What an unforgettable cover! Alan Hunter—whose work graced the first six or seven issues of TurboPlay—created many interesting compositions, but issue # 2's cover art (an homage to Splatterhouse) is one of my personal favorites. His artwork was often featured inside the magazine, as well (more on this later).
Advertisement for Splatterhouse on TurboGrafx-16 (HuCard, 1990)
The wonderfully creative (and downright bloody) four-page advertisement for Splatterhouse ( 01 02 03 04 ) made its first and only appearance in this issue of TurboPlay.
In all likelihood, NEC used this 4-page spread in other publications as well, but this has yet to be verified. Regardless, the ad in question is one of the edgier campaigns NEC embraced, relying on a simple concept, a straight-forward presentation and a liberal splattering of blood. As a result, it has aged remarkably well and doesn't look nearly as dated as it ought to. Indeed, I will go so far as to suggest that this Splatterhouse advertisement from 1990 would not look out-of-place alongside contemporary ads of today.
Table of Contents for TurboPlay #2
- 01 Cover: Splatterhouse (1990, HuCard). Artist: Alan Hunter (uncredited).
- In the original arcade game (and the PC-Engine HuCard), Rick's mask is white. The TG-16 version, however, features a red mask instead.
- 02 Advertisement: Bonk's Adventure (1990, HuCard). 02 03
- "It's 10,000 years ago. You must bonk 28 stages of bad guys to rescue your princess. And you've only got 1 weapon. Prepare to butt heads."
- 04 Advertisement: Sonic Spike (1990, HuCard).
- "The action sizzles in Sonic Spike, on the front line of the world's most brutal volleyball game…Sonic Spike is non-stop action for one to four players."
- 05 Table of Contents for issue #2.
- The sidebar lists names familiar to VG&CE readers: Lee Pappas is at the helm of TurboPlay, with Andy Eddy and Donn Nauert as editors.
- 06 TurboMail: Letters from our readers.
- "…as more third-party companies join the ranks of TG-16 and as more games become available, the magazine will get larger."—Editors listing the conditions under which TurboPlay would grow beyond 32 pages. It never did.
- 07 Closer Look: TurboChip & TG-CD Game Reviews. 07 08 09
- "A close look at Ys Book I & II, Bloody Wolf, Super Volleyball, Dragon's Curse, Timeball and Psychosis."
- 10 Feature: TurboExpress, The Portable TG-16. 10 11
- "A preview of the exciting TurboExpress handheld coming your way this fall!…I promise you that every TG-16 owner that sees one of these will want one."
- 12 Strategy Guide: Splatterhouse. 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
- "Maps, levels and strategies are all unmasked in this scary game!" A thorough documentation of the first five stages.
- 20 Strategy Guide: Devil's Crush. 20 21
- "Tips on getting that high score." Note: For a detailed analysis of the password system used in this game, see the Devil's Crush TurboTip in issue #4.
- 22 Coming Soon: TG-16 Game Previews. 22 23
- "New games on the way include Boxyboy, Drop Off, Last Alert, Legendary Axe II, Tiger Road, Valis II and Veigues Tactical Gladiator."
- 24 TurboTips: Codes, Tips and Tricks. 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
- "Donn Nauert gives expert game hints." Featured game: Bonk's Adventure. Also included: Bloody Wolf, Cratermaze, CyberCore (1), CyberCore (2), J.J. & Jeff, King of Casino, Splatterhouse.
- 25 TurboPlay Contest Page.
- "Tell us your favorite TurboGrafx-16 game and you could win TurboGrafx-CD and a copy of Ys: Book I & II."
- 26 Advertisement: Splatterhouse (1990, HuCard). 26 27 28 29
- "Splatterhouse is coming." A cute, if somewhat bloody, four-page spread that complements the game's macabre aesthetics.
- 31 Advertisement: Sidearms (1990, HuCard).
- "Featuring authentic 'Coin-Op' quality, Sidearms brings you furious action, dazzling graphics and stereo sound previously available only at the local arcade."
- 32 Advertisement: KLAX (1990, HuCard).
- "Get KLAX today. It's a tic-tac-toe test of your hand-eye-brain coordination."
The strategy guide for Splatterhouse featured in this issue of TurboPlay is clearly recycled from a Japanese PCE magazine* since Rick's mask is white (as it appeared in the PC-Engine HuCard, and in the arcade) instead of red (as found in the TG-16 version). Supposedly, NEC North America was worried about copyright infringement (of the Jason Voorhees character from the Friday the 13th film franchise), so they swapped in a magenta mask to replace the original white one. Thankfully, Mr. Hunter chose the PC-Engine version as his inspiration and retained the iconic imagery of the white hockey mask.
Yet another superb Splatterhouse illustration adorns the first page of the strategy guide, but Mr. Hunter took some liberties with this composition as well: not only does Rick brandish an automatic pistol (a weapon that was never featured in the game), but Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster—two fiends who have absolutely nothing to do with Splatterhouse—appear alongside Rick! By composing the illustration in this manner, Mr. Hunter is going beyond the confines of the game itself and placing Rick in a pantheon of horror icons. Mr. Hunter, whether he intended to or not, was commenting on Rick's relationship to the horror genre in general and to horror-themed video games in particular. Personally, I feel that Rick (and the Splatterhouse series) are worthy of the honor.
