.  I still think a PC Engine is cool enough to add to your home theatre system in the year 2010.

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