Turbo fans went through a roller-coaster ride from March of 1992 through March of 1994. Our journey begins at a low-point in 1992: the TurboGrafx-16 and TurboGrafx-CD had been limping along as NEC struggled to release new software. But, behold! there was light at the end of the tunnel: the newly formed Turbo Technologies, Inc. (TTi) promised to release a slew of new HuCARD and CD-ROM titles. Furthermore, TTi intended to launch a new console, the TurboDuo, in a few short months (October of 1992). And so, by March of 1993, TTi had injected a healthy dose of excitement into the Turbo universe. Staying true to their word, TTi released nearly all of the titles that were announced. Plus, a handful of well-received, critically-acclaimed games managed to generate a modest amount of positive press. Unfortunately, this was the crest of TTi's success.
• 1992: TG-16 + Bonk's Revenge for $99.99 at Electronics Boutique. You gotta love the bare-chested, muscle-bound men featured in the coverart for both Night Creatures and Andre Panza Kickboxing. For all the jokes made about Night Creatures, the coverart is pretty neat. Sure, it might be generic, but it still manages to evoke some excitement in my old, jaded, hardened heart. Why? How? Only Hecate knows the answer. Note: I only found a few pages from this catalog and, unfortunately, I am not sure when it was printed. I suspect this catalog is from the Spring of 1992, largely based on the the price of the hardware (TG-16 + Bonk's Revenge for $99.99, TurboExpress + 4 HuCARDs for $299.99) and the software titles available (Darkwing Duck and Night Creatures are going for an outrageous $55.99 apiece, while Andre Panza Kickboxing is $49.99 and Champions Forever Boxing is $39.99).
• 1993: Purchase StarFox before March 23rd and get a free StarFox cap! If you weren't interested in the the StarFox cap, the Bubsy T-shirt Offer might have been more enticing. But wait! This EB catalog holds something far more interesting than incentives to purchase StarFox or Bubsy…
• 1993: Sega CD + Blackhole Assault + Kris Kross versus the venerable TurboDuo + Dragon Slayer + Lords of Thunder. Remind me again why the TurboDuo was so thoroughly trounced by the Sega CD? Yes, that was a rhetorical question. Honestly, though, the software selection for Sega CD is pretty weak in this EB catalog. Granted, Sega CD offers four times as many titles as the TurboDuo—but, who was willing to pay an obscene $59.99 for INXS Make My Video? If you were truly seeking to injure your sensibilities, paying $39.99 for Marky Mark (or Kris Kross!) would have been sufficiently masochistic. Even the Marquis de Sade would have blushed at the thought of spending $60 for the "hours of entertainment" provided by INXS Make My Video.
• 1993: Lords of Thunder listed on the cover of GamePro. TG-16 and DUO titles were rarely listed on magazine covers because they wasted valuable space that could otherwise be used to attract mainstream game players.
• 1993: Working Designs to bring SNK's World Heroes and King of the Monsters to U.S.! Well, if Working Designs had pulled this off, it would have been pretty neat for NeoGeo fans. Unfortunately, since both World Heroes and King of the Monsters would have required an Arcade System Card, Working Designs was fighting an uphill battle. In June of 1994, World Heroes 2 (ACD) was released in Japan for the DUO, but King of the Monsters was never ported to an NEC console.
• 1993: Bonk's Adventure (Gameboy) and Bomberman II (NES). Bomberman II features 2-3 multiplayer support. Bonk's Adventure for Gameboy features Bonk.
• 1993: Air Zonk Runner-up for shoot-em-up of the year. Super Smash TV (SNES) won top honors in the Second Annual Readers' Choice Awards. Axelay (SNES) and Air Zonk were runners up. I am genuinely surprised that more than a handful of readers knew Air Zonk existed, let alone played it.
• 1993: Lords of Thunder scores 5/5! GamePro deems Lords of Thunder an "instant classic" and declares that it has the "best hard rock soundtrack found in any CD-ROM title to date."
• 1993: Bomberman '93 scores 4/5 and the reviewer even makes a disclaimer: "If you check the GamePro Rating Scale, you'll notice that Bomberman 93's graphics and sounds aren't too explosive. Don't let the bad scores fool ya, though. Bomberman '93 is one hot game! Bomberman's mix of immediacy and strategy is what makes it so addictive."
• 1993: Time Cruise scores 4/5 and would have scored much higher had it not been for the titles lackluster sound and music: "In fact, the wimpy sound effects and electric paino-style tunes really bite the silver ball."
• 1993: The first 35,000 Sega CD units sold out in 48 hours. In other news, the pack-in software for TurboDuo includes Bomberman (accessible via a code) and NEC of Japan is working on their next-generation 32-bit console.
• 1994: GamePro no longer lists "DUO" on front cover! With TTi on its deathbed since the end of 1993, the DUO / TG-16 ceased to be a viable platform. Soon, in May of 1994, TurboZoneDirect (TZD) would be created to continue supporting the console (TZD was a mail order company that distributed all remaining hardware and software).
• 1994: Terraforming (SCD): "Now available, the trick shooter designed by Syd Mead." Was Syd Mead a household name in 1994? Apparently, TTi thought so, because they did not even attempt to explain, let alone hint at, who Syd Mead was. Overall, though, the layout for this advertisement is nice and provided exposure for a bunch of existing TTi titles.
• 1994: Dynastic Hero expected in March '94, Godzilla expected second quarter '94. Clearly, Dynastic Hero and Godzilla were two of the final games released in North America. At this point, I am not certain if these titles were distributed by TTi or by TZD.
As 1993 wore on, TTi's fortunes plunged to new lows-- lows from which they never recoverd. By March of 1994, GamePro stopped listing the DUO on the magazine's cover. With TTi's mounting problems, the DUO would receive little, if any, coverage within the magazine's pages. The March '94 issue of GamePro, for example, contained two minor announcements: Dynastic Hero was scheduled for a March '94 release, whilst Godzilla was expected in the second quarter of the year. Otherwise, the only item of interest in the magazine was TTi's full-page ad for Syd Mead's Terraforming.
By no means is this retrospective intended to capture the full history of TG-16 and DUO in North America. Still, March seemed to capture pivotal moments in the history of TTi. I hope these snapshots help convey the fortunes and misfortunes that befell the TG-16. What a ride it had been for Turbo fans.
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