Back to NFG/Games

The System

Note: These images are free to use
But please link to this page if you do!
The Korean Vistar / TurboGrafx 16

When the PC Engine was released in Japan it made a huge impact in the gaming scene. Far more powerful than the Famicom, the PCE kicked ass for half a decade, holding off the Megadrive with ease, and maintaining the number two spot against the Famicom and, for a couple of years, the Super Famicom (SNES). The PC Engine was brought over to North America with a lot of fanfare, and was expected by some to kick the pants off the Genesis - and why shouldn't it? It had a huge library of amazing games and scads of developers making games for it in Japan. It's a shame then that NEC, and later NEC + Hudson combined as TTI, couldn't make a go of it. The system received only mangled versions of the B-list Japanese games, and most A-list games were denied North American release by game companies unwilling to risk the wrath of Nintendo and the money machine that was the NES. Nintendo was ruthless, and the justified fear was allowing your game to be released on a competing console was essentially inviting disaster.

Amazingly NEC went on to release the TurboGrafx in Europe. The PAL version of the TG-16 is quite rare in the wild, though currently a few retailers have stacks of new unsold units available for a reasonable price. The PAL unit was the same as the TG-16, but for the colour which was a light grey compared to the TurboGrafx's black. It played the same games as the TG, used the same controllers and had the same expansion port. No one in Europe seems to recall this unit ever being on sale, and it could be that it was only released in Spain, though the manual is multi-language.

There was another.

While the PC Engine was sold in Korea by Daewoo (whether officially or grey-market I don't know), it seems another company was bringing in TurboGrafx-16 systems and selling them as the Vistar. It's not known if this was an official release, however I believe it was for a few reasons. Internally it was the same as the TG-16, and I mean identical. The same PCB was used, though the rear expansion connector was removed, and two additional sub-PCBs were added for A/V output.

If you've ever looked at the inside of a TG-16, you'll have seen this exact thing before, but without those two brown PCBs in the corner. It would appear that the Vistar was made from surplus parts; There are scuffs and broken bits indicating the original TG-16 shielding was removed, and the Vistar's shielding added. The PCB mounts where rear expansion connector should be are very clean, so it was either removed by a machine or the PCB was shipped without it from the factory. Definitely a large-scale operation then, and probably with the permission or assistance of NEC and/or TTI.

Keith Courage was, insanely enough, shipped with the system, same as the TurboGrafx. At least in Europe they had the common sense to bundle Blazing Lazers, though it might have made more sense to include R-Type considering that was the game shown on the box. But I digress. The Keith Courage manual was completely translated into Korean, but included all the same art as the TG version. A crying shame considering how dreadful it is, and how good the PC Engine art was.

The HuCards were American, probably surplus stock. A sticker with the Vistar-16 logo covered the old TG-16 logo, and the rear of the card featured a large silver sticker with usage instructions, copyright data, release dates, a phone number and as we've come to expect, a space to carve your name. It's not known whether all these stickered games received full manual translations like Keith Courage. The back of the Keith Courage manual includes screenshots and a brief description of three other games (Ninja Spirit, Air Zonk + Bonk's Adventure), and you could presume these at least had translated official releases. I received the following cards with this unit, all US released HuCards with stickers: Neutopia 2, Bloody Wolf, King of Casino, Super Star Soldier, Vigilante, Bonk's Revenge, Super Volleyball, Psychosis and Devil's Crush.

Keith Courage, Korean Style
This is a scan of the manual.

Click for larger.
Looks a bit like a WebTV or a cable-modem, doesn't it?

My unit included this PC-Engine adaptor. I don't know if it was an official peripheral, but I doubt it was.

The controller is a re-badged TG-16 pad, with an authentic replacement frontpiece, but only a sticker covering the raised text on the backside of the pad. It still says 'TurboGrafx 16' on the center of the pad.

The manual.

If you know anything else about this system, please email me!