The PC-FX was an innovative Japanese console released by NEC in 1994. It is the successor to the NEC PC-Engine, and takes a new approach on the concept of the video game console. The PC-FX was designed to be expandable, and is even shaped like PC tower, modelled after NEC’s PC-98 computer platform. The unit plays PC-FX games, audio CDs, CD Gs, and Kodak picture CDs. Due to the consoles failing sales, NEC allowed an abundance of adult games to be released on the console. An internal PC card was available for home PCs that let the PC play PC-FX games so the user did not need to purchase the console. The only other console in history with this feature was Panasonic‘s 3DO (with the 3DO Blaster ).
The case of the PC-FX is shaped like a computer and was designed to be an upgradeable console. The hardware, designed in 1992, was codenamed “Iron Man” and was supposed to be implemented in a new console to replace the PC-Engine after it was developed. PC-Engine developers were upset that NEC was releasing a new console when the market was still expanding so NEC held out another two years while continuing to support the PC-Engine. In 1994, NEC receieved pressure from 3DO, Sega, and Sony with new consoles on the horizon for that year. With few options, the severely outdated Iron Man hardware was used to make the PC-FX, with the intentions of releasing a 3D expansion to compensate for the unit’s underpowered graphics. Develops failed to produce titles for the underpowered system, and as a result, the lackluster game library made it unattractive to consumers. A key feature of the PC-FX is it’s advanced JPEG decoding ability. It has the ability to decompress video at 30 frames per second with digital audio playing simultaneously. PC-FX games enjoyed the best FMVs in console history up until 1998 when the Playstation had better image quality, but still a poorer framerate. While the PC-FX could not handle 3D graphics some effects it could handle are rotation, magnification, reduction, cellophane, fade, and priority. The controller was a fairly standard 6-button controller; the console is also notable for being the first console compatible with a mouse.
The three expansion slots on the console are severely underused for a console marketed as being upgradable similar to a PC. An expansion slot on the front console only had one peripheral released that used it, the FX-BMP memory expansion module. It was simply a memory card that allowed players to save their data onto a portable device rather than internal memory. Expansion ports on the bottom and back of the unit were used to connect to PC-9800 computers, and let the PC-FX be used as an SCSI CD-Rom drive. The 3D expansion module was never released, nor were any upgrades and as a result, the PC-FX remained one of the least powerful consoles on the market. A small panel on the back of the console contains AV jacks, an S-Video jack, and the power connection. The PC-FX doesn’t have an opening CD-Rom drive, but rather the top of the unit flips up and a CD is placed in it much like a Sega CD.
The PC-FX has no copy protection built into it because of the high price of CD burners and writable media at the time of release. This was fairly standard for CD-based consoles at the time.
The PC-FX card for PCs was available for either DOS or PC-9800. It came with 2 CDs used for PC-FX development. Unfortunately, programmed games would not work in retail consoles due to compatibility issues.
CPU – 32-bit NEC V810 RISC processor running at 21.5MHz
Memory – 2MB
VRAM – 1.25MB
Back-up RAM – 32KB
ROM – 1MB
Video Resolution – 640×480
Sound – 16-bit stereo w/2 ADPCM channels and 6 sample channels at 44.1kHz
ODD – 2x CD-ROM drive supporting FX-CD, CD-DA, CD G, CD EG, and Photo CD
IO – Composite, S-Video, 2 controller inputs
Expansion – EXT1 (Back-up memory), EXT2 (Extra functions), EXT3 (Memory expansion)
Size/Weight – 132 x 267 x 244 mm / 2.9kg
Power Consumption – 16W / AC 100V
The PC-FX has somewhat of a reputation for having a higher percentage of adult titles than any other console. Due to poor sales, NEC was rather lenient with what they let be developed for the console. It launched with Graduation 2: Neo Generation FX, Battle Heat and Team Innocent in 1994. Besides hentai games and dating sims, there were also action games, strategy games, and RPGs. Being a Japanese exclusive console with a library consisting of mostly text-heavy adult games and RPGs, most games are not playable by an English speaking player. Most games do have Japanese voiceovers, for nearly all spoken text in fact, so players who have phonetically learned Japanese may be able to understand dialouge. Only 62 games ever appeared on the PC-FX.
FX Fighter was a demonstration used to promote the PC-FX and it’s graphical capabilities. A demo was shown at the Tokyo Toy Show in 1994, and the game seemed playable although is unknown whether it was actually playable or an elaborate set of full motion videos. The game was a 1-on-1 3D fighter which used FMV to represent the characters movement. The game was cancelled halfway through development with only 3 or 4 characters done because the sheer size of the FMVs needed to complete the game exceeded the capacity of a single CD.
Lords of Thunder FX
There is little info about Lords of Thunder FX other than the fact that a tech demo existed. Some Japanese gaming magazines were shown a polygonal rendering of a boss from the original Lords of Thunder released on TurboDuo. It is unknown if the released picture was a playable game, a simple rendering, or even planned for release at all.
Super Star Soldier 3D
Along with Lords of Thunder FX, NEC released photos of an upgraded Super Star Soldier supposedly on the PC-FX. There is little information about it other than that it is a Star Soldier game with better graphics. In 1994, EDGE released a single screenshot of Super Star Soldier 3D which shows the back of a 3D modelled ship flying in a 3D environment. If the shot is real, it shows that the PC-FX was capable of rendering 3D polygons in real time, but no further info on the game or 3D rendering was ever available.
Hi-Ten Bombeman was originally planned for the PC-FX, and is believed to be an early version of Saturn Bomberman. The game is a 10 player version of Bomberman, and is notable for being what would have been the first game formatted for wide screen HDTVs. The game was apparently near completion when NEC canceled the release due to publishing guidelines.
Tengai Makyou III: NAMIDA (Far East of Eden) was a continuation of the popular Tengai Makyou RPG series. It was a highly anticipated game canceled due to the failure of the console. The game was announced in 1995 and development ceased at a very late stage. The project was not picked up again for years but Hudson eventually released a vastly upgraded version of the game on PS2 under the same name.
Masters Tournament Augusta
Pebble Beach No Hatou
Street Fight was an FMV fighter, similar to FX FIghter but with real people. Characters with digitized and the game was supposed to be as realistic as possible. It was never released despite being shown at the 1994 Tokyo Toy Show.
Robot Fighter was another fighter like Street Fight and FX Fighter which used FMV video to display two 3D modeled robots fighting each other. Like the other titles, it was never released, presumably due to CD space restrictions.
Sparkling Feather 2
Sparkling Feather 2 was a planned sequel to Sparkling Feather, another PC-FX game. It was never released.
Virtual Invaders was a Space Invaders style shooter that was scrapped early in development.