NEC PC-FX [OT] - 32-bit Blunder

It’s not often that a video game hardware manufacturer follows up a successful console with a complete commercial failure that takes them out of the market but that’s exactly what happened with NEC. The company had enjoyed a steady second place position to Nintendo in the Japanese console wars from the late 1980s to early 1990s with their PC Engine line but this all came to a screeching halt with the release of its new 32-bit console in 1994, the PC-FX.

At the time, multimedia was the buzz-word of the day. Companies like Philips and 3DO had hoped to create a new market, one where “all-in-one” systems would play games, music, and movies like a PC but with the user friendliness of a console. NEC followed this line of thinking when designing the PC-FX. Its casing was made to look like a PC tower instead of a traditional game console, and it included expansion ports for future upgrades. An adapter was also sold so owners of NEC PC-98 computers could use the machine for its CD-ROM drive.

Given the quick demise of multimedia consoles, the PC-FX was left to battle against the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation. It was immediately obvious that it could not compete technologically. It was capable of quality full-motion video but graphically it was more like a souped up PC Engine than a next generation console. It didn’t have the 2d strength of its competitors, and more devastatingly, it wasn’t at all equipped for 3d graphics. It did survive in Japan for about three and a half years as a niche product, and had over 60 titles, but was never released in the West.

As far as games go, it was dominated by adventure games, date sims, and RPGs which provided little incentive for Western gamers to import due to the language barrier, and made its line up resemble the PC-98 more than the PC Engine. There were only a very small of action games released.

Let’s take a look at some of the games that are playable by those without Japanese knowledge:

Battle Heat
The CD-ROM format had caused a bit of a revival of cartoon full-motion video games in the 16-bit console era with mostly faithful ports of old arcade games like Dragon’s Lair and Time Gal. The launch title Battle Heat was a new game in this subgenre, and it made excellent use of the PC-FX’s video capabilities. I don’t think anyone had attempted an FMV fighting game before (aside from the live action Sega CD boxing game, Prize Fighter) so this stood out as quite unique, especially since you could quickly input various moves, giving it more depth and speed than Dragon’s Lair-type games.

Tengai Makyo Karakuri Kakutoden
This was another FMV fighter like Battle Heat.

Super Power League FX

Chip Chan Kick!
This was a nice single-screen platform game with a strong resemblance to Rainbow Islands.

Tyoushin Heiki Zeroigar
Given how shooter-saturated the PC Engine was, it was very odd that this was the lone game in the genre on the PC-FX. Basically, if you enjoyed most of the vertical shooters on NEC’s earlier systems, then you will probably like this, too. It had all the staples: vibrant bosses, anime cinemas, and wailing guitar riffs. The game didn’t make any innovations and rarely did it exude intensity but it didn’t do a lot wrong, either. The animation in the cut-scenes was among the best of its time and the detail was meticulous.

Kishin Douji Zenki Vajura Fight FX
What’s a console without a licensed beat ‘em up? Based on the anime, Zenki FX was in the vein of games like Ninja Warriors and Kaze Kiri; it was an action game consisting of beat ‘em up gameplay within a single plane. It had some platform elements as well but they were not the focus of the gameplay. It’s nothing spectacular but I quite like it.

The excellent fansite has lots of pics, videos, reviews, etc… on PC-FX games for those interested in more info and to take a look at the other genres. Also check out

While the PC-FX doesn’t have many games worth playing for non-Japanese speakers, and the system price tag is often in rich collector territory, I find it pretty fascinating despite being disappointed at the time that we weren’t getting a proper Duo successor. It’s emulated nicely in Magic Engine FX if you have the discs.

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Very interesting system, for sure. I watched the Game Sack episode on it a while ago and was intrigued. Cool OT!

PC-FX is a really interesting system. It’s another one that I wouldn’t want to own, but I love seeing the games. I kinda wish that games like Battle Heat persisted and had more polished attempts on beefier hardware.

Yeah, I’d love to try one out but seems like most of the library is in Japanese and cost-prohibitive. I like the look of it though.

I barely know anything about this. Thanks for writing it up. I didn’t even realize this was the successor to the PC Engine.

Since it looks like a pc, did it come with a monitor too?

Nah, it’s a typical console. No monitor.