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  • [I ♥ The PC Engine] PC Engine Pad

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 keving 1 comment

    PC Engine Pad (PCエンジンパッド)

    Maker: NEC Home Electronics (NEC-HE)
    Release Date: 10/30/87
    Price: 2480 yen

    (I called NEC-HE “NEC Home Entertainment” in the previous post. How embarrassing.)

    The First Standard Controller

    ppadThis is the controller that was included with the PC Engine, the white one, that came out October 1987. The standard one, in other words. They were sold separately as well in order to take advantage of the Multitap, one of the PCE’s top selling points at the beginning.

    Arguably, one of the main reasons that Nintendo’s Famicom was so successful in Japan was its controller, a simple mix of two buttons and the control pad borrowed from their Game & Watch series that served as the basic interface for all of its games. The PCE both learned from the FC and hoped to surpass it, so it’s perhaps little surprise that the system’s pad sticks to the FC controller’s basic blueprint: a pad and two buttons, marked I and II instead of A and B. The FC pad’s Start and Select buttons are on here too, labeled Run and Select and located in nearly the exact same place. The pad itself is flat like Nintendo’s, lacking the ridges seen on later game systems that made it an easier fit to the hand.

    The main difference from the FC pad is the fact that the pad is built on top of a plastic disc. The Famicom control pad is shaped like a perfect plus sign, making it both tough on the fingers and somewhat difficult to push in diagonal directions, and the PCE’s pad improves on this. Otherwise, the basic construction is identical. (Some of the PCE’s third-party controllers use a Nintendo-style pad, if you really insist upon it.)

    One unique feature of the PCE pad is the reset function, accessed by pressing Run and Select at once. Nearly every other system (including the FC, SFC and Mega Drive) put the reset button on the console itself, but with the PC Engine, NEC decided to put that functionality on the controller instead. I really can’t say why they went for this, but I remember reading somewhere that it was a side effect of NEC’s “Core Concept,” making it easy to reset the console no matter what kind of stuff was attached to it. This Run/Select reset function made its way to the PC-FX later on as well.

    The Run and Select buttons are largely meant for starting a game and selecting menu items, but some later games (usually fighters) use them as attack buttons.

    The original Famicom’s controllers were hard-wired into the console, requiring you to open up the system to remove them (a pretty easy procedure, actually). The PC Engine, meanwhile, has a single control port, meaning that only one player can use the system out of the box. You can insert and remove controllers quickly and easily, at least, and buying a Multitap allows up to five players to join in at once, not that there was much for five players to enjoy for another few years.

    Your choice of controller was also available from the very beginning, starting with the Turbo Pad that was sold separately with the PCE on launch. That controller’s exactly the same as the PC Engine Pad in shape and color; the only difference is the turbo switches on top of the I and II buttons. Hudson and Hori had already released turbo controllers for the Famicom by this point, given that Master Takahashi was making “turbo” a buzzword among Japanese kids at the time, and it makes sense that Hudson would make it a part of the PCE’s design from the start. The Turbo Pad was meant to be an upgrade from the regular pad, but at 2680 yen, it was only 200 yen more expensive than the standard model, making the PCE Pad seem needlessly expensive and the Turbo Pad the obvious choice when buying extra controllers. As a result, the Turbo Pad became the standard pretty quickly, getting packed in with the hardware starting with the Shuttle and CoreGrafx at the end of 1989. This makes the non-turbo PC Engine Pad surprisingly difficult to find in modern used-game shops.

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