Turbo charge
Edge|Christmas 2020
Analogue announces Duo, a new console for NEC’s PC Engine family
Analogue never takes the easy road. If it did, it probably wouldn’t release a new console dedicated to NEC’s much-loved but not exactly record-breaking PC Engine. And yet here we are. When it’s released next year, Analogue Duo will natively play CD-ROMs and HuCard cartridges made for PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16, as it was known in the UK, North America and Spain) and its followup, SuperGrafx. Between 1987 and 1994, this family of machines sold some ten million units, but mostly in Japan. For another company, such a push into a relatively niche system would be a tactical misstep, especially since it will be competing with the TurboGrafx-16 Mini console, which was released earlier this year and comes loaded with 60 games, while you’ll need to buy your own for Duo. But Analogue doesn’t work that way.

“It’s always been the most esoteric experiences in videogame history that interest me the most,” says Analogue founder Christopher Taber. “Most mainstream systems, they’re amazing, but most people know they’re amazing. We can make really any esoteric system under a sustainable business model; we’re excited to make the Duo, people are excited to play and experience it, and that’s the best place for us to be. That’s the place I’ve always wanted Analogue to be.”

Taber is quite aware of the size of Duo’s audience, then, but he’s in this because he simply loves NEC’s approach to game consoles, which he characterises as “doing wild things, over and over.” For example, PC Engine was the first 16bit console (if you overlook its 8bit CPU: its GPU was 16bit). When the CD-ROM² add-on was released in 1988, PC Engine became the first console to move to CD-ROM formats. NEC was way ahead of its time, and while it’s an electronics giant which dominated the Japanese computing scene throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s, PC Engine was a deeply game orientated system, with its CPU, GPU and cartridge slot all designed by the eccentric and prolific Bomberman maker HudsonSoft.

“I really love all NEC’s history,” says Taber. “Sadly, they never got anywhere near the level they deserved, but I’d say that collectively, NEC’s are probably the greatest and yet most underappreciated videogame systems of all time. There’s just a lot there, not just PC Engine, but the CD add-ons and the overly complex formatting and special cards that you need. We wanted to do the same thing we’ve done with all our products, to make the ultimate way to explore this entire piece of history.”

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