The PC-FX[a] is a 32-bit home video game console developed by both NEC and Hudson Soft and released in Japan in 1994. Powered by an NEC V810 CPU and using CD-ROMs, the PC-FX was intended as the successor to the PC Engine and its international counterpart the TurboGrafx-16, two successful video game consoles from the late 1980s. It is NEC's final foray into the home console market.

PC-FX
NEC PC-FX logo.png
NEC-PC-FX-wController-R.jpg
The PC-FX console
DeveloperNEC
Hudson Soft
ManufacturerNEC
TypeHome video game console
GenerationFifth generation era
Release date
  • JP: December 23, 1994
Lifespan1994–1998
Discontinued
  • JP: February 1998
Units sold500,000
MediaCD-ROM
CPUNEC V810
PredecessorPC Engine SuperGrafx
TurboDuo

The console is shaped like a tower PC and was meant to be similarly upgradeable. However the PC-FX lacked a 3D polygon-based graphics chip which rendered the system underpowered in comparison to its competitors. It was also expensive and lacked developer support, and as a result it was unable to compete effectively with its fifth generation peers. The PC-FX was NEC's last home video game console, and was discontinued in February 1998. It was also a commercial failure.

HistoryEdit

Founded in 1899, the NEC Corporation—originally known as the Nippon Electric Company—was originally a distributor of electrical switches and telephones for the Japanese market. Following the events of World War II, NEC began production of personal computers and underwater cable systems. It introduced the PC-8000 line of computers in 1979, which became a popular platform in Japan for aspiring video game developers. In 1987, NEC partnered with game publisher Hudson Soft to create the PC Engine, and later its international counterpart the TurboGrafx-16. The PC Engine was widely-successful, outselling the Sega Mega Drive and directly competing with Nintendo's Family Computer and later the Super Famicom. When the TurboGrafx was released overseas in 1989, it struggled to gain sales due to the release of the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

The success of the PC Engine created a strong relationship between NEC and Hudson, who began work on a true successor to both platforms as early as 1990.[1] While NEC had already released a successor a year prior, the SuperGrafx, it attracted little attention and was a commercial flop. Both companies designed a prototype system known as "Tetsujin" ("Iron Man"), a 32-bit console that featured full-screen video playback, 2 megabytes of RAM, and utilized CD-ROMs for its games.[1] While NEC designed the console itself based on its previous experience with electronics, Hudson provided the necessary custom chipset and co-processors.[1] The prototype was announced in 1992 and presented to companies that expressed interest. To demonstrate the system's capabilities, Hudson created a version of Star Soldier that displayed 3D objects over pre-rendered backdrops. When its presentation garnered considerable support, NEC and Hudson began to move forward with the project.[1]

The Tetsujin was set to launch in 1992, however the lack of completed games pushed the launch date to spring 1993.[1][2] The console was not launched on this date either; publications speculated that the PC Engine's continued success in the market made NEC and Hudson reluctant to release a succeeding platform.[1] The release of technologically-superior consoles, such as the Atari Jaguar and 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, made the Tetsujin's hardware look more dated by comparison. Publications grew skeptical on how well it would perform in the market due to its inferior hardware and the amount of competing platforms.[1] The Tetsujin was scrapped in early 1994 as the two companies began work on designing an improvement that could compete with systems such as the Sega Saturn.[1] While NEC and Hudson knew that the system's technology was unimpressive, time constraints prevented them from creating a new one from scratch, which was codenamed "FX".[1] The system was redesigned to resemble a PC tower, with slots that allowed for future models to increase its capabilities.[1] Very little of the hardware itself was changed from the Tetsujin prototype, although the custom processors was reduced from five to one.[3] The system was renamed to the PC-FX, the "PC" believed to be a nod to the PC Engine brand. NEC chose not to implement a polygon graphics processor, as it believed these had insufficient power and lead to in-game characters having a more blocky appearance.[4][5]