*Most likely, the Splatterhouse guide originally appeared in PC Engine Fan Magazine, but this has yet to be verified.
ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY…
This was the first issue of TurboPlay to hold a contest. The prizes offered in this contest were too fantastic to behold, especially for then-15-year-old nerds like myself:
"What game do you like to play most on your TurboGrafx-16? Just tell us and you could win a TurboGrafx-CD and a copy of Ys: Book I & II—one of the best TG-16 games ever!"
Wow, TG-CD and Ys I & II? It didn't get any better than that. Truth be told, however, my brothers and I were tremendously excited about the prospect of playing Valis II as well. Why? Well, all of NEC's early brochures featured an in-game screenshot from Valis II that made us drool. If I recall correctly, it was a picture of Yuko slashing at a monster, with a giant bleached rib cage lying on the ground directly behind her and gorgeous purple-magenta mountains in the distant background. "Wow," we thought, "I wonder what this game is like?" We were familiar with most of the other TG-CD games. We had already played Street Fighter (aka "Fighting Street" for TG-CD) at the local pizza parlor, and we knew Ys I (under the title "Ys: The Vanished Omens") was available for the Sega Master System…but what was this sci-fi / fantasy platformer called Valis? It intrigued us to no end.
And so, upon first encountering this TurboPlay contest, I immediately thought, "This is crazy. Someone is going to win a TurboGrafx-CD?!" You see, amongst the three of us, my brothers and I barely had enough money to acquire the TG-16 console itself. We resigned ourselves to the fact that the TG-CD would never be within our reach. But economic hardship did not squelch our fantasizing about TG-CD hardware and wondering what its CD-ROM games would be like. The contests in TurboPlay served only to fuel these fantasies.
Unfortunately, this was one of only two instances that TurboPlay offered TG-16 hardware as a prize (a TurboExpress was offered in the December 1990 issue). All other contests awarded TG-16 software only, with the typical grand prize consisting of five HuCards (a cash value of roughly $200-250). Considering that TurboGrafx-CD retailed for $399 at the time this issue was published (and Ys I & II sold for $50-$60), the grand prize offered in this issue was…grand, indeed.
A short, but sweet, two-page preview of the soon-to-be-released TurboExpress handheld is featured in this issue of TurboPlay. Actually, if you look closely, you will notice that only the Japanese model (PC Engine GT) is pictured in the photographs. And yes, the Hucard you see inserted in the back of the GT is PC Genjin (Bonk's Adventure). Not surprisingly, a similar preview of the TurboExpress was featured in TurboPlay's parent magazine, Video Games & Computer Entertainment. Parent magazines often recycled content in their sibling publications…
What is surprising, however, is that the TurboExpress actually graced the cover of the parent magazine (see VG&CE, July 1990). You see, this was one of the few times that TG-16 hardware was featured prominently in the mainstream press. Furthermore, and odd as it may sound, TG-16 hardware never appeared on the cover of the dedicated NEC / TTi publications either (TurboPlay, DuoWorld, TurboForce, and TurboEdge), except for a single cartoonish illustration of the PC-Engine DUO seen on TurboPlay #11 (February / March 1992).
Stranger still, TurboPlay never followed-up on its preview of the Japanese PC-Engine GT. When NEC released TurboExpress in North America, no articles on the handheld or its accessories (i.e. TurboVision & TurboLink) ever materialized.
To this day, I consider the TurboExpress to be one of the most innovative handhelds ever released. To my knowledge, it was the first handheld (designed by a first-party) to use the same software as its home console counterpart. Five years later, in 1995, Sega copied this idea for their Nomad handheld (which played Genesis cartridges). Now, I love the Nomad, but even Sega-philes will admit that the huge, bulky size of the Genesis cart was not amenable to the demands of a truly portable system. The slim HuCard format, on the other hand, was well-suited for use in a handheld. TurboExpress had built-in rapid-fire switches (a requisite for shooters and a convenience for many other genres) and featured the nicest LCD screen of its era. And, if you purchased TurboVision, the optional UHF / VHF tuner, not only would you get the best TV-on-a-handheld experience (superior even to that of Sega's later Nomad), but you could use TurboExpress' LCD screen as a monitor! That's right: TurboVision provided A/V input, so nothing prevented you from hooking-up your VCR, video camera, LaserDisc, NES, Sega Master System, Genesis, etc. to the TurboExpress and using it as a portable monitor!
Now for the sobering reality check: TurboExpress was very, very expensive ($299) and devoured batteries at an alarming rate. Even TurboVision was cost-prohibitive ($99). For all of its innovation, the TurboExpress was doomed to remain a niche product in North America.
Looking back, we can see that TurboExpress was one of many handhelds that stood little chance against Nintendo's stalwart Gameboy. NEC, Sega, SNK and Atari offered us very nice handhelds in the 1990's (I loved them all), but the TurboExpress stands out as the earliest technical powerhouse with an amazingly vibrant, high-resolution LCD screen. Its price tag killed it (alas, the same fate befell the TurboGrafx-CD), although its small library of games (especially compared to Gameboy) and anemic battery-life played no small part in its demise.
Still, it's a shame that more folks haven't had a chance to experience the TurboExpress.
*A belated apology to music artist Madonna on behalf of the marketing team behind "TurboExpress Yourself"— a slogan used in future advertising campaigns for the handheld.
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