[I ♥ The PC Engine] Turbo PadPosted on May 11th, 2009 5 comments
Turbo Pad (ターボパッド)
Maker: NEC Home Electronics (NEC-HE)
Release Date: 10/30/87
Price: 2680 yen
The PC Engine’s Standard Controller
The Turbo Pad controller was originally released separately as an option for the PC Engine, which came standard with a PC Engine Pad equipped with just the I, II, Run and Select buttons. The Turbo Pad comes with two turbo switches with your choice of three speeds, and NEC marketed it as a controller upgrade at first. However, with only 200 yen of difference in the price of both systems, the “optional” Turbo Pad quickly found itself the standard choice of controllers among PCE users.
This was actually the first peripheral ever released to use the word “turbo” to refer to a device that triggered button presses really fast for you. (Until this point, the native Japanese words renda or rensha were used.) It’s entirely possible the word was chosen because it matches well with the “Engine” in the console’s name…and it’s also not beyond the realm of possibility that this influenced NEC’s American department when they decided to call the console “TurboGrafx-16”.
So why did NEC release a turbo pad separate from the console on the day of the PCE’s launch? To answer this, think about the Japanese game marketplace in the mid-80s. What sort of games would create a demand for turbo devices? It was, of course, the shooter genre, which was hitting massive proportions over on the Famicom. It was an age where the speed at which you could fire off shots, in many ways, dictated how good of a gamer you are. This was symbolized no better than by Hudson’s Master Takahashi, an adman and PR guy who became a virtual god to the Famicom generation because he could push a button 16 times per second. Not everyone can be Master Takahashi, sadly, and eventually “cheaters” across the land figured out how to modify their controllers to do that 16-button-press trick for them.
The FC controller itself had no turbo function, of course, but Sharp’s FC-compatible Twin Famicom (1986) came with turbo controllers out of the box, and all manner of third-party accessory makers were also releasing turbo pads and sticks for the system. I read somewhere on the net (there’s that memory of mine again) that there were mail-order services in Japan where you’d send them your FC controllers and they’d install turbo switches in them for you.
It was that kind of era, and in many ways, Hudson and Master Takahashi kicked it off all by themselves. Making turbo standard for the PC Engine was therefore obvious — especially when you consider how the console was practially made for shooting games.
The Turbo Pad became the standard pack-in controller for the PCE beginning with the release of the CoreGrafx in December 1989. The design of the pad is unchanged except for the colors, retouched to match the console. Another color change came to the controller with the CoreGrafx II, released June 1991, and further variants exist for the Duo, Duo-R and the PC Engine attachment for Pioneer’s LaserActive system.
CoreGrafx CoreGrafx II LaserActive
The Turbo Pad was the controller of choice for most of the PCE’s history, but after fighting games hit it big near the end of the system’s life, six-button pads like the Avenue Pad 6 became the main option. The Arcade Pad was the pack-in controller for the Duo-RX in 1994, putting a formal end to the Turbo Pad’s career — not that the PCE itself had much of one left by that point.
I usually check in every few weeks to catch up on your “game set watch” articles and I was surprised to read that magweasel had been changed… (Tangent: I love the concept for magweasel and I hope that the wiki isn’t gone forever.)
Anyway, I was particularly intrigued upon reading this:
“This was actually the first peripheral ever released to use the word “turbo” to refer to a device that triggered button presses really fast for you. (Until this point, the native Japanese words renda or rensha were used.) It’s entirely possible the word was chosen because it matches well with the “Engine” in the console’s name…and it’s also not beyond the realm of possibility that this influenced NEC’s American department when they decided to call the console “TurboGrafx-16″.”
Ha! We will probably never know the true story behind the TG-16 moniker, but I like your suggestion that the “TurboPad” might have inspired the name for the console. Awesome.
I look forward to reading stuff here (I enjoyed video-fenky, of course).
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