The PC-FX was showcased at the 1994 Tokyo Toy Show in June. In addition to being presented alongside several other competing systems—the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Neo Geo CD, and Bandai Playdia—its PC tower design was met with ridicule from commentators.[1] Hudson demonstrated FX Fighter, a full-motion video fighting game created in response to Sega's Virtua Fighter, to showcase the system's capabilities. Its smooth-shaded polygonal visuals were met with praise from publications, which contributed to the anticipated launch of the console.[1] NEC intended for the PC-FX's target audience to be at least five years older than the PC Engine, as they hoped it would lure in PC Engine fans to the platform.[6] The console was launched in Japan on December 23, 1994, three years after its intended release date. NEC showed interest in releasing the PC-FX outside Japan if non-video game uses were created for it.[6]

The PC-FX was discontinued in early 1998. It sold only 400,000 units over its lifetime.[7]

Technical specificationsEdit

PC-FX motherboard
PC-FX motherboard
PC-FX daughterboard

The PC-FX uses CD-ROMs as its storage medium, following on from the expansion released for its predecessor, which originally used HuCards. The game controller is virtually identical to a DUO-RX controller, but the rapid fire switches have been replaced with mode A/B switches. Peripherals include a PC-FX mouse, which is supported by strategy games like Farland Story FX and Power DoLLS FX.

The shining quality of the PC-FX was the ability to decompress 30 JPEG pictures per second while playing digitally recorded audio (essentially a form of Motion JPEG).[5][6] This resulted in the PC-FX having superior full motion video quality over all other fifth generation consoles.

The PC-FX's computer-like design was unusual for consoles at the time. It stands upright like a tower computer while other contemporary consoles lay flat. Another interesting feature is its three expansion ports. Also, similar to the 3DO, it featured a built in power supply.

The PC-FX includes an HU 62 series 32-bit system board, an LSI chip, and a 32-bit V-810 RISC CPU. The system can display 16.77 million colors (the same amount as the PlayStation).[3]

Unusual for a fifth generation console, the PC-FX does not have a polygon graphics processor.[8][5] NEC's reasoning for this was that polygon processors of the time were relatively low-powered, resulting in figures having a blocky appearance, and that it would be better for games to use pre-rendered polygon graphics instead.[6]

LibraryEdit

There were 62 games released for the system. The launch titles were Graduation 2: Neo Generation FX, Battle Heat and Team Innocent on December 23, 1994 and the final game released was First Kiss Story on April 24, 1998. The system and all titles were only released in Japan. A number of demo discs were also released with publications which allowed the user to play the disc in a CD equipped PC-Engine or the PC-FX.

NEC directed Hudson Soft, with whom they continued their partnership over the PC Engine, to develop only games based on popular anime franchises and using prerendered animated footage. Though this policy played to the hardware's strengths, it barred Hudson Soft from bringing successful PC Engine series such as Bomberman and Bonk to the PC-FX.[9]

The system has a reputation for having a higher percentage of adults-only video games than other home consoles, in part thanks to its small library of games.[10]

ReceptionEdit

In a special Game Machine Cross Review in May 1995, Famicom Tsūshin would score the PC-FX console an 18 out of 40.[11]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Japanese: ピーシー エフエックス Hepburn: Pī Shī Efu Ekkusu

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McFerran, Damien (9 May 2015). "Feature: What NEC And Hudson Did Next: The Disasterous [sic] Story Of The PC-FX". Nintendo Life. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on 2 April 2020. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  2. ^ "Yet One More 32-bit System". GamePro. No. 56. IDG. March 1994. p. 184.
  3. ^ a b "NEC of Japan Reveals Specs on New FX 32-Bit Game System!". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 54. Sendai Publishing. January 1994. p. 66.
  4. ^ "Next Wave". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 60. Sendai Publishing. July 1994. p. 110.
  5. ^ a b c "Overseas ProSpects: NEC PC-FX". GamePro. No. 64. IDG. November 1994. p. 268.
  6. ^ a b c d "NEC Launches New PC-FX Game System!". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 66. Sendai Publishing. January 1995. pp. 172–173.
  7. ^ "Hardware Totals". Game Data Library. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Next Wave". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 60. Sendai Publishing. July 1994. p. 110.
  9. ^ "Hudson Soft". Next Generation. No. 3. Imagine Media. March 1995. p. 81.
  10. ^ http://www.giantbomb.com/pc-fx/3045-75/
  11. ^ Game Machine Cross Review: PC-FX. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.335. Pg.167. 12–19 May 1995.