Former NEC employees tell the ballad of the TurboGrafx-16

NEC was poised to capture a significant share of the emerging North American video game market with the release of the TurboGrafx-16, but corporate indifference doomed the console to obscurity, an interview feature posted at Gamasutra today reveals.

Released alongside the Sega Genesis in 1989, the TurboGrafx-16 hosted a number of exceptional games during its short lifespan, and was the first home console to boast a CD-ROM add-on. While standout games like Bonk's Revenge, Blazing Lazers, and Ys Book 1 & 2 earned it a contingent of devoted fans, many of the console's greatest efforts -- including acclaimed Castlevania: Symphony of the Night predecessor Dracula X -- languished in Japan, leaving its North American branch to suffer a slow death.

Gamasutra's interviews reveal a still-lingering passion among NEC's North American staff, however, with many pinning the console's failure on inaction from its Japanese branch. Former NEC employee John Brandstetter recalls negotiating with multiple companies for key localization projects that never materialized. "If we gave [NEC Japan] a lineup, a list of what we thought would be the killer lineup for Christmas, we maybe got one out of the 10 or 15 titles we asked for," he said.

Brandstetter adds: "I was in Japan all the time, in meetings with these guys, saying, 'Here's the lineup. Here's why.' 'Well, you need to research.' 'Okay. Well, here it is again. Here's why.' And then, nothing. You'd hear nothing back for months."

The U.S.-based Turbo Technologies, Inc took over marketing duties in 1992, promoting the new CD-ROM-bundled TurboDuo hardware. At one point, TTI attempted to recreate the appeal of Japanese spokesman Takahashi Meijin in a series of promotional comics featuring masked superhero Johnny Turbo, but the campaign fell flat, and the TurboDuo succumbed as Sega battled the Super NES for market supremacy.

Much of the TurboGrafx's U.S. library is available on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console service, including several CD-ROM games. Konami now owns the rights to many TurboGrafx-16 games and franchises following its purchase of developer Hudson in 2011.

[Image: TTI]