The TurboGrafx-16 Mini Has Some of Retro Gaming's Best Hidden Gems


As part of the ongoing wave of all-in-one miniature retro consoles, Konami has unveiled the TurboGrafx-16 Mini. It includes 24 American titles and 26 Japanese titles for a total of 50 games. While Nintendo mini-consoles like the NES and SNES Classic were met with overwhelming praise, overall impressions about the TurboGrafz-16 have more relatively lukewarm.One of the main criticisms against the console is its library, which has been dinged for not including enough recognizable games.

The TurboGrafx-16 was not a successful console, but that didn't stop the platform from getting some excellent titles. However, the console's relatively small still had a few recognizable franchises, like the Bonk series, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, and the Gradius series. However, there are still plenty of games on the mini-console that are worth your time.

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Snatcher 1

Before Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima made some of the greatest games of all time, he made Snatcher. This adventure game boasts a Cyberpunk aesthetic and noir-style of storytelling. It was actually released for the TurboGrafx-16's add-on disc system, the Super CD-Rom, which itself is an upgrade of the TurboGrafx CD.

It features full voice acting, anime-style graphics and a semi-open world. The Super CD-Rom version was only released in Japan so this will be the first time this original version of the game will be commercially available in the United States, adn the first time it's been available at all since a 1995 release on the Sega CD. Given the success and importance of Kojima's later works, this game is a cult-classic that set the stage for many of Kojima's later games.

Blazing Lasers

Blazing Lasers

The TurboGrafx-16 excelled at shoot-em-up genres, even better than its more successful contemporary consoles, Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. The console has a plethora of excellent shoot-em-up games and Blazing Lasers is one of the best on the console. This vertical scrolling shooter has impressively big sprites with attacks that fill up the screen and huge bosses who usually take up a third of the screen. The power-ups are varied, including homing lasers, shields and a module that assists you, and they can all be upgraded.

The action is fast and intense, with multiple bosses being thrown at you in one level and upgrades plentiful in order to keep the pace. Blazing Lasers is a title worth checking out, especially if you enjoy the Aleste series and M.U.S.H.A. on the Genesis, which this developer also made.

Parasol Stars

Parasol Stars

You may know  Bubble Bobble for its famous NES port, addictive gameplay and memorable music. Parasol Stars is the third game in this franchise and the best version of this title. You play as Bubby or Bobby, the protagonists of the first game, who've now been transformed back into humans. You must travel to different planets and defeat the monsters.

Instead of bubbles, you have a parasol, which you use to hit, pick up and throw enemies into other enemies for maximum damage. You can also use your parasol to shield you from projectiles, pick up power-ups, and float down from a jump. It's a simple arcade game that is a lot of fun and a natural progression of the Bubble Bobble gameplay.

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Alien Crush

Alien Crush

Alien Crush is an unique take on the virtual pinball genre. The games makes players bonafide Pinball Wizards who must use the silver ball to defeat aliens. The game has a dirty and distinctly otherworldly art design, reminiscent of the Alien movie series and the work of H. R. Giger.

The game's pinball board is broken up into an upper and lower section, with each containing its own set of flippers. By completing certain objectives like taking out the alien heads or passing through a number of gates, you can access the bonus room. Even by today's standards, Alien Crush is a unique pinball release that is rarely recreated and deserves a second look.

Air Zonk

The Bonk and its titular caveman were the closest thing the TurboGrafx-16 had to a mascot,  even though his games were eventually ported to competing consoles. However, this spinoff game is almost completely forgotten. As an attempt to update Bonk, Air Zonk is a side scrolling shooter with cartoonish visuals or what's colloquially known as a "Cute-Em-Up."

The game features a variety of weird power-ups, including boomerangs, punching gloves and alligator teeth. The most unique mechanic is the friend system. You choose one of 10 friends Zonk has at the beginning of the stage. Collect seven smiley face icons and you'll summon them. Collect seven more and you'll merge with them and to acquire a completely new move set. Even among all the other shoot-em-ups on the console. touches like that make Air Zonk stand out.

JJ & Jeff

Jeff and JJ

JJ & Jeff is arguably the weirdest game being included on this mini console. JJ & Jeff is based on a Japanese television show, which itself inspired the American television show America's Funniest Home Videos. JJ & Jeff are the American localized replacements for the Japanese hosts of the show, Kato-chan and Ken-chan. At first, it appears to be a standard side-scrolling platformer.

However, this game is remarkable for its especially crass humor. Enemies in this game include a man uriniating on the side of a street, a pooping bird, and a man in a bear costume. While the American version is often looked down upon since it censored some of the game's grosser aspects. Nonetheless, it's still a remarkable quirky platformer that needs to be played to be believed.

While the TurboGrafx-16 had some great games in its 150 title library, several of those, like  Splatterhouse and The Legendary Axe are missing here. Still, this mini-console has enough hidden gems for retro gamers that it shouldn't be overlooked.

The TurboGrafx-16 will be released on March 19, 2020.

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