Let’s Play “NEC Product Manager”Posted on June 25th, 2009 4 comments
The next game chronologically on the ol’ PC Engine release docket is Mashin Eiyūden Wataru — better known to us red-blooded U.S.Americans as good ol’ Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, the worst pack-in game ever packed-in to anything.
While playing (more like wading my way) through Wataru, I ran through a mental exercise in my mind: What, if any, better game available at the time of the TurboGrafx-16’s August 1989 launch would have been a more suitable pack-in? Well, if we’re counting the entirety of Japan, quite a lot. R-Type, for example. But that’s a 4-megabit HuCard. Let’s say that NEC wanted to keep the pack-in game to two megs to save money. What then? This is an extremely important decision, you know — the pack-in gives your audience their very first impression of the console, and it better be a good one, or else they won’t see any point in buying the thing. (Let’s ignore the fact that NEC thought Bikkuriman World was a great launch title for the Japan market.)
For reference, I’ve scanned in two relevant pages from the Sears Wishbook: Holiday 1989, which devotes five pages to the NES, three to the Genesis and Master system, four to Atari’s assorted systems (sheesh), and a single spread to the TG16. Given that Sears put out their wishbooks around October, this is a pretty good outline of what was available for the Turbo at launch. If you were NEC’s US video-game project manager, which game would you throw into the system box?
The answer’s actually pretty simple. The $59 games are all three megabits, so those get cut out immediately. That leaves Keith Courage, Victory Run, The Legendary Axe, Alien Crush, and China Warrior. Hmm. To me, the choice is between Legendary Axe and Alien Crush, and between those two I’d take Legendary Axe ‘cos it’s fast action, it’s pretty fun, it looks demonstrably better than anything the NES could manage, and it’s from a genre that has universal appeal. (I always thought it was a mistake for Atari to make Pole Position II the pack-in for the 7800. Not the greatest mistake they made with that platform, but…)
My guess is that NEC USA had a similar conversation going on internally but went with Keith Courage because their main partner Hudson, and not a third party, coded it. Life can be unfair like that sometimes. NEC made up for it with their 4-in-1 TurboDuo CD, but by then it was far too late.
(PS. What’s worse — spending $199, or $341.31 in 2008 dollars, for a TG16 with Keith Courage, or spending a total of $589, $1012.28 in ’08 dollars, for the right to play Keith Courage…and Fighting Street?)
monster lair, bitch. i spent $1012.28 to play monster lair!
i think you are missing several of many points
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