While hyped by game magazines at the time, NEC's 1987 Japanese console never made it to Europe, meaning few people around here - with the exception of Riyad - ever had the chance to enjoy one. Released in the States as the TurboGrafx-16, the PC Engine was the most advanced console around until the launch of the Sega MegaDrive in 1998. It might have only used an 8-bit, 7.16MHz processor, but it's 16-bit graphics processors gave it sprite handling capabilities a generation ahead of the Master System and NES, and enabled it to continue slugging it out against the MegaDrive and Super Famicom/SNES years later.
With a 512x240 maximum resolution and 482 onscreen colours (from a palette of 512) the PC Engine seemed like a miracle. Plus, it was a tiny, beautifully engineered console that took credit card-sized cards instead of cartridges. In due course a CD add-on made it the first console to support optical media, while expansion cards boosted the 8KB RAM (with a stunning 64KB of VRAM) to 256KB and finally 2MB.
The PC Engine was a hit in Japan, but never achieved any real traction in the US market, even with the release of a handheld version: the battery-guzzling PC Engine GT. All the same, its limited availability and the fact that some classics only appeared on this one console have afforded it legendary status amongst obsessive console collectors. Luckily, many of the games - including Riyad's beloved Dungeon Explorer are now available in Europe thanks to the Wii Virtual Console.
Unfortunately titled Bonk's Adventure in the US, PC Kid was the PC Engine's platforming tour-de-force. Featuring a ferocious toddler with a huge, bald cranium, PC Kid is remembered today for its exuberant visual style, lavish jungle landscapes and enormous dinosaur bosses - not to mention the chilli power-ups that put our hero in the monster-trashing tantrum to end all tantrums. It's still a lot of fun today, so look out for a bit of Bonk action on the Virtual Console.
Dracula X: Rondo of Blood
The legendary lost tenth episode of Castlevania, known as Dracula X in Japan. Never released in the West, the original version of Rondo of Blood saw the series break from its traditional platform/action roots towards the arcade/adventure style it would adopt for the PlayStation classic Symphony of Night. Today the controls feel a bit on the clunky side, but the cinematics - powered by the revolutionary CD-ROM - and the impressive bosses still work well today. Sadly, Rondo of Blood can't be found on virtual console, but it can be found in the Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles compilation on the PSP, along with a fine 2.5D remake and a great port of Symphony of Night. If you remember Castlevania fondly, it's well worth tracking down.
These days weird hybrids of arcade action and pinball are old-hat, but it was Alien Crush that came up with the idea. Splicing pinball to shoot-em-up game mechanics and a Giger-influenced alien theme was a masterstroke, and Alien Crush remains one of the finest console pinball games to this day. Some aficionados prefer the horror-themed sequel, Devil Crush, but either is well worth a Virtual Console download.
The perfect arcade conversion of R-Type was the shoot â€˜em up that made the PC Engine's name, but Gunhed is another that deserves classic status. Loosely based on a Japanese movie/manga franchise, Gunhed is a top-down vertical shooter with an ingenious system of weapon upgrades and nine areas of spectacular blasting capped by some of the finest bosses ever fought. Available on Virtual Console under the US title, Blazing Lasers.