The world of retro gaming has never been so accessible – from a wealth of digital remasters of classic titles, to the numerous pieces of hardware designed to bring your original copies of games back from their dusty resting places, there’s never been a better time to experience gaming history.
It feels like only yesterday that Nintendo decided to throw their red cap into the retro ring, releasing their debut console as a mini collectable, complete with authentic controllers and a host of preloaded classics.
Four years later and gamers are spoiled for choice when it comes to the convenient world of retro mini consoles, with the likes of Sega, Sony and Commodore all having their own take on the idea of mini nostalgia.
The words ‘PC Engine’ may mean very little to gamers based in the UK, yet the console did see a release under its Turbo Grafx 16 alias, with sales being minuscule compared to other video game giants.
While the hardware is the same, the design approach to the Turbo Grafx 16 was less elegant than its successful Japanese sibling.
The PC Engine Mini stands as both Konami’s entry into the mini-console market and a capsule of nostalgia from across the seas.
Just like its miniature competition, the PC Engine Mini is an accurate recreation of the original consoles form factor – a small grey square with a space-age design, proudly displaying its brand across the front in blue.
The original system was already astoundingly small, so even this Mini’s slightly smaller form is something of an achievement.
Konami has gone all out with crafting the physicality of the PC Engine Mini, with details such as the mechanism to lock game cards in place when the system is turned on being retained, despite the fact the console doesn’t use cartridges.
The console even features an expansion bay cover at the back, which now serves to cover the HDMI and USB power sockets, which may be more confusing for users than nostalgic.
As aforementioned, the console connects to your TV using HDMI and USB type B for power, which falls in line with the rest of the mini consoles on the market. The lack of included power supply might be an issue for some, but the package does include all the relevant cables.
Needless to say, if you already have a Mini console, you’ll no doubt be up and running in no time, as these little machines can be powered by your TV’s USB, which really fortifies the idea of it being a true Plug & Play system.
Also included in the box is a USB controller, which is a near-perfect modern-day rendition of the original pad. Luckily, the cable on these controllers is lengthy enough to reach your sofa, so you’ll not have to perch next to the TV to play.
This specific version of the PC Engine, being the ‘Core Grafx’, features turbo switches on the controller as standard, which both adds a unique flair and makes playing the console’s included arcade games slightly less punishing.
Speaking of games, this Mini comes preloaded with a whopping 57 titles, comprising of titles available for the original PC Engine/Turbo Grafx 16 and its CD system add-on, which was notably the first CD-based games system to be released.
There’s a nice selection of genres available when it comes to the PC Engine library, with RPGs, arcade shooters and platformers helping to show off what the original hardware was capable of.
The emulation on display here stands as a monument to how far the industry has come. Just like with the MegaDrive Mini, developers M2 have teamed up with Konami to create something special, with the result being a near-flawless experience.
Just like we have come to expect, save state functionality is included, as well as an array of image settings, which will satisfy the pixel purists amongst us.
Beyond the performance of this machine, M2 has also enriched the experience with details that will overwhelm players with nostalgia, whether they played the original console or not.
Selecting a game will initiate an animation, ranging from the satisfying sound of a game card clicking into the system, to the soothing whirl of systems CD drive as it loads your game, displaying the original hardware’s splash screen.
This library is split up into both Turbo Grafx 16 and PC Engine categories, which serve as a way to determine which games were available outside of Japan.
There's a great mix of familiar classics and hidden gems included on the PC Engine Mini, such as Splatterhouse, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Space Harrier joining more obscure titles like the arcade shooter, Lords of Thunder, the RPG series, Y’s and Bonk, the colourful stone age platformer series.
There are, however, drawbacks to having both English and Japanese games included, most notably with the inclusion of the likes of the Hideo Kojima classic, Snatcher, which is a text-heavy experience.
Having a Japanese language version included on a system aimed at fans who are thirsty for an English version of the game only serves to add a bitter flavour to the experience.
There are also various multiplayer additions to the PC Engine Mini lineup, with the likes of Bomberman supporting up to 4 players.
Sadly, this comes at the expense of having to purchase more controllers and a ‘Turbo Tap’ USB adaptor, which comes in at £21.99 for a gamepad and £24.99 for the adapter on Amazon.
This is sure to leave your wallet in tears, especially since the console itself will set you back £99.99 at its current price point.
For the price of this Mini, a second controller would have lessened the financial blow of this retro investment, especially since Sega, Nintendo and Sony all include two controllers with their Mini’s as standard.
PC Engine Mini Verdict
The PC Engine Mini is a stellar example of how far we’ve come in terms of the retro experience. Konami and M2 have extracted the experience of the original console perfectly, imbuing their mini recreation charm and quality.
While this console is admittedly a bit niche, there's definitely something here for both retro enthusiasts and casual games alike.
Unfortunately, the cost of this experience may be its downfall, limiting its user base to collectors and gamers who have already purchased the more affordable Minis on the market. Perhaps at a lower price point, a new generation of gamers would get to experience the beauty of one of Japan’s favourite consoles.
The PC Engine Mini might be a lovingly crafted authentic retro experience, but at £99.99 it's hampered by its unnecessary premium price tag and lack of a second controller.
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