I do not deny the appeal of the Japanese PC-Engine console. It is gorgeous. Few would disagree. However, when the focus shifts from Japan to North America, a disturbing trend emerges: nearly everyone mocks the aesthetics of the TG-16 hardware (this sentiment is rampant even within the TG-16 community). The TG-16 is ridiculed as being the bland, boring, ugly and curiously elongated North American cousin of the cute, fun, sexy, little PCE console.
I say, "Stop the hate! The TG-16 is not ugly—it's sexy." The TG-16 is mature, dignified, and elegant in design. In fact, even when TG-16 is paired with the widely ridiculed TurboBooster peripheral, the TG-16 still manages to mantain its sex appeal. Yes, I said it: the TurboBooster is svelte.
"Surely you are joking," I hear you say.
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TG-16 vs. Goofy consoles with protruding carts…
Not only is the much-maligned TurboBooster gorgeous, but my polemic can be expressed mathematically: TurboGrafx-16 + peripherals + accessories + HuCARD = clean, consistent & sexy.
When you consider the designs of video game consoles that appeared prior to and during TG-16's lifespan, you cannot help but notice that the TG-16 is one of the few that does not look like a child's toy. In fact, the entire TG-16 ecosystem of hardware and software fit together seemlessly in aesthetic harmony. Can you honestly say that about any other console of that era?
In fact, I hereby declare that the TurboGrafx-16 console outclassed all of its contemporaries in terms of elegance and design. TG-16 peripherals provided a coherent, integrated appearance (yes, even the unwieldy TurboBooster, which effectively doubled the console's footprint). Whether it is the TurboTap (five-player adapter), the TurboGrafx-CD, or the TurboBooster(Plus), the hardware has a consisitent, uniform look that is sophisticated and modern.
Let's be honest: all of TG-16's contemporaries (and even the consoles of preceding generations) looked like toys…with their awkward forms and shapes, gaudy colors, tacky design details, etc. Few consoles in the 1980's and early 1990's had a clean design that said, "I am a sophisticated electronic device." Quite the opposite. [ASIDE: I applaud the sleek, minimalist design of the Atari 5200, which made it look quite sophisticated, but its controllers were hideous.]
But our discussion of ghastly design does not end there. To add insult to injury, nearly every console looked awful when it was actually in use, if for no other reason than the exceedingly unsexy game cartridge protruding from it. Not so with the TG-16 and its HuCARD media that slid neatly into the console. HuCARDs, dubbed "TurboChips" in North America (yes, I admit that was a rather unfortunate moniker), were the size of a credit card, but slightly thicker. Not even a silly game (such as Battle Royale) could mar the console's appearance.
Some of you may wonder what inspires a healthy man to take pictures—on a gorgeous autumn day—of his 20 year-old video game console. I suppose I realized that no one else was going to take the pictures that I desired.
Years ago, Aaron Nanto had taken some wonderful pictures of PCE /TG-16 hardware, but he had been too busy to include the TurboBooster. He had been gracious enough to comply with many of my requests (PCE + Booster, PCE Mouse, etc.), but, sadly, the TurboBooster never made it to one of his photo shoots.
Now, finally, after all the years, instead of defending the honor of TG-16 with pen alone, I would harness the power of my camera. Granted, it was a crappy camera. And my TG-16 was dirty, scuffed, tainted. But why let that stop me?
Note how the TurboBooster, a behemoth by any standard, doubles the footprint of the TG-16 console. The TG-16 logo may use garish colors, but it provides a nice punch of color to the otherwise black monolith. Unfortunately, the text and graphics on the TurboPad is crowded and busy. Even the PC-Engine controllers, though, were marred by overly-decorated controllers. We can overlook this flaw, however, because the PC-Engine (and later the TG-16) were the first consoles to offer turbo switches as a standard feature on the controllers.
A few weeks ago, with the orange autumnal sun warming my deck and a faint breeze rustling the brittle leaves on the lawn, a thought percolated through my gray matter: "I am going to show the world how sexy the TG-16 hardware is, and to prove my point, I'll feature the Leviathan of NEC peripherals, the TurboBooster!"
A few of my neighboors stole glances as I, clad in boxers and t-shirt only, tenderly snapped photos. Soon, I was lying flat on my stomach, experimenting with different angles and compositions. Dedicated to my craft and with full allegiance to my mission, I slithered on the deck, my body intimate with the composite wood planks.
"Neighbors be damned!" I thought. "I don't have time to get dressed. The sun is setting; I don't have have much time left."
Note the interesting topography of the HuCARD slot and the clean, bold lines running across the console (aesthetics inherited directly from the PC-Engine). I freely admit that by photographing the TurboBooster at this angle, I have deceptively minimized its true dimensions. Such is the power of composition!
And so, as a brilliant golden sun disappeared behind the trees, I snapped the pictures above. If I could do it over again, I would have cleaned the console first (dust and greasy fingerprints are not sexy). It also would have been nice if my TurboBooster was in pristine condition (again, scratches and scuffs are not sexy). Thankfully, even these imperfections fail to detract from the beauty of the TG-16 hardware.
